[The Russians] want chaos, and chaos is what is coming our way. I mean, look, if you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump. Think about what that will be like for this country.
Pete Buttigieg at last Tuesday’s Democratic debate.
Incredibly, as the interminable American primary process reaches a crescendo for the ever-hapless Democrats, 2020 for the donkeys seems more and more like an eerie repeat of 2016 for the pachyderms. The polarizing can’t-win insurgent maniac is beating up on a divided field of opponents, the presumed frontrunners are falling by the wayside, and the coronation of a figure from the extreme end of the spectrum seems all but guaranteed. This is freaking everybody out, me included.
You would have seen this at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, had you watched, which you didn’t – I didn’t either, confining myself to the post-game hi-light reels – when everybody piled on Bernie Sanders with strident rhetoric hollered in tones not merely shrill and vitriolic, but panickingly close to outright panicked. Bernie is divisive in the extreme! His fruitcake policies are opposed by mainstream America! No wonder – his ultra-left ideas are certifiably nuts! He’s practically fit for the straight jacket! Nominate that basket case and we’ll be wiped off the face of the Earth!
Inadvertently, one hopes, they spent most of the night supplying sound bites for the ads Republican hit men will run if Bernie really does take the nomination, though as the “never-Trumper” former Republican strategist Rick Wilson (until recently one of the most effective of those GOP hitmen) has been stressing at the top of his lungs to anybody who’ll listen, the ad-men aren’t going to need much help. Anybody who can navigate her way to YouTube can find clips going back decades of Bernie enthusiastically shouting things (always shouting) that all red-blooded Americans have been taught since birth to revile from their brainstems. He’s a self-described socialist for the love of Christ! That means he’s a stinking Red Commie! He praised the old Soviet Union! He praised the Sandinistas in Nicaragua! He continues to praise, right to this very day, the Cuban revolution of goddam Fidel Castro! He wants to socialize everything! Look, let’s be absolutely clear about this, that’s socialism, understand? That means he wants the government to take over in every walk of life, run every show, determine every outcome – if it wasn’t Communism, why, it’d be Fascism! If Bernie gets his way, mean old Uncle Sam will take away your precious private health insurance, and on top of that he thinks the public purse can foot the bill for anything and everything from free college to the Green New Deal, whatever that is – good the Good Lord Jay-sus, where will the money come from? – all while destroying the Murrican way of life and decent Murrican values! Look, holy crap, he’ll legalize pot!! He’ll take your guns, people, yes he will!! YOUR GUNS. He’s a total whack-job!!
Thus all Republican pundits hope most fervently that he’s the one Fat Donny gets to run against. Trump does as well – you can tell from his Tweets. So, plainly, do the Russians – they’re pushing hard for Bernie via the same social media channels, using the same bullshit tactics, that served them so well when they got Donald elected. For their part, Republican campaign operatives absolutely favour Bernie – Rick Wilson assures us that his former colleagues are salivating and champing at the bit, knowing for certain that if Bernie’s the opposition the Dems will lose 44 States in November. Of course they will; the anti-Bernie slogans practically write themselves, don’t they, and there’s a bottomless trove of incendiary voter-alienating Bernie clips to choose from posted all over the internet. You don’t even need to do any sort of creative editing. Bernie is, manifestly, crazy as a shithouse rat, and his policies are so far out of left field they’re tantamount to Stalinism. Just quote the loony left wing idiot verbatim, run the ads 24/7 on Fox and Facebook, set the Twitter trolls loose, and stock up for the victory party. Four More Years! Easy peasy.
I’m not even saying they’re wrong. I’m terrified of a Sanders candidacy. Not, however, because he’s crazy, but because by all appearances, as viewed from up here, Americans are. Crazy, and brainwashed by their rich overlords, that’s how they look on the news, all of them apparently twisted, gun-toting, mind-roasted MAGA monsters – well, the white ones, anyway. Watch fifteen minutes of Fox and you’ll come away convinced you’d be hard pressed to find a general population anywhere else on Earth more comprehensively full of shit than the denizens of the good old Hew-Ess of A (rank and file North Koreans, maybe?). Moreover, one wonders if that’s still the case even if you select out the Fox News audience, which is, I’m sad to believe, forever lost to us (oh, they’re gone all right, we lost them, and they won’t be back, so that’s 40% right there who’ll swallow whatever Rick Wilson’s old pals feed them). The non-Fox balance of the American electorate seems in many ways only marginally less full of old rope.
Try to comprehend, without having a stroke, the myriad misapprehensions that afflict mainstream American political discourse:
- Having squandered literally trillions of dollars on endless, pointless, hubristic wars being fought all across the Middle East, they decided to slather more trillions-worth of undeserved tax breaks upon the greedy plutocrats that pull all the strings, to the point that Trump is now running annual budget deficits of over a trillion bucks – that’s over a trillion in red ink annually – and now, when confronted with a liberal policy agenda, they scream “where’s the money coming from?” One whiff of doing something to improve the lives of ordinary slobs and the same old crew of lying deficit hawks crawls out from under its rock, and the people join them in hollering about bankrupting the treasury.
- They recoil in horror against public health care, claiming it’s too expensive, even while they disgorge ballpark 17% of their GDP on often inadequate medical care, about twice as much as the average among those industrialized nations that guarantee public health coverage to their citizens, which is, ahem, all of them. They cling to their shitty private insurance coverage, full of co-pays, deductibles, and policy exclusions, even the best of which are tied to the good will of employers and the union jobs they’re about to lose. Meanwhile, medical bills continue to bankrupt hundreds of thousands of families every year (the exact number being hotly debated), far too many of which are still swallowing the propaganda of those who downplay the problem by citing the mitigating effects of Obamacare, for chrissakes, the very program the naysayers did everything they could to teach Americans to hate, and continue to oppose hammer and tongs both legally and politically.
- They’ve completely bought into the right wing line of bull that democratic socialism equals despotic government takeover of the means of production à la Cuba and the old Soviet Union. In adopting this benighted attitude they ignore that their own favourite aspects of the US system – Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security – are prime examples of democratic socialism in action, and seem not to realize that Bernie, despite his unforgivably goofball naiveté when it comes to the purportedly rosier aspects of Castro’s Cuba and Soviet Communism, of course wants something akin to Denmark and Sweden – or Canada, for that matter – not the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez, or the North Korea of Kim. It’s Fat Donny who loves Kim and Putin, remember, not that Putin is a socialist. They’ve fallen hook line and sinker, very much against interest, for the most transparently stupid misdirection in recent political history.
- Meanwhile, the media, as blind to what really matters now as they were when they ignored Trump’s existential threat and focussed on Hillary’s fucking emails, are obsessing over what Sanders says about Fidel, and ignoring the fifty ways Trump is daily turning their country into a dictatorship run by morons.
- All the while, as all and sundry decry the cost of doing anything at all to address a growing list of desperate societal needs, everybody ignores the severe costs of doing nothing, and the huge difference between making necessary investments and just throwing money down a hole. The interstate highway system cost a bundle, back in the day – what would it have cost the US economy had they never built it? Fixing crumbling infrastructure today could cost trillions – what will the cost be if all those bridges collapse, dams breach, water pipes burst, and power lines melt? Addressing climate change will indeed require enormous investments – what will it cost every single person alive on Earth, in both human and financial terms, to just let the whole planet go to Hell in a hand basket? When California burns to the ground, what’s the bill? When Miami and Lower Manhattan vanish into the briny, who pays the piper? Do folks realize that money pumped into public works, education, health care and so on winds up in the pockets of employers, suppliers, manufacturers and workers, giving the economy a tremendous boost? Or do they continue to believe that it’s better to lard ever greater sums upon the 0.00001%, and the corporations they run, and watch them hoard their untaxed mountains of cash off shore to nobody’s benefit but their own?
- Plus, and this is the worst way they all remain stuffed to the gills full of shit, they actually carry on as if a President can simply do things by fiat once elected, anything his or her little heart desires, without persuading a supermajority of 535 unruly and cantankerous members of Congress to play along. The candidates themselves do nothing to dispel this deathless illusion, of course, but it ought to be obvious to everybody by now that Presidents can’t do jack by themselves. Even when they achieve limited things by Executive Order, it’s only because Congress lets them. When, oh when, are people going to understand this? Why is it, do they suppose, that Obama was hamstrung for six of his eight years? Who lets Trump skate on his impeachable sins and outright criminality, ignores his bogus declarations of emergencies, appoints his judges, and gifts his pals their enormous tax breaks? So long as Mitch runs the Senate they could put Che Fucking Guevara in the Oval, and the corrupt capitalist plutocrat shit show will keep rolling merrily along, quite unperturbed.
So yeah, given everything Americans appear to accept and believe, it doesn’t really matter what Bernie actually stands for, or what he really would or could do once he’s in office. They’ll never vote for him. He’ll be wiped out. It’ll be an Electoral College apocalypse.
Or will it?
One wonders. Look, at this point, even supposing Sanders gets the nod, it’s just impossible to say what the public, desperate for answers to the problems that are killing them, problems they don’t understand in the slightest, will wind up voting for. They were never going to elect Donny, remember? To the extent we can still believe that Trump’s election really was based in part on economic anxiety, class alienation and general despair, rather than merely racism, Bernie’s pitch would appeal to many of the same people who voted for Donald, millions of whom, it bears remembering, previously voted twice for Obama. Nothing to this point portends a looming electoral catastrophe – on the contrary, in national polls Bernie, for now anyway, is mopping the floors with Orange Idi:
If Americans are really as brainwashed and closed-minded as the media make them out to be, how to explain such poll numbers? Yes, in a way, national polls are misleading almost to the point of being meaningless – what matters is not the national popular vote, but the vote broken down by state, which is how the Electoral College repeatedly installs popular vote losers in the White House, like it did with Trump, and Bush before him (a common misperception holds that the polls before 2016 were wrong; they weren’t. Hillary won the popular vote by almost the exact margin predicted. The problem is, the aggregate national popular vote isn’t the determinant. You can rack up a 25 million vote lead in California, and lose by 2 votes in Texas and four votes in Florida, and that gives your opponent 67 Electoral College votes to your 55). Still, people are desperate out there. They haven’t had a real pay raise in decades, union jobs are going the way of the dinosaurs, they can’t afford school, they can’t afford doctors, they see society crumbling around them while the upper crust makes out like bandits, and they long for solutions. Maybe Trump can sell them again that he’s the one who’s in it for the little guy, and anyway, brown people from Mexico are to blame and everything gets better when he builds that wall. Or maybe they decide that Donny let them down, as indeed he did – where are those coal and manufacturing jobs? – and give another firebrand with big talk and wild ideas a try.
I’m not saying that Bernie won’t disappoint them too. I’m just saying it’s by no means certain that they won’t vote for him, and that, given the way the American political system works, it won’t be the end of the world if they do.
Besides, Bernie hasn’t clinched it yet. Miles to go.