Remember the Republican attack ad that opens on a black background with a deep male voice intoning somberly: “Bernie Sanders wants to destroy the 250 years of democracy and market-driven economics that have made America the most powerful — and prosperous — country on earth and replace it with the failed Soviet Union (substitute Maoist China, Cuba, Viet Nam, Greece, Venezuela)-style socialism. (Show 1991 headline: USSR in Full Collapse, Berlin wall coming down, panic in the street). Voice: “ Bernie Sanders…disastrously wrong for America.” Or, how about the one where the guy says “Bernie Sanders wants the government to control where you bank, what doctor you see, where your kids go to school, how much money you make, what kind of job you can get. Is that the America that you want your children to grow up in? Bernie Sanders…the end of the American dream.”
Okay, I haven’t seen those ads either. That’s because the Republicans are deliberately paying no attention to Sanders because he is doing more damage to Hillary Clinton’s chances than they could possibly hope to inflict in their currently addled state and, secondly, he’s a much easier candidate to defeat if by some miracle he were to get the nomination.
Forget all those polls that show Bernie doing better than Hillary against Trump and Cruz. What Bernie supporters and many independents haven’t yet fully grasped is that Sanders is not a Democrat. He is exactly what he says he is — a socialist. Unlike Hillary Clinton, his agenda is not an orderly process of changes to existing law that increase wages and make income distribution fairer, strengthen Medicaid and Obamacare and Social Security, make financial institutions more fail-proof, expand health care options, strengthen climate change initiatives, and protect and expand opportunities for working class people. Sanders is a revolutionary who appears to have no interest in tackling difficult but achievable goals or no plausible idea of how to turn his own agenda into reality if he were elected President.
What Sanders is proposing is a fundamental, historic and unprecedented break with the market-based economic system that has guided the U.S. since the beginning. He wants to break up giant industries (like banking), a move that would leave hundreds of thousands of people without jobs and decimate the economy of New York and other financial centers. He wants to redistribute income because…well, some people have too much and some have too little. He is not interested in closing the loopholes that allow wealthy individuals and companies to game the system to get an unfair advantage. He wants to kill both the major political parties, fatally restrain free markets, and replace capitalism with a system that has only ever worked well in prosperous countries with populations of less than three million mostly white people.
Now, imagine you are the Koch brothers, sitting on a billion dollars war chest, and the only place you have to spend it is on a virtually unelectible candidate like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Into this hopeless picture stumbles an aging Trotskyite, a man doesn’t have a single coherent policy that he could achieve without a popular uprising so strong that it threatens the future of the nation or with the help of tanks. Hot damn. God really is a Republican.
(The caricature of Bernie Sanders is by DonkeyHotey.)