Did Bernie Sanders Win the Debate?
At the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Debate, most of the candidates attacked Bernie Sanders, in an attempt to forestall his momentum going into the Super Tuesday primary elections. They appeared to have been successful. Sanders was thumped…hard. Shortly after the election, several “moderate” Democrats, who likewise had poor showings, piled on; Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg all endorsed Joe Biden. It is likely that Sanders will be unable to resurrect his campaign and overcome the lead and momentum that Joe Biden now enjoys.
So, I guess Bernie lost the debate. No! In fact, his philosophy of Americanized Democratic Socialism is not just alive and well but thriving and taking hold. The person failed; the ideas succeeded…at least for the moment.
How can this be? How is Bernie’s battering in the primaries not a repudiation of his ideas? One has only to look at the content of the last debate to see how far things have devolved. In previous debates, his competitors decried the socialist agenda that Sanders proposed: “Medicare for All,” free college tuition, and the “Green New Deal.” The policies were judged to be misguided and too politically extreme for the American system.
In South Carolina, the arguments shifted. The debate became about the feasibility rather than the suitability of his avowed policies. Elizabeth Warren merely said that that Sanders lacked the necessary details on how to deploy universal healthcare and other expansive ideas. It was about funding and implementation, not viability. Apparently, the nationalization of major sectors of the economy, principally health care and energy, has become at least philosophically acceptable.
In fact, most of the candidates went out of their way to show how their platform really amounted to a more practical form of the extremist ideas of Sanders. All were willing to “throw” billions of dollars at climate change, health care and social(ist) reform without any notion of what it might actually accomplish or what the ultimate cost would be. Form (philosophy) has trumped (not “Trump-ed”) function.
Herein lies the real threat. The political landscape is being inexorably shifted to the left. Collective ownership has begun to supplant personal freedom. The notion of individual responsibility has succumbed to societal intrusion.
Why is the new democratic socialism so appealing to the younger generations? By in large, they are bright and educated. Could they really be overwhelmed by an obviously bankrupt (literally in the case of the former Soviet Union) manifesto?
Some of this is sparked by their relevant lifetime history. They came of age long after the fall of hard-core communist regimes. They never witness, nor probably studied, the wholesale slaughter of the populations in Russia during the purges or Communist China during the Cultural Revolution. Somehow, the self-destruction of Venezuela is fomented by harsh American policy rather than precipitated by a radical corrupt socialist regime.
Domestically, their perspective is likewise skewed. The events of 911 are ancient history and the Great Recession of 2008-2009 was the foundation of their lives. They have seen the apparent inequities in the subsequent recovery. The wealthy have, in fact, benefitted more than the lower incomes. There has been a trend towards relative wealth inequality, but not so much as the Left would have us believe. The reality is that more people have moved “up” while simultaneously, the number of people in poverty has increased. Far more than “the rich getting richer,” it is a case of our society becoming binary with significant populations on either end of the financial spectrum and the middle class shrinking.
They primarily see the, “What do I get?” side of socialism and fail to ascertain the cost involved. Fundamentally, socialism is about tearing down rather than building. It is focused on taking from one group and giving to the State. Only after the State has acquired the wealth (through extraction) of “others” does it redistribute resources in a manner it sees fit. Do we really believe the government will be efficient and “fair” in this allocation process? The Federal government already pulls in billions of dollars and virtually no one in America is satisfied with the outcome. Why would they do better if they had more money to play with? Sadly, many people fail to see the huge loss of prosperity and productivity inherent in such a plan.
However, there are enough anecdotal symbols of greed and excess to support a more radical view. The massive wealth of the Walton family (over $136 billion) is greater than the combine wealth of 43% of American families. In 2018, Walmart’s starting pay was $11 per hour, less than $23,000 per year and below the poverty level for a family of four. Furthermore, the company effectively pawns off much of the cost of benefits since many employees qualify for public healthcare and social services.
We see this even in election spending. Bloomberg spent over $570 million in his self-funded campaign “purchasing” each of his candidates for over $11 million apiece. He did not win, bit it reflects an electoral system that is simply obscene. Even in our upcoming local Congressional race, the winner is likely to spend north of a million dollars.
How do we reconcile these disparate views? The hardline stance on either side is full of contradictions and flaws. Trickle down effects are insufficient. Public theft in the name of egalitarianism is likewise unacceptable. It is time to give ground. We must acknowledge that individual bias and societal inequity disadvantage some in our society, but recognize that is not sufficient justification for stripping those who succeed of the fruits of their efforts.
The politics of demonization of one’s opponents practiced by both Sanders and Trump is counterproductive to the vital functioning and effectiveness of our system. Perhaps both need to be muzzled so the adults in the room have a chance to talk.