I did something I normally never do. I went onto the Facebook page of someone I love very much (which is why I don’t spend time trolling on Facebook: if I love someone, I’m usually in at least relatively consistent contact with them, circumstances permitting) and read an intelligent and well-written article she had posted about why not to vote for Hillary. The article was written by someone else, not the young lady whose Facebook page I visited, but I was able to glean from it and from some other postings that the young lady in question is probably going to vote for Bernie Sanders.
Believe it or not, that is something I can understand. Bernie Sanders is hot on the left for the same reasons that the Trumpster is hot on the right: both represent radical change and at this point, almost all Americans are so sick to death of the venality and self-serving cynicism of Washington politics they long for any kind of change. And Bernie has a sort of Robin Hood appeal to all his proposals; it’s an unrealistically simplistic message of taking from the evil rich to give to the deserving poor, but it’s the kind of simplistic message geared for people who don’t really think much or in depth about the issues, a sort of socialist version of the Trumpster’s monotonous braying about making American great again and making us all sick of winning. (Curiously enough, Bernie and the Trumpster actually agree on a few objectives—reversing Bill Clinton’s trade policies, for instance—even though they disagree on how to achieve those objectives.)
But besides the idiotic playing to the lowest IQ in the house that both men indulge in, I can understand Bernie’s appeal if for no other reason than Hillary Rodham Clinton is an exceptionally unappetizing choice and if you’re a Democrat or a liberal or a progressive liberal, Bernie Sanders is the only currently viable option.
The Shady Lady is so blatantly, unambiguously, unrepentantly ambitious, so desperately hungry for her putative place in history, that she would happily have live sex with a donkey in Times Square on New Year’s Eve if she thought it would get her into the White House.
She is so completely hypocritical that I honestly don’t think she sees there is a problem with saying she is anti-Wall Street even as she takes Wall Street’s money in the form of both campaign donations and public speaking fees.
She is so fundamentally dishonest that she qualifies as a chronic liar. (That is, as I understand it, a pathological condition characterized by a compulsion to lie even when there is no reason or need to lie.) All politicians lie constantly, whenever their lips move, but it is usually for reasons of political expediency. In the Shady Lady’s case, in addition to political expediency, think of her bragging about “dodging bullets in Bosnia” even though there were press crews there taking photographs of her accepting a bouquet of flowers from a little girl and then calmly walking off the tarmac with local dignitaries; that’s like Brian Williams, telling easily disproven lies for no purpose whatsoever.
She has proven herself not particularly competent as a professional public figure, whether you count that as First Lady, Senator, or Secretary of State, but the email scandal, no matter what your political leanings or how you look at it, reflects, at the very least, unbelievably self-indulgent laziness, a willingness to compromise the safety and lives of intelligence officers (not to mention the American public generally) for personal convenience.
She is the only politician since Richard Nixon who is so busy starring in the movie of her own life that she regards any of her fellow Americans who disagree with her or hold different opinions (in Hillary’s case the GOP and the NRA) as “enemies.” Yeah, that’s sure a great way to reach across the aisle and bring the country together, Hillary, you betcha; and what exactly would you call ISIS? Hillary, you’ve got to get over this blaming everything up to and including your hemorrhoids on “a vast, right-wing conspiracy.”
As you might imagine, I happen to disagree with her attitude toward the Second Amendment, but she has also declared war on the First Amendment: Hillary has stated she would support a constitutional amendment to end First Amendment protection of nonprofit groups’ rights to political expression. Clearly I’m putting this in baby talk, but essentially that would put limits on your right, my right, our right to free speech, limits that would be determined by the government, and just to bring everything around full circle, I’ll remind you that for years the NRA has said that if the Second Amendment goes, the First will be the next to fall, the pen being mightier than the sword and all that.
And finally, she is so obviously arrogant. You can see it in her face whenever she is asked a question she doesn’t like, a combination of disdain, annoyance, and contempt for any little person who might dare to question her. Bill Clinton is—was as president—equally arrogant, but he had a sense of humor and the native wit to use that humor to hide his arrogance. Hillary either can’t or can’t be bothered.
So I understand Bernie’s appeal. But more than just being the least of two evils, there is actually much to admire about Bernie. For one thing, if what I read is accurate, his net worth after twenty-five years as a public servant is only $300,000 dollars, making him the only politician I know of since Abraham Lincoln to serve the public and not, somehow, mysteriously, accumulate vast wealth. (Name another.) So maybe he’s honest; that would be a refreshing change. And that would make him an outsider, which is what both left and right want.
For another thing, I think he really believes much of what he says, and I don’t mean that in the smug, mean-spirited way of Barack Obama’s reported statement to journalist Richard Wolfe (“You know, sometimes I actually believe my own bullshit.”) but rather that he seems to have some fundamental beliefs beyond his own ambition that guide him.
Unfortunately, it is the hows and whys of those beliefs with which I strongly disagree.
According to his Bernie-for-president website, and according to what I have heard him say on television, Bernie believes in pretty much free everything, espousing a fundamental change in government to make America operate more along the lines of European nations: free this, free that, free everything for everybody. Clearly, I’m again putting this in baby talk, because I haven’t the time or energy to go through all his proposals one by one, but the bottom line is that if you stop and think just for one nano-second, it should be obvious that there is no such thing as free anything. Someone has to pay for it, and that someone is ultimately always the taxpayer, and that’s you and me, baby, not just the wealthy, either directly in the form of taxes, or indirectly in the form of higher prices slapped onto products by manufacturers to offset their higher taxes. Which brings us to the core of all of Bernie’s beliefs and the underlying principle that guides him.
Bernie really believes it is wrong for there to be such an enormous gap between the very rich and the very poor. That gap is, in fact, ugly and distasteful, but that gap has always existed throughout all of history, and in every civilization that gap is responsible for art, sculpture, music, literature, and above all architecture. Whenever a government has attempted to artificially remove that gap, the end result has been chaos, a stifling of the human impulses that lead to both financial gain and creativity. Name a great artist, sculptor, writer, musician, or architect of mainstream communism in the old Soviet Russia (in other words, no creative geniuses from the underground counter-culture such as Solzhenitsyn or Pasternak). Name one in any socialist government. Actually, go one step further and name any civilization, in all human history from the earliest beginnings in the Mesopotamian cradle until today, that has adopted a socialist form of government and lasted more than one hundred years. You can’t, because none has ever lasted that long. I’ll go further and suggest that the obscene gap between rich and poor will always exist, no matter what kind of government you have, even as it did—albeit surreptitiously—under the communists in Soviet Russia. Just because it isn’t obvious doesn’t make it better.
So, historically speaking, socialism and income equality are not conducive to creativity. Don’t believe me; do your homework. In Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in “The Grand Inquisitor” section, there is a wonderful quote: “All the riches in the world are not worth a child’s tears.” It’s very true, but you need to remind yourself of that every time you go to a museum to enjoy the beauty of ages past.
And finally, I do not believe it is the government’s place to compel people to be altruistic and charitable through taxation. It won’t work. If it were that simple, the government could compel people not to be criminals. Some people, rich and poor alike, are always going to be generous, and some will never be, but if you tax all the wealthy on the grounds that a bunch of bureaucrats can do more good with their money than they can, the generous ones will vanish quietly into the shadows. People capable of making that kind of money are equally capable of hiding and protecting their wealth, and Switzerland is a nice place to live. Do you really think Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and the international coalition of billionaires they have put together who are donating time, expertise, and more money than you and I can dream of to a wide array of good works in every corner of the globe, do you really think they would continue to spend money they no longer have because a socialist government has taxed it out of their hands? I can’t speak to every species, but with horses, dogs, and especially the human animal, the carrot has always been a far more effective tool than the stick.