Summary: Every great movement has its hidden origins. Here is the key to Sanders’ astonishing rise to leadership in the Democratic Party. You won’t read it in the newspapers.
See the polls at RCP: Sanders moves into the lead.
We are in the first decisive phase of the campaign, when the early primaries blast away the lower-ranked candidates – and who gains their support produces the few winners who will fight it out in the next few months. Biden and Warren are the big losers. Sanders has moved into the leads.
Sanders seems an unlikely leader. He will be 78 at the inauguration (like the other elderly candidates, likely to be a figurehead). He has a long-standing fondness for Leftist tyrannies. But that’s the trivial aspect of Sanders’ politics.
“We need a political revolution. People have got to stand up and take on the special interests. We can transform this country.”
— Sanders in the 27 June 2020 Democratic Party debate.
Sanders has run for office under many banners, including the socialist Liberty Union and Vermont Progressive Parties. He described himself as a socialist when Mayor of Burlington (1981-1989). And he still does so today (e.g., here, here).
Elliott Kaufman describes “The Socialist Evolution of Bernie Sanders.”
“In 1973 he proposed a federal takeover of “the entire energy industry” …. In 1976 he asserted that workers needed to “take immediate control of the economy if we are to survive” and called for “public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries.” He had a plan for “public control over capital.” As late as 1987 he asserted that “democracy means public ownership of the major means of production.” …
In a major speech last June elaborating his idea of socialism, he cast himself in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt and urged listeners to “reclaim our democracy by having the courage to take on the powerful corporate interests whose greed is destroying the social and economic fabric of our country.” He enumerated a series of positive rights – to “quality health care,” “as much education as one needs,” “a good job that pays a living wage,” “affordable housing,” “a secure retirement” and “a clean environment.””
In 2020 he said that if elected, one of his first acts will be a government takeover of health care sector – a big first bite taking 18% of the US economy. He also plans a massive expansion of the government’s share in the electricity generation industry (5% of GDP). Plus a massive expansion of government spending on top of all that.
Obama discovered the key to socialism
In most things, Obama continued the policies of Bush Jr. Obama made three great policy innovations. First, his assassination of US citizens (violating not just the Constitution but breaking precedents going back to Magna Carta). Second, he implemented a treaty without Senate approval. Third – perhaps most momentous – Obama devised a way to expand the Federal government without limit, overcoming the public’s resistance to socialism (rational resistance, given its horrific history).
A government takeover of private sector industries gains support if it promises free benefits to people. But these generate opposition from the industries becoming government agencies – especially from their managers and owners. Obama’s genius was to offer free government money to an industry as revenue – allowing the industry to offer cheap or free goods or services to the public. Without requiring the industry to reform. Hence ObamaCare became law while the many such proposals before all failed (going back to Truman’s).
Unfortunatley, the US health care system already absorbs an insane fraction of the US national income, more than any of our peers. In 2016, we paid 18% of GDP for health care vs. an average of 12% in 11 high-income developed nations (including the US). We get nothing for that extra spending. We have the lowest life expectancy: 79 years vs. an average of 88. We have the highest infant mortality: 5.8 deaths per 1000 live births in the US vs. an average of 3.6. We use health care services at the same rate as the others, except for diagnostic tests (we use more, but they don’t help much). See the sad details. See the big picture: a graph comparing life expectancy to health care expenditures by nation. America is in the dunce corner.
Our current system, as currently structured, will collapse as the Boomers age. For example, Medicare is unsustainable over the next decade or so. As awareness of this spread, pressures forced a slowing of the growth in health care expenditures per capita. ObamaCare reversed that trend.
Providing universal coverage was assumed to require deep reforms to the health care sector. Politically impossible reforms (because America is in senescence, and institutions cannot reform themselves). It provided our obese and inefficient health care sector with vast new revenue – in exchange for nothing.
Sanders’ proposals use Obama’s model.
Our bloated, politicized, inefficient education sector will get vast new funds – and Sanders asks no reforms in exchange. He offers the energy sector vast new funds (to decarbonize) to boost their profits. In health care, a few industries will get trimmed (e.g., insurance and drugs) – but it will be Christmas for the rest of the sector (at least at first).
This is a model that can be endlessly expanded. Who will oppose Sanders’ proposals? This is Political Science 101: the beneficiaries are more strongly motivated to support Sanders than the rest of the population is to oppose them. Especially as Sanders neglects to mention how taxes will rise to pay for his agenda. He runs for president as a rich grandfather, or perhaps Santa.
In a nation of citizens, Sanders would be a fringe candidate. They would think of the long-term effects of Sanders’ policies. They would care about the long-term effects on America. They would see the need for deep institutional reform if we are to prosper in the 21st century. We will see in 2020 how many such people remain in America. The Democrats have better candidates, albeit less exciting since they offer only good government. Or the convention could have a return to sanity.
There are no easy or likely paths to a better future for us.
For more information
- The Left goes full open borders, changing America forever.
- Visions of America if the Left wins.
- The key insight: the Left hates America and will destroy it.
- The Left can win in 2020 and dominate US politics.
- The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.
- Glimpses of the political revolution just starting.
- About the slow-mo revolution by the Left.
- Triumph of the Left over the liberals who nurtured them.
- None of the Democratic candidates are moderates.
Books about Bernie’s Revolution …
… but these describe only the mild first steps in Sanders’ program. Don’t scare the proles!
Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders (2016).
Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution by Bernie Sanders (2017).