March 22, 2020
By Steve Forbes • Real Clear Policy
Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently told “60 Minutes” it would be “unfair” to say “everything is bad” about Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the Communist revolution he staged during the 1950s. Even fellow Democrats could not believe their ears. Sanders went so far as to describe Castro as a man of accomplishment, noting how Castro started a “massive literacy program” for the people of Cuba. Sure he did, right after he wiped out thousands of his political opponents, created forced labor camps, seized the property of all dissidents, and imposed country-wide religious repression. Sanders sounds like the defenders of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, who praised Mussolini for making the trains run on time and draining the malarial swamps around Rome.
Bernie conveniently ignores how the brutality of Castro’s government forced millions of Cubans to flee their homeland, leaving behind all their possessions. And let’s be clear, Sanders’ commentary was not a mistake. Even the New York Times notes how Bernie has a long history of lauding Castro’s government, expressing “…praise not only for Mr. Castro in Cuba but also support for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Sanders’ remarks likely cost him the recent Florida Democratic primary given the widespread opposition to communism and socialism within the Latino community.
The sad reality is that Bernie Sanders honestly believes Cuba’s model of government should be replicated all over the world. This process is happening in Venezuela, where another brutal dictator, Nicolas Maduro, with the backing of Cuban security forces, is destroying the nation he is supposed to represent.
The situation in Venezuela is tragic. The country has experienced near-total economic and social collapse under Maduro’s corrupt regime. President Trump is correctly acting to oust Maduro by imposing harsh economic sanctions against Maduro’s government and the Russian and Cuban businesses helping him. The tough sanctions are placing massive pressure on Maduro, and the president should stay the course.
But the Trump administration should take care not to eliminate America’s presence in Venezuela as part of a strategy to drive Maduro from power. America has maintained a century-long relationship with Venezuela — specifically with Venezuela’s energy industry. Venezuela sits on the world’s largest oil fields, and it’s imperative that Russia, China and Cuba are not allowed to gain unconstrained access to these oil fields. If American companies remain in the country, they will be able to help the next democratic Venezuelan government rebuild quickly.
Some of President Trump’s advisors believe it might be a good idea to force American companies to exit Venezuela and further tighten the economic screws on Maduro. But if American companies leave Venezuela, it will likely make it harder for the Trump Administration to remove Maduro and his criminal regime from power. An American exit would only empower Maduro and strengthen Russia, and Cuba’s hold on the country.
We certainly don’t want Venezuela to become another Cuba, but this could happen if America withdraws completely. If American companies leave, it will remove the last barriers to a complete Communist takeover by Cuba, financed by Russia, drug cartels and other criminals.
President Trump has wisely imposed crippling sanctions against Venezuela’s Maduro and the international actors that support him. The Trump team should let this process play out while preserving America’s Venezuelan presence for the future.
Sanders’ flippant remarks are a sharp contrast with President Trump’s tough but fair approach to Venezuela. Hopefully, America will continue to stand strong against Maduro while keeping the door open for a future relationship with a democratic Venezuela.
March 17, 2020
Everybody gets a free ride!
By Dr. Larry Fedewa • Dr. Larry Online
Recent polls show that a large plurality of Americans prefer socialism over capitalism. On its surface, such a preference is shocking. Digging beneath the surface, however, we find a somewhat less alarming reality. So, let’s dig a little.
The first question is, what do most of those Americans think “socialism” means? To many of our fellow Americans, “socialism” has been defined by Bernie Sanders, the socialist Senator from Vermont. He describes socialism in terms of an expansion of “human rights” into services, notably health care, higher education, and income parity, if not equality. He advocates free delivery of these services to every American. He also believes that the USA should have open borders, inviting anyone who wishes to become an American citizen to come at will.
Then there is the other side of his views. He also believes that Americans’ access to gun ownership should be severely restricted. He says that climate change is “an existential threat” to the world and adopts the “green agenda”. That agenda includes the elimination of fossil fuels, and the substitution of renewable forms of energy (even though no such energy sources exist) and the re-entry of America into the Paris Accord, which obligates the USA to pay the bill for converting the major polluters of the world (China and India) to renewables. These are samples of the price we would pay under a Sanders idealized world-view for all the “free” services.
The Sanders followers tend to be one of three types: 1) inexperienced and idealistic youths, 2)people who see themselves as victims of life because of poverty or rejection or discrimination, and 3) the educated idealists who long for a perfect world, frequently from the safe perch of academia. They are not the people who have to pay the price of this fantasy. It is therefore not hard to understand why this vision has attracted so many followers that it now dominates the Left Wing of the Democrat Party.
While this description of socialism consists principally of concrete policies, there is an underlying theory on which these policies rest, and which is not much discussed by Mr. Sanders and his followers. That theory in a nutshell is that the rich and privileged of society occupy their elevated position due to their oppression of the poor and neglected people in that society. Justice therefore demands that the elite be rejected in favor of the underclass and the wealth of the society be spread equally among all its members. Essentially, that means the riches of the elite be taken away and be distributed to the poor. The only instrument which could accomplish this feat is government. But, in the end, the means by which the upper class retains its power over the underclass is force through police and army. The shorthand for this is “whoever has the guns rules”.
Revolution is therefore inevitable. To this point the description of socialism follows the views of Karl Marx, a 19th century German philosopher. It was his works which were the basis of the Communist revolutions of Russia and China, among others. Marx’s ideas led to dictatorships because, the revolt of the proletariat (i.e. the oppressed) took military force to achieve, and the strong leaders of these armies were not about to give up power as soon as they won the war, especially since the transitions to new leadership were long and bloody. Once established, the leaders became dictators, and in the name of the revolution, the new State took over virtually everything. Personal freedom was no more available to the Communist society than it had been under the royalty.
Another version of socialism evolved in Europe and other areas, such as Canada, Australia, and South America. This version maintained the supremacy of the State and its obligation to provide free services to the masses, but it recognized private property as well as democracy in the form of elections of government officials. Some countries found this system very unstable, with frequent changes of government, e.g. Italy and Greece. For others, it was stable and productive, e.g. Germany and France. Many of these nations adopted strong strains of capitalism (i.e. free markets and independent judiciary). Some of these countries cannot be called “socialist” in the 21st century (e.g. Denmark, Iceland).
It is reasonable to assume that Bernie Sanders is talking about this form of socialism, which he calls “democratic socialism”, although he does not speak in ideological terms. The issue then becomes, what is the difference between “democratic socialism” and “democratic capitalism”?
There are two major differences: 1) Government responsibilities versus individual responsibilities; and 2) Restrictions on government versus restrictions on individual freedoms.
Responsibilities: government and personal
Restrictions: government and individual
In the 21st century, however, our experience is that many of the characteristics of capitalism are also evident in socialist countries. The differentiator is the trajectory into the future which each form of government is on. Socialism leads invariably to dictatorship (China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba) or bankruptcy (Greece) and capitalism leads to resilience and prosperity (USA).
For now, Americans must follow their instincts – freedom forever!
March 14, 2020
Column: Bernie Sanders isn't a relic. He's a preview of things to come.
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief. Joe Biden’s victories on “Mini Tuesday” make his delegate lead all but insurmountable. Bernie Sanders’s electoral weakness, compared with his performance four years ago, has dulled the fear of an incipient socialist takeover of the world’s oldest political party. The left is said to have talked itself into believing its own propaganda and helped President Trump equate Democrats with socialism. Victory in the primary did not come from pledges to eliminate private health insurance or impose wealth taxes. It followed from the perception that Biden is the candidate best able to defeat Trump.
Don’t write off the socialist revival just yet. Sanders might not win the Democratic nomination. But this outcome does not mean the forces that propelled him to second-place finishes in the two most recent Democratic primaries will vanish overnight. Abandoning the intellectual fight against socialism, both inside and outside the Democratic Party, would cede the field to an increasingly sophisticated and networked band of ideological activists whose influence in media and politics is greater than their numbers. Such ambivalence could have devastating consequences for American society.
The resurgent left has pushed Biden far beyond where he stood as vice president. And a socialist infrastructure guarantees the philosophy’s longevity. Aspiring Democratic politicians must at least deal with, if not pay obeisance to, groups such as the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America. Especially if they inhabit a deep-blue district ripe for picking by the “Squad.”
Fashionable, lively, radical, and controversial outlets, including Jacobin, Current Affairs, the Young Turks, Chapo Trap House, and Secular Talk, complement popular Instagram and Twitter accounts. And the New York Times magazine’s “1619 Project” shows that the mainstream media is responsive to, and willing to participate in, the latest trends in anti-Americanism.
The most obvious reason not to dismiss the Sanders phenomenon is demographic. On Super Tuesday, Sanders won 30- to 44-year-olds by 18 points, and 18- to 29-year-olds by a staggering 43 points. He defeated Biden by 9 points among Hispanic voters and by 25 points among Asian voters. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country. Hispanics are second. Sanders’s protegée, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 30-year-old woman of Puerto Rican descent, represents this ethno-generational cohort. Their place in American life will not be denied.
Right now, socialism is unpopular. Last month only 45 percent of adults told Gallup they would vote for a socialist for president. Last year a 51-percent majority said socialism would be a “bad thing” for the United States. But Gallup also found that the number who said socialism would be a “good thing” had risen to 43 percent in 2019 from 25 percent in 1942. A majority of Democrats have held positive views of socialism since 2010. A willingness to adopt the socialist ideal is most pronounced among the young. A YouGov poll conducted last year for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 70 percent of Millennials are either “somewhat” or “extremely” likely to vote for a socialist.
It is the decline in institutional religion that drives the resurgence of socialism. Gallup found that church membership among U.S. adults has dropped precipitouslyover the last two decades, to 50 percent in 2018 from 70 percent in 1998. Why? Because the percentage of adults who profess no religious affiliation has more than doubled. It has gone to 19 percent from 8 percent. The Millennials exhibit the lowest percentage of church membership among generations. Pew says the number of Americans who identify as Christians fell more than 10 points over the last decade as the number of religiously unaffiliated spiked. Here too the largest falloff was among Millennials.
Religion not only offers answers to the most powerful, definitive, and ultimate questions of human existence and purpose. It anchors individuals in a particular authoritative tradition defined by doctrinal orthodoxy and refined through multigenerational practice. People released from these bonds are capable of believing anything. Thus, socialism has returned at the same time as climate apocalypticism, transhuman and transgender ideology, anti-vaccination movements, anti-Semitism, conspiracies, and ethnonationalism. In this climate of relativism and revisionism, where the most outlandish theories are a Google search away, both Marxism and utopian socialism seem credible. Nothing is too absurd.
Irving Kristol said that it is easy to point out how silly and counterproductive and even deadly socialism has been, in so many respects, but difficult to recognize its pull as an emotional attachment. The love of equality and progress makes for a special and durable political passion. “Socialism,” wrote Irving Howe in 1954, “is the name of our desire.” In the absence of an intellectually coherent and morally compelling account of the inequalities inherent to liberal democracy, so will the desire remain.
March 10, 2020
Joe Biden’s improbable resurrection suggests that Bernie Sanders and the ideas he champions are more appealing in theory than in practice.
By JOHN HIRSCHAUER • National Review
The public’s support for Medicare for All varies wildly depending upon the language pollsters use when asking voters about it. When the Kaiser Family Foundation informed respondents in a recent poll that Medicare for All would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans,” 71 percent of them supported the plan; when they were told that the plan would “lead to delays in people getting some medical tests and treatments,” 70 percent opposed it.
In short, single-payer health care is more appealing in its blurriest outlines than it is when it comes into focus — much like its most prominent proponent, Bernie Sanders.
Sanders enjoys significant personal popularity and has for most of his career. He has become the most popular senator in America by sticking to the same operative philosophy for most if not all of his professional life. (Joe Rogan called him “insanely consistent.”) His policy positions — free college, universal health care, and other expensive giveaways — poll fairly well among voters when framed in abstract terms that elide the costs involved in implementing them. As he frequently reminds the American people with a sense of conviction and moral urgency that stirs up an almost religious fervor among his supporters, he “happens to believe” health care is a yoo-man right.
At some point, though, utopian platitudes have to become concrete policy proposals. Once Elizabeth Warren released her “plan” to upend the American health-care system, she forced voters to confront the actual tradeoffs involved in the sort of “big, systemic change” that she was selling. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you’re for Medicare for All, but it’s quite another to support the same policy after being confronted with the tax hikes and private-insurance ban it would necessitate. Idealism is fine, National Review’s founder famously quipped, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.
To be sure, idealism has still gotten Sanders pretty far in his quixotic effort to execute a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party. The apparent popularity of his progressive agenda before its downsides are made clear to voters has helped to fuel his diehard supporters’ intense consternation and anti-establishment sentiment. The obvious antipathy that the Democratic establishment holds for Sanders and his supporters has only furthered their sense that the entire political ecosystem is working in concert to prevent the sort of “political revolution” that they claim, with at least superficial plausibility, has the mandate of the popular will.
All of this — the support for Sanders’s agenda when sketched in its vaguest terms, the real and perceived grievances against the party establishment — has in turn allowed Sanders and his supporters to craft a compelling story: Their movement is a People’s revolution, militating against the forces of dark money and corporate interests, waging a heroic war on the Wall Street tycoons who wield outsize influence on our political process and both political parties. Since public polling shows popular support for the Sanders platform, the narrative goes, any suggestion that Bernie is a “radical” is little more than wishcasting by a bourgeois, neoliberal press, a group of capitalist bootlickers desperate to uphold an indefensible economic order.
This narrative worked better than anyone had a right to expect against Hillary Clinton four years ago, and until last Tuesday, it appeared on track to deliver Sanders the nomination in 2020. With a horde of “moderates” in the race splitting the centrist vote and clear possession of the party’s “progressive” lane, Sanders had been able to finish in a virtual tie in Iowa and command a plurality of support in the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucus. While he failed to capture an outright majority in any of the three opening states, his performance was sufficiently strong that his exponents in the press saw fit to take a victory lap. “Why do they never learn?” asked Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept. “The only way to test ‘electability’ is through actual elections, and so far Sanders is two for two.”
Unfortunately for Sanders, after those electoral victories, he became the race’s clear front-runner. Once that happened, Democratic voters were no longer weighing Bernie in the abstract — the jovial, if curmudgeonly, senator whom Paul Krugman strained to depict as a Scandinavian social democrat — but Bernie as a committed ideologue, happy to defend Fidel Castro’s literacy program and the poverty-reduction efforts of Communist China.
For all of the Bernie Bros’ indignation with a Democratic establishment that richly deserves their scorn, it was still the voters who handed Joe Biden — a doddering old warhorse who had seemed a dead man walking for months — a resounding victory on Super Tuesday. He won ten of 14 states, captured 573 delegates to Sanders’s 491, and now leads Sanders in the popular vote by over 900,000 votes. Sanders is still alive in the race, to be sure, but his chances of a comeback are getting slimmer by the minute.
If the origin myth of Sanders’s movement were true — if scheming “ah-li-garchs” were really to blame for keeping his broadly popular agenda at bay — then one would think his campaign could have convinced actual voters that he was a superior candidate to Biden, who often struggles just to put together a coherent sentence on the stump. Perhaps Sanders, and the philosophy he champions, are more appealing in theory than in practice.
March 9, 2020
The U.S. system remains the best equipped to handle challenges like the coronavirus.
By Steven Malanga • City Journal
When he was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel famously advised never to let a crisis go to waste. Advocates of universal, government-controlled health care in the United States are pursuing that strategy as the nation confronts the prospect of a coronavirus epidemic. Last week, seizing on a story about the $1,400 bill that a Miami man received for a hospital visit to get tested for coronavirus, they charged that the American system of private insurance isn’t up to fighting the spread of the virus. Critics contend that episodes like the one involving the Miami man, who has a high-deductible policy that some call a “junk” plan, will discourage people from seeking testing and treatment, thereby enabling spread of the contagion. The solution, according to Bernie Sanders? A national health-care system—the only system, he and his supporters believe, capable of handling a crisis like the coronavirus.
The problem with this claim, as with much of what advocates contend about nationalized health systems, is that it ignores how such systems really operate. Because health care under these plans is inexpensive or even “free,” people overuse it, driving up costs and forcing governments to limit access. That’s why long wait times and denials of service are typically more characteristic of national health systems than the American one. Indeed, last week, Japanese citizens bitterly criticized their government because its national health service, which citizens must enroll in if they don’t have employer-provided insurance, had limited coronavirus testing to just 5,700 people. Some critics accused the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of suppressing testing to minimize the seriousness of the virus’s spread. Others saw it as a cost-saving move.
Government-controlled health-care systems are especially vulnerable to epidemics because, to control costs, they must strip as much overcapacity as they can out of their operations. During the 2017–2018 flu season in Britain, for example, the National Health System was overwhelmed. Patients regularly spent 12 hours in hospital emergency wards awaiting treatment, corridors were jammed with beds, and doctors postponed all but the most urgent surgeries, the New York Times reported. British doctors complained of “battlefield medicine” and “third world conditions.” That spring, in order to save money, the NHS stopped paying for a broad range of remedies for common ailments, including those treating constipation, cold sores, conjunctivitis, infant colic, and backache. About a year later, the country reported widespread shortages of some 80 common medications, such as the anti-inflammatory Naproxen. One reason: the service had driven down the price of drugs so far that manufacturers found “the U.K. a less attractive market.” At the same time, the NHS is notable for restricting access to expensive drugs that treat much more serious conditions. Before relenting to criticism, for example, the NHS spent four years refusing to give cystic fibrosis patients—including an estimated 5,000 children—access to Orkambi, a drug developed by U.S. manufacturer Vertex International.
What critics deride as America’s “patchwork” health-care approach is in fact a system that attempts to offer choices, rather than a one-size-fits-all national service. The Miami man’s “junk” plan is one of those choices—a low-cost, high-deductible plan, in which the patient agrees to pay for many ordinary procedures in exchange for cheaper premiums. These plans were in place in states like California before Obamacare; they were aimed at consumers, such as young adults, who were looking for protection against catastrophic costs but balking at the price of more comprehensive insurance. Obamacare placed restrictions on these plans, looking instead to force people into insurance exchanges. Two years ago, President Trump signed an executive order expanding access to these insurance policies. While critics have charged that some of the plans, like AARP’s limited insurance for seniors, fail to inform customers adequately about the restrictions on coverage, some consumers have expressed satisfaction at the services offered and the savings they accrued.
The real issue in the Miami case was where the man went for service. The costs he incurred were not even from a coronavirus test, but from other fees associated with visiting a hospital emergency room for examination. Indeed, after an exam showed that he had the flu, the man was not tested for coronavirus, even though the Centers for Disease Control is providing the tests without charge because it has designated coronavirus a public-health emergency.
The CDC has been justly criticized for ramping up its testing regime too slowly. But, as experts predict an inevitable increase in cases in the U.S., the agency is now working to make the tests widely available. As testing expands, so should the network of facilities that provide the tests, extending well beyond expensive hospital emergency rooms. Some health-care providers have even suggested setting up the equivalent of “drive-through” facilities, where people can be tested quickly and inexpensively, as South Korea has done. Similarly, when an effective vaccine becomes available, Washington can subsidize production to get the population immunized quickly.
All these efforts, and others like them, to address the coronavirus can be accomplished without revamping American health care. In fact, it is a system like ours that makes such efforts possible. Contrary to Sanders’s claims, the American health-care system, flaws and all, is better equipped than any other to handle a challenge like the coronavirus.
March 6, 2020
Socialism is having its moment on the left.
By Jarrett Stepman • National Review
Key point: There wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.
While you were enjoying your Fourth of July weekend, I was attending a national conference on socialism.
Why? Because socialism is having its moment on the left.
Since there’s often confusion as to what socialism really is, I decided to attend the Socialism 2019 conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend last year.
The conference, which had the tag line “No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries,” contained a cross-section of the most pertinent hard-left thought in America. Among the sponsors were the Democratic Socialists of America and Jacobin, a quarterly socialist magazine.
The walls of the various conference rooms were adorned with posters of Karl Marx and various depictions of socialist thinkers and causes.
Most of the conference attendees appeared to be white, but identity politics were a major theme throughout—especially in regard to gender.
At the registration desk, attendees were given the option of attaching a “preferred pronoun” sticker on their name tags.
In addition, the multiple-occupancy men’s and women’s restrooms were relabeled as “gender neutral,” and men and women were using both. Interestingly enough, the signs above the doors were still labeled with the traditional “men’s” and “women’s” signs until they were covered over with home-made labels.
One of the paper labels read: “This bathroom has been liberated from the gender binary!”
While the panelists and attendees were certainly radical, and often expressed contempt for the Democratic Party establishment, it was nevertheless clear how seamlessly they blended traditional Marxist thought with the agenda of what’s becoming the mainstream left.
They did so by weaving their views with the identity politics that now dominate on college campuses and in the media and popular entertainment. The culture war is being used as a launching point for genuinely socialist ideas, many of which are re-emerging in the 21st century.
Here are six takeaways from the conference:
1. Serious About Socialism
A common line from those on the modern left is that they embrace “democratic socialism,” rather than the brutal, totalitarian socialism of the former Soviet Union or modern North Korea and Venezuela. Sweden is usually cited as their guide for what it means in practice, though the reality is that these best-case situations show the limits of socialism, not its success.
It’s odd, too, for those who insist that “diversity is our strength” to point to the culturally homogenous Nordic countries as ideal models anyway.
It’s clear, however, that while many socialists insist that their ideas don’t align with or condone authoritarian societies, their actual ideology—certainly that of those speaking at the conference—is in no sense distinct.
Of the panels I attended, all featured speakers who made paeans to traditional communist theories quoted Marx, and bought into the ideology that formed the basis of those regimes.
Mainstream politicians may dance around the meaning of the word “socialist,” but the intellectuals and activists who attended Socialism 2019 could have few doubts about the fact that Marxism formed the core of their beliefs.
Some sought to dodge the issue. One was David Duhalde, the former political director of Our Revolution, an activist group that supports Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and that was an offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
Duhalde said that Sanders is a creation of the socialist movement—having had direct ties to the Socialist Party of America in his youth—but hasn’t maintained an official connection to socialist political organizations throughout his political career.
Sanders’ position, according to Duhalde, is “anti-totalitarian” and that he favors a model based on “neither Moscow, nor the United States, at least in this formation.”
It’s a convenient way of condemning capitalist-oriented societies while avoiding connections to obviously tyrannical ones.
It was also difficult to mistake the sea of red shirts and posters of Marx that adorned the walls at the conference—or the occasional use of the word “comrades”—as anything other than an embrace of genuine socialism, but with a uniquely modern twist.
2. Gender and Identity Politics Are Ascendant
Transgenderism, gender nonconformity, and abolishing traditional family structures were huge issues at Socialism 2019.
One panel, “Social Reproduction Theory and Gender Liberation,” addressed how the traditional family structure reinforced capitalism and contended that the answer was to simply abolish families.
Corrie Westing, a self-described “queer socialist feminist activist based in Chicago working as a home-birth midwife,” argued that traditional family structures propped up oppression and that the modern transgender movement plays a critical part in achieving true “reproductive justice.”
Society is in a moment of “tremendous political crisis,” one that “really demands a Marxism that’s up to the par of explaining why our socialist project is leading to ending oppression,” she said, “and we need a Marxism that can win generations of folks that can be radicalized by this moment.”
That has broad implications for feminism, according to Westing, who said that it’s important to fight for transgender rights as essential to the whole feminist project—seemingly in a direct shot at transgender-exclusionary radical feminists, who at a Heritage Foundation event in January argued that sex is biological, not a societal construct, and that transgenderism is at odds with a genuine feminism.
She contended that economics is the basis of what she called “heteronormativity.”
Pregnancy becomes a tool of oppression, she said, as women who get pregnant and then engage in child rearing are taken out of the workforce at prime productive ages and then are taken care of by an economic provider.
Thus, the gender binary is reinforced, Westing said.
She insisted that the answer to such problems is to “abolish the family.” The way to get to that point, she said, is by “getting rid of capitalism” and reorganizing society around what she called “queer social reproduction.”
“When we’re talking about revolution, we’re really connecting the issues of gender justice as integral to economic and social justice,” Westing said.
She then quoted a writer, Sophie Lewis, who in a new book, “Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family,” embraced “open-sourced, fully collaborative gestation.”
3. Open Borders Is Becoming a Litmus Test
It’s perhaps not surprising that socialists embrace open borders. After all, that’s becoming a much more mainstream position on the left in general.
The AFL-CIO used to support immigration restrictions until it flipped in 2000 and called for illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship.
As recently as 2015, Sanders rejected the idea of open borders as a ploy to impoverish Americans.
But Justin Akers-Chacon, a socialist activist, argued on a panel, “A Socialist Case for Open Borders,” that open borders are not only a socialist idea, but vital to the movement.
Akers-Chacon said that while capital has moved freely between the United States and Central and South America, labor has been contained and restricted.
He said that while working-class people have difficulty moving across borders, high-skilled labor and “the 1%” are able to move freely to other countries.
South of the border, especially in Mexico and Honduras, Akers-Chacon said, there’s a stronger “class-consciousness, as part of cultural and historical memory exists in the working class.”
“My experiences in Mexico and my experiences working with immigrant workers, and my experiences with people from different parts of this region, socialist politics are much more deeply rooted,” he said.
That has implications for the labor movement.
Despite past attempts to exclude immigrants, Akers-Chacon said, it’s important for organized labor to embrace them. He didn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.
For instance, he said one of the biggest benefits of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was that there was a brief boost in union membership amid a more general decline in unionism.
Besides simply boosting unions, the influx “changed the whole AFL-CIO position on immigrants, [which was] still backwards, restrictive, anti-immigrant,” Akers-Chacon said.
“So, there’s a correlation between expanding rights for immigrants and the growth, and confidence, and militancy of the labor movement as a whole,” he said.
4. ‘Clickbait’ Communism Is Being Used to Propagandize Young Americans
It would be easy to write these articles off as mere “clickbait,” but it’s clear that the far-left nature of its editorials—and its attempt to reach young people with these views—is genuine.
Teen Vogue hosted a panel at Socialism 2019, “System Change, Not Climate Change: Youth Climate Activists in Conversation with Teen Vogue.”
The panel moderator was Lucy Diavolo, news and politics editor at the publication, who is transgender.
“I know there’s maybe a contradiction in inviting Teen Vogue to a socialism conference … especially because the youth spinoff brand is a magazine so associated with capitalist excess,” Diavolo said. “If you’re not familiar with our work, I encourage you to read Teen Vogue’s coverage of social justice issues, capitalism, revolutionary theory, and Karl Marx, or you can check out the right-wing op-eds that accuse me of ‘clickbait communism’ and teaching your daughters Marxism and revolution.”
The panel attendees responded enthusiastically.
“Suffice to say, the barbarians are beyond the gates. We are in the tower,” Diavolo boasted.
5. The Green Movement Is Red
It’s perhaps no surprise that an openly socialist member of Congress is pushing for the Green New Deal—which would essentially turn the U.S. into a command-and-control economy reminiscent of the Soviet Union.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti recently said, according to The Washington Post: “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.”
“Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti asked Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president in the Democratic primary. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
Economic transformation barely disguised as a way to address environmental concerns appears to be the main point.
One of the speakers on the Teen Vogue climate panel, Sally Taylor, is a member of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-oriented environmental activist group that made headlines in February when several elementary school-age members of the group confronted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., about her lack of support for the Green New Deal.
The other speaker on the Teen Vogue climate panel was Haven Coleman, a 13-year-old environmental activist who has received favorable coverage for leading the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in March. She was open about the system change she was aiming for to address climate change.
She noted during her remarks that she was receiving cues from her mother, who she said was in attendance.
Haven said the answer to the climate change problem was moving on from our “capitalistic society” to something “other than capitalism.”
6. Socialism Can’t Be Ignored as a Rising Ethos on the Left
According to a recent Gallup survey, 4 in 10 Americans have a positive view of socialism. Support among Democrats is even higher than among the general population, with a majority of Democrats saying they prefer socialism to capitalism.
But many who say they want socialism rather than capitalism struggle to define what those terms mean and change their views once asked about specific policies.
As another Gallup poll from 2018 indicated, many associate socialism with vague notions of “equality,” rather than as government control over the means of production in the economy.
What’s clear from my observations at Socialism 2019 is that traditional Marxists have successfully melded their ideology with the identity politics and culture war issues that animate modern liberalism—despite still being quite far from the beliefs of the average citizen.
Socialists at the conference focused more on social change, rather than electoral politics, but there were still many core public policy issues that animated them; notably, “Medicare for All” and government run-health care, some kind of Green New Deal to stop global warming (and more importantly, abolish capitalism), open borders to increase class consciousness and promote transnational solidarity, removing all restrictions on—and publicly funding—abortion, and breaking down social and legal distinctions between the sexes.
They were particularly able to weave their issues together through the thread of “oppressor versus oppressed” class conflict—for instance, supporting government-run health care meant also unquestioningly supporting unfettered abortion and transgender rights.
Though their analyses typically leaned more heavily on economic class struggle and determinism than what one would expect from more mainstream progressives, there wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.
February 28, 2020
By Charles Fain Lehman • The Washington Free Beacon
Facing mounting pressure to explain how he will raise enough revenue to cover the largest peacetime budget in American history, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) in advance of Tuesday evening’s debate released a plan outlining how he will pay for his proposals.
The plan, which debuted Monday evening, projects additional revenue of more than $37 trillion over the next 10 years, the product of a cross-section of aggressive new taxes on everyday Americans as well as the top percentile of earners. That figure pales in comparison to the tens of trillions Sanders expects to spend over the next 10 years, leaving a substantial budget shortfall even under the rosiest of assumptions.
Sanders, the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, released his plan the day before the South Carolina Democratic debate amid increasing scrutiny. Although the plan partially addresses critics’ charges that Sanders has been evasive on how he will pay for his proposals, it also opens up new lines of attack, allowing moderate opponents to charge him not only with excessive spending but also financial irresponsibility.
In total, the plan covers seven major components of Sanders’s agenda: Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, universal college and canceling student debt, universal pre-k, universal public housing, expanding Social Security, and eliminating medical debt. Its $37 trillion of added tax revenue reflects a bevy of old proposals—especially Sanders’s wealth tax—as well as new details on, for example, Sanders’s projected revenue from Green New Deal jobs.
Although prodigious, the total sum Sanders plans to raise would fall short of his full spending goals. A CNN analysispegged Sanders’s total spending at $60 trillion, substantially larger than any prior peacetime administration. An analysisfrom the left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute estimated the cost of Sanders’s plans at roughly $47.8 trillion—still well short of what he plans to raise. Sanders’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this and other disparities.
Even under Sanders’s most optimistic assumptions, massive shortfalls remain. For example, the campaign indicated that it expects to bring in $4.35 trillion per year from the wealth tax. But the right-leaning Tax Foundation estimates that it will only bring in $3.2 trillion per year, due to higher rates of tax avoidance. That would leave Sanders with $10 trillion less over a decade than he expects.
Much of the measurable shortfall is attributable to Sanders’s cost assumptions about Medicare for All. The campaign offers methods to raise $17.5 trillion, citing research from Yale epidemiologists arguing that that total is the amount of added government spending needed to cover Medicare for All. But that figure falls well short of standard projections of around $2.5 to $3.6 trillion in added costs per year—a figure Sanders himself has cited. In other words, only by lowballing the cost of the largest health care program in American history can Sanders credibly claim to have outlined a way to pay for his plan.
Sanders also outlines his plans to pay for a $16.3 trillion Green New Deal that would substantially overhaul American homes, vehicles, and communities without funding carbon capture and alternative energy technologies. To pay for the proposal, Sanders’s plan would not only tax fossil fuels and increase the corporate tax rate, but would also cut military spending $1.2 trillion “by scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply.”
Of the expected revenues, $10 trillion comes either from income taxes on wages from jobs Sanders expects the Green New Deal will create, lower safety net spending thanks to those jobs, or the sale of electricity by publicly owned power utilities. These benefits, however, might be outweighed by the economic costs of a Green New Deal.
“While there may be some gains from eliminating duplicate spending (e.g., safety net duplications under Medicare for All and the job guarantee), there would be an equal or greater than equal offsetting decrease in revenue from reductions in the tax base,” Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The same source of tax revenue is taxed multiple times in his plan, which has an interaction effect that lowers the revenue that can be gained from the entirety of his plan. Overall, the sum of each component tax is likely an upper bound for what can be raised realistically.”
Until this point, Sanders has been mum on how he would pay for many of his proposals. In so doing, he has avoided the fate of fellow 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who in November released a widely panned explanation of how she would pay for Medicare for All. That plan, alongside Warren’s eventual announcement that socialized health care would be phased in with a public option, likely contributed to the Warren campaign’s sinking fortunes.
February 27, 2020
He’s defended virtually every Communist tyrant he’s ever been asked about over the past 50 years.
By DAVID HARSANYI • National Review
Did you know that infamous Nazi Hermann Göring was a great lover of animals, a protector of birds, and head of the forestry service in Germany? Unless you’re a history buff, probably not. After all, almost no one feels the need to preface their comments about the Third Reich with “Sure, the authoritarianism was pretty bad, but, boy, that Göring was one hell of an environmentalist!”
Western elites, however, like to use this kind of absurd criterion whenever they talk about socialism, ignoring its vast failures and praising its piddling and alleged successes — you know, “Denmark,” but not Algeria, Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, China, Congo, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Somalia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, and so on and on.
And unlike many modern progressives, Bernie Sanders is old-school, still in the habit of praising old comrades. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” Bernie told 60 Minutes this past weekend, reacting to criticism of his near-complete praise of the dictator back in the 1980s.
The answer is: Yes, massive literacy programs instituted using the machinery of a tyranny are, indeed, a bad thing. For one thing, you can institute massive literacy programs without authoritarianism, just as you can build impressive highways without fascism or alleviate most poverty without collectivism. Just ask the United States, or any other capitalistic nation with wealth and high literacy rates.
Even then, Sanders is regurgitating Communist propaganda. Cuba already had the highest literacy rate in Latin America before the revolution, and it basically kept trending in the same direction as every other nation in the region. When Castro triumphantly entered Havana in 1958, he didn’t bring truckloads of books; he ordered thousands of arrests and summary executions. When Castro “came into office,” he canceled elections, terminated the free press, and turned Cuba into the island prison that still exists today.
Cubans haven’t been able to freely read about their own oppression since Castro took power. (Cuba, though, has nearly eradicated the scourge of “inequality,” with most people making around 20 bucksa month.) And the only possible reason any American would feel the need to defend that dictator’s programs — Sanders once said Castro “educated the children, gave them health care” — is because they’re sympathetic to the cause.
What might be “helpful” in explaining “the nuances of [Sanders’s] views on the Soviet Union & the international left would be a degree of literacy about them from commentators,” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski recently noted. Bernie, after all, “was always critical of authoritarianism in the Soviet Union.”
Can you imagine this kind of goodwill being extended to someone who had spent 50 years praising fascist regimes? It’s truly unfathomable. The Soviet Union was authoritarianism — it had no other way to exist. When Sanders was honeymooning in Moscow, refuseniks — fellow Jews he didn’t think enough about to mention once between the singing and drinking — were still begging to leave the place.
But okay, let’s concede for the sake of argument that Bernie was genuinely impressed by some of the commissars’ more liberal reform ideas. Sanders claimed that Americans could learn a lot from the Soviet Union. So which of these nuanced ideas did Bernie admire? Does he still admire them? It’s a shame there’s no one at CNN who has access to the candidate and can ask these questions.
When Vox’s Ezra Klein, joining the effort to reimagine Sanders as some innocuous idealist, argued that the now–Democratic Party favorite isn’t really running on socialist economic ideas (highly debatable) but rather on a “socialist ethic,” “a deep, animating belief that our political and economic system is unjust,” he inadvertently hit on an ugly truth.
There’s little doubt that Bernie believes collectivism — the discarding of property rights, for starters — offers a more equitable and decent option than capitalism. Bernie’s career has never been propelled by policy, most of them untenable here, but rather by class warfare.
And younger voters are, and often have been, more susceptible to the “ethics” of socialism. At this point in history, they’ve not seen the economic infeasibility of those ideas, many of the massive disasters spawned by them, or the coercion that’s inevitably required to make them “work.”
Or, maybe they don’t care.
A number of people – some on the right, who are increasingly comfortable with statist economic ideas — have told me that no one wants to relitigate the 1960s or Bernie’s old opinions. “Socialism” is not the pejorative it once was. Voters, they say, are uninterested in a candidate’s decades-old actions or positions.
I suspect there are a few thousand people in Florida who still care very much about Cuban totalitarianism and who might disagree. It’s also worth remembering that Bernie defended a Communist dictator this weekend — a dictator whose brother still holds millions of people hostage. Bernie has never walked back his positions.
No, Bernie isn’t Stalin, but he also isn’t some naïve college freshman high off of reading his first Chomsky screed. Bernie is a socialist. He’s been a lifelong defender of authoritarians. We’re debating his positions. If it were really about “Denmark,” Bernie wouldn’t have defended virtually every Communist tyrant he’s ever been asked about over the past 50 years. This is who he was, and more importantly, this is who he is right now.
February 25, 2020
Column: And the fall of the political establishment
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
There are 329 million people in the United States of America. They are spread across 3.8 million square miles. The presidential race will be determined by the actions of three of them: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Michael Bloomberg. Each is a New Yorker. Each hails from a different borough. Trump was born in Queens, Sanders in Brooklyn, and Bloomberg, a native of Massachusetts, has worked and lived in Manhattan since 1973.
For a long time New York City politics stopped at the Hudson River. Now the nation faces the prospect of eight months of septuagenarian New Yorkers yelling at each other. The geographic, regional, ethnic, and racial diversity of America is nowhere visible. Religion is an exception: The first Jewish presidential nominee of a major party will also be, in all likelihood, the most hostile nominee toward Israel ever.
How did this happen?
Trump’s presence is the easiest to explain. For one thing, he’s the incumbent. He’s also the most significant political figure of the last 30 years. His appeal has never been limited to area code 212. The audience that bought his books and his board game, that visited his casinos and watched his television show, drew from all walks of life, all corners of the country. President Trump is from New York, he lived in a triplex in his black skyscraper on the most coveted piece of property in the city, but he isn’t really of New York.
The Manhattan crowd treated him like an oddity. He was an object of fun. Even today Bloomberg brags that he is wealthier than Trump. Rich and famous he may be, but Donald Trump never has been an insider. Since he first appeared on the scene in the late 1980s, his key constituents have been the type of men who build his hotels. He speaks their language, he shares their tastes, and he embodies their aspirations. That is why he connects with the coal miner in West Virginia, the farmer in Wisconsin, the factory worker in Ohio, the restaurant server in Pennsylvania.
The 2016 Republican primary was the first step in New York’s political takeover. Trump’s victory is instructive. He did it through savvy manipulation of media—his city’s stock and trade—and by identifying and winning over a growing pool of potential Republican voters whom GOP elites ignored. Disaffected Democrats, often without college degrees, alienated from a party defined by the values of liberal professionals and woke Millennials, are the most important element of the Trump coalition. They were up for grabs for a reason. The center left was hollowed out.
Plenty of center-left Democrats remain, of course. The Democrats would not have won the House in 2018 without them. The problem is the communications apparatus of the Democratic Party—the cable networks, social media, newspapers, and public radio—is to the left of the median voter. And media deliver the cues for national politicians. Media set the agenda. The headlines are filled with discussions of the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, the 1619 Project, trans rights, “Abolish I.C.E.,” Russian collusion, Mothers of the Movement, the March for Our Lives. This discourse titillates the left. It drives the rest of us away.
Four years ago Trump leveraged his committed supporters against a divided field. The institutional party couldn’t stop him, partly because it was unable and partly because it didn’t want to. Which institution in America today, after all, is willing to deny “the people” its choice? Trump won a plurality of votes and the nomination. When that happened, the GOP faced a decision: Trump or Clinton. You know the rest.
Bernie Sanders is following a similar path. He defeated the competition in Iowa and New Hampshire with around a quarter of the vote. His splintered opposition prevents the anti-Bernie Democrats from consolidating around a single candidate. Not since 1992 has a party nominated someone who failed to win either of the first two contests. Not in the modern era has a party denied the nomination to the winner of the most delegates. (Walter Mondale entered the 1984 convention with less than a majority of pledged delegates, but got the nomination.) That is why Sanders is in a commanding position.
And why the third New Yorker, Bloomberg, is lighting $400 million on fire trying to prevent the Democrats from nominating a democratic socialist. He may not be able to close the deal. It is telling that Trump, Sanders, and Bloomberg have flexible relationships with the political parties they seek to control. Trump has changed his party registration five times, most recently coming full circle to Republican in 2012. Bernie Sanders has never registered as a Democrat. Bloomberg has been a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, and, since 2018, a Democrat again.
The top two vote-getters in the 2016 Republican primary were Trump and Ted Cruz. Both men ran against the party establishment. The top two vote-getters in the 2020 Democratic primary are Sanders and Pete Buttigieg (so far). Try finding more concrete evidence that voters want outsiders than in the Democratic embrace of a man who praised the Moscow subway after a visit to the Soviet Union, and a 38-year-old who spent eight years as mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city.
The power of media, collapse of the center left, revolt against the political establishment, and a realignment of campaign finance that privileges small-dollar contributors on the one hand and self-funding billionaires on the other have elevated the Big Apple to preeminence. This election will be the equivalent of a Subway Series, a UFC fight at the Garden between Norman Thomas and Frank Costanza. In such an absurd situation Larry David becomes a contested symbol, imitating Sanders on Saturday Night Live as Trump tweets clips of him wearing a MAGA hat on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And the bartender from the Bronx waits in the wings.
Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.
February 16, 2020
By Peter Roff • Newsweek
If no one ever said, “If people are talking about you, it means you’re important,” someone probably should have. It’s always been true in America, a place where hype is king. The mere fact that you’re mentioned in the columns makes you a player.
Some would argue that’s one of the reasons Donald Trump got to be president. But it’s also the way New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got to be the ideological leader of the Democratic Party. She has a lot to say, doesn’t shy away from the spotlight and has views that land far from the center of the bell curve.
Lately, while attempting to argue that the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is centrist, she’s had a lot to say about how bad the American economy is under Trump.
If she wasn’t serious, it would be silly. But she is, and should be taken that way because, like it or not, someday she and her kind may win a national election and set policy for the entire nation. And, with the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire showing a late surge for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist independent who caucuses with the Democrats and agrees with Ocasio-Cortez’s assessment of the economy, that chance may come sooner than many people expect.
Here’s the reality. By most traditional measures, the economy is stronger than it’s been in over three decades, especially where job creation is concerned. Trump’s policy of tax relief and deregulation—the president likes to brag his administration has eliminated more than a dozen regulations for each new one it has imposed—has led to the creation of the three most important things in U.S. politics: jobs, jobs and more jobs.
“On a scale of 1 to 10,” economist Steve Moore recently wrote of the job market, “it’s an 11.”
Moore has it right. The unemployment rate soared above 9 percent during President Barack Obama’s early years in office. Obama promised it would soon plateau at a manageable level if Congress would only approve his stimulus package to kick-start the public works projects we were all told were “shovel-ready.” It did, but they weren’t. And although unemployment began falling after 2010, as Moore wrote, “from January 2009 to December 2016, almost 10 million jobs were added, but amazingly, 1.6 million working-age people dropped out of the workforce.”
Under Trump, unemployment has continued to go down and the labor force participation rate is rising, contrary to what the Congressional Budget Office predicted would be the continuing trend just as he came into office.
More people are working, and because real wages are rising, they have the “hope,” finally, that Obama promised but found so hard to deliver. We’re as close to full employment as economists in the 1970s and 1980s said we’d ever be.
The reason Ocasio-Cortez and others who subscribe to her agenda regard this as a bad economy is precisely because it demonstrates people do not need the government as a mediating institution to succeed. Market capitalism, even in the hybrid form in which it exists in the United States, is enough to, as the late Jack Kemp used to say, create “a rising tide that lifts all boats.”
When that happens, the folks who want to use the government to plan the economy and redistribute the rewards of hard work, creativity and invention (not to mention luck) among the masses have no arguments to make. Their model doesn’t come from Adam Smith so much as it comes from Karl Marx. The people they claim to represent apparently can get ahead without their intervention or their interference. Ocasio-Cortez and her allies want the government to control the means of production, the allocation of resources, individual employment tracks and every important macro- and micro-economic lever. They believe they are necessary when the current economic realities show they are, at best, superfluous.
People should realize she’s serious. She’s not exaggerating or trying to score political points. She believes this, and not just because the numbers show income inequality is increasing. Even if some are better off than others, most everyone is better off now than they were four years ago. To Ocasio-Cortez and her kind in the Democratic Party, that’s unacceptable.
It’s as if, as Margaret Thatcher put it on the floor of the House of Commons in the waning days of her prime ministry, those who promote socialism—even the American kind, which is supposedly kinder and gentler than the East German version—would rather “the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich.”
February 9, 2020
The problem with ‘democratic socialism’ is that it is both.
By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON • National Review
Iain Murray grew up reading and writing by candlelight, not because he lived in premodern times but because he lived under democratic socialism.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and other contemporary American advocates of democratic socialism lean heavily on the democratic part, which is at least in part a matter of marketing. To take their talk of democratic principle seriously requires forgetfulness and credulousness: During the last great uprising of democratic socialism in the English-speaking world — in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, where young Iain Murray, now a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, was doing his homework by the light of coals and candles — the so-called democratic socialists embraced democracy when it suited them and anti-democratic, illiberal, and at times murderous modes of government when those suited their political agenda better, with left-wing activists such as young Jeremy Corbyn acting as tireless apologists for the Soviet Union, its purges and its gulags. In the United States, Noam Chomsky dismissed reports of Pol Pot’s genocide as right-wing propaganda; later, young Bernie Sanders and his new bride would honeymoon in the Soviet Union even as the Communist Party bosses were creating a new and more modern gestapo to put down democrats and dissidents. History counsels us to consider the first adjective in “democratic socialist” with some skepticism.
But the socialism that reduced the United Kingdom from world power to intermittently pre-industrial backwater in the post-war era was thoroughly democratic. The policies that turned the lights out in London were not imposed on the British people by a repressive junta. And that is part of the problem with democratic socialism even as notionally presented by Sanders et al.: It is both of those things. In the United States, we use the word “democratic” as though it were a synonym for “decent” or “accountable,” but 51 percent of the people can wreck a country just as easily and as thoroughly as 10 percent of them. That is why the United States has a Bill of Rights and other limitations on democratic power.
The United Kingdom, having a parliamentary form of government, does not enjoy such formal protections. A British government with an electoral mandate can run wild, as it did under the democratic-socialist governments of the post-war era, climaxing in the “Winter of Discontent” in 1978–79.
“I grew up in the north of England,” Murray says. “It gets dark very early in the winters there.” A series of strikes by government unions left the United Kingdom without trash collectors, and garbage piled up in the streets; there were shortages of food and fuel as strikes crippled the transportation system; medical workers in the country’s monopoly national health-care system went on strike, with nurses, orderlies, and hospital staff abandoning their posts and leaving sick Britons with nowhere to turn for medical attention; the bodies of those who died piled up for months, because the gravediggers’ union was on strike, too; eventually, the interruptions of fuel and labor caused the electrical system to fail. Hence the candles.
This wasn’t the first time: In 1970, a similar labor action had forced Britain’s hospitals to operate by candlelight. Think about that: A year after Americans had landed on the moon, Englishmen were undergoing medical procedures under neo-medieval conditions, in a medical world lit only by fire.
This did not happen in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, in Kim Jong-il’s North Korea, in Chairman Mao’s China, or in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. This happened in England, within living memory, only 41 years ago. Bernie Sanders was pushing 40 — old enough to remember, just as he is today old enough to know better.
The problems of socialism are problems of socialism — problems related to the absence of markets, innovation, and free enterprise and, principally, problems related to the epistemic impossibility of the socialist promise: rational central planning of economic activity. The problems of socialism are not the problems of authoritarianism and will not be cured by democracy. Socialism and authoritarianism often go hand in hand (almost always, in fact), but socialism on its own, even when it is the result of democratic elections and genuinely democratic processes, is a bottomless well of misery. The Soviet gulags and hunger-genocide, the Chinese prison camps, and the psychosis of Pyongyang are not the only exhibits in the case against socialism, and the case against socialism is also the case against democratic socialism, as the experience of the United Kingdom attests.
Murray, talking about his forthcoming book The Socialist Temptation at a CEI event in New Orleans, describes the inherent tension within democratic socialism. “The tyranny of the majority means you have no rights,” he says. “Early democratic societies realized that you had to have rights; how extensive those rights are is normally determined by how powerful the democracy is — one reason why the United States had such an extensive bill of rights so early is because the democracy was quite powerful. Socialists coopt the language of rights by introducing positive rights rather than negative rights — they will speak of the right to a job or the right to housing — but not the right to be left alone, which inherently contradicts democratic socialism.”
The destructive nature of socialism comes not from its tendency to trample on democracy (though socialism often does trample on democracy) but from its total disregard for rights — rights that are, in the context of the United States and other liberal-democratic systems, beyond the reach of mere majorities. We have the Bill of Rights to protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the free exercise of religion, etc., not because we expect that majorities will reliably support and protect these rights but because we expect that majorities will be hostile to them.
Hence the stupidity of complaints about our commitment to free speech protecting speech that is offensive, divisive, extreme, etc.: That’s precisely the point of the First Amendment — the other kind of speech doesn’t need protecting, because it is unobjectionable. Other rights — property rights and the right to trade prominent among them — also find themselves on the wrong side of majorities, constantly and predictably. But they are no less fundamental than the right to free speech, and they are no less necessary for a thriving and prosperous society. Socialism destroys societies by gutting or diminishing those rights. Doing so with the blessing of 50 percent plus one of the population does not make that any less immoral or any less corrosive.
Conservatives understand the case against socialism. But in a moment of ascendant populism, making the case for keeping democracy in a very small box — recognizing the difference between useful democratic procedures and a more general majoritarian democratic ethos — can be difficult. Those who have made a cult of “We the People” have left themselves without a very plausible moral or political basis for telling Them the People to go jump in a lake when they demand immoral and destructive policies.
But it was the people who ruined the United Kingdom with socialism in the 1970s, and it is the people who threaten to do the same thing to these United States today.
February 8, 2020
By Adam Kredo • The Washington Free Beacon
A Democrat-backed effort to boycott the nation’s leading pro-Israel group is gaining steam, worrying center-left advocates of the Jewish state who have been struggling in recent months to ensure their party continues to uphold the historically close U.S.-Israel relationship.
Far-left critics of Israel and its supporters in the United States have been gaining traction in the Democratic Party for some time. As young leaders such as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) gain increasing control of the party, anti-Israel voices once shunned by mainstream Democrats are beginning to find themselves welcomed with open arms.
This shift was on display Thursday evening when an activist with the virulently anti-Israel IfNotNow movement got Democratic 2020 contender Elizabeth Warren to promise she would boycott this year’s AIPAC conference, which has attracted top names from both parties in past years.
IfNotNow, one of the anti-Israel movement’s newest leaders, has been promoting what it calls the Skip AIPAC campaign. By publicly pressuring Democratic leaders who are eager to please the party’s far-left voices, IfNotNow hopes to erase prominent Democratic support for AIPAC.
“I’m an American Jew and I’m terrified by the unholy alliance that AIPAC is forming with Islamophobes and anti-Semites and white nationalists, and no Democrat should legitimize that kind of bigotry by attending their annual policy conference,” an unnamed IfNotNow activist said to Warren during a town hall event in New Hampshire. “I’m really grateful that you skipped the AIPAC conference last year, and so my question is if you’ll join me in committing to skip the AIPAC conference this March?”
Warren, unfazed by the demand, agreed.
“Yeah,” Warren responded to much applause, according to video of the event that has been circulating online.
The candidate went on to express support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, saying that “for America to be a good ally of Israel and of the Palestinians, we need to encourage both parties to get to the negotiating table, and we’re not doing that if we keep standing with one party and saying, ‘we’re on your side.'”
Warren’s eagerness to back the AIPAC boycott movement did not come as a surprise to mainstream pro-Israel Democrats, who say they have long been battling efforts by the party’s left wing to mainstream anti-Israel causes.
One Jewish Democratic operative with ties to AIPAC told the Washington Free Beacon that IfNotNow’s influence on the party is becoming increasingly problematic.
“There are many reasons for [Warren] not to attend AIPAC’s Policy Conference, but getting pressured by an extremist group is not one of them,” said the source, who would only discuss the matter anonymously. “IfNotNow has no place in anything close to the mainstream political discourse, including within the Democratic primary.”
The push to boycott AIPAC is by no means new. Liberal advocacy groups have long viewed AIPAC as overly hawkish on Israel and out of line with the Democratic Party’s evolving stance on the Jewish state. Liberal mainstays like the anti-war MoveOn group have demanded Democratic leaders boycott Israel for some time. This has dovetailed with growing support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel.
Support for these movements has been building in the Democratic Party for years, with one of the most notable examples playing out at the 2012 convention, when a majority of Democratic conference goers audibly booed the state of Israel.
An AIPAC spokesman would not comment on the issue when contacted by the Free Beacon.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the divide between the two major parties on Israel is more severe than ever.
“Every week we see more evidence that the Democrat Party is turning its back on Israel,” Brooks said in a statement after Warren said she would again boycott the AIPAC conference.
“Elizabeth Warren, who came in third in Iowa, is happy to speak to anti-Israel groups like J Street, but she told a town hall audience yesterday that she will shun AIPAC,” Brooks said. “Now she is standing by while her supporters slander the bi-partisan, pro-Israel group that has a decades-long track record of bringing Democrats and Republicans together to support our ally, Israel.”
Iowa caucus frontrunner Bernie Sanders has long positioned himself as an ally of the anti-Israel movement, which, in turn, has long been one of his leading backers.
“The winner of the Democrats’ Iowa caucus, whether it ends up being Sanders or [Pete] Buttigieg, has spent the last year labeling the only democracy in the Middle East a human rights abuser,” Brooks said. “Democrats have gone so off the rails on Israel that some of the biggest names in the party want to leverage military cooperation aid to get Israel to submit to the whims of the anti-Israel wing that now controls the Democrat Party. Clearly only one party can still call itself pro-Israel, the Republican Party.”
February 6, 2020
By Erielle Davidson • The Federalist
Over half a century ago, President John F. Kennedy stated one of his more famous lines in discussing American economics, one that continues to be echoed by pro-growth economists today.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” the young president said in 1963 to an assembly hall in Frankfurt, a sprawling city in what was West Germany.
JFK’s axiom would become the battle cry of those championing absolute growth over relative growth, the thrust being that economic growth can and should be a shared enterprise. President Trump’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening smartly echoed this very sentiment.
Pulling no punches in Tuesday’s speech, President Trump pointedly attacked socialism, a policy that has increasingly become the heart and soul of the modern left, much to the chagrin of the Democratic establishment. In what may have been one of the most striking lines of his speech, Trump declared, “Socialism destroys nations. But always remember: Freedom unifies the soul.”
As Edward Lazear, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush, noted in the Wall Street Journal over four years ago, the modern Democratic Party has largely abandoned the pro-growth mantra put forth by JFK, choosing instead to focus on relative growth. Candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary continue to push aggressive and radical redistribution policies, from “Medicare for All” to tax rates for top income-earners falling between 60% and 97.5%, encouraging Americans to examine what they have relative to each other, as opposed to what they have absolutely.
Trump’s decision to open his speech with a hefty – and welcome – discussion of the economic aspects of “America’s comeback” was entirely deliberate. It was not merely a nod to the economic boom experienced under the free market auspices of his administration but rather a reminder of what is at stake in the next election, should an open and avowed socialist like Bernie Sanders win.
“The unemployment rate is the lowest in over half a century,” he rightfully noted. “And very incredibly, the average unemployment rate under my administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country.”
Across minority groups – from African Americans to women to veterans to the disabled – unemployment levels have sunk to their lowest levels. Given the economic recovery experienced under President Obama marked the slowest in our nation’s history, drawing attention to these economic victories was a wise decision on the part of President Trump.
“Since my election, the net worth of the bottom half of wage earners has increased by 47 percent — three times faster than the increase for the top 1 percent.” He later asserted, “Real median household income is now at the highest level ever recorded.”
At a time when the left continues to parrot class warfare rhetoric regarding the boogeyman “one percenters,” highlighting the shared benefits of economic growth is critical to staving off cries for massive redistributive policies.
Should he face a Warren or Sanders nomination, two open socialists, President Trump’s greatest asset will be his economic policies. As the Washington Examiner noted earlier this morning, “economic optimism” in America has hit its highest level in over four decades, with 59% of Americans reporting in a Gallup poll that they are “better off” than a year ago.
Meanwhile, those who report being “worse off” than a year ago is at 20 percent, its lowest level ever. Gallup also noted a 63 percent satisfaction rate with Trump’s handling of the economy, a value that represents “the highest economic approval rating not only for Trump, but for any president since George W. Bush enjoyed stratospheric job approval ratings in the first few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
Given that the American economy is performing so strongly – and Americans are becoming increasingly aware of it – it would be an egregious error of epic proportions for the Democrats to nominate a socialist in 2020. The entire platform of a socialist is that capitalism is a failure. It’s extremely difficult to run on that message when the economy says the precise opposite.
In short, Trump’s State of the Union Address puts a sharp squeeze on the Democratic establishment, reminding them of what they used to advocate for and what they have seemingly been forced to abandon by allying themselves with radical socialists. Absolute economic growth used to be a bipartisan endeavor, but given how many Democrats remained seated during Trump’s economic celebration, it’s increasingly looking as if growing the whole pie is no longer a shared goal.
February 4, 2020
The Democrat Party's donor class has openly courted and even supported socializing medicine, college, child care, and more. Now that Sen. Bernie Sanders might win Iowa, they're worried he's too radical, too soon.
By Erielle Davidson • The Federalist
On Sunday evening, NBC News reported that former Secretary of State John Kerry, while stumping for former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa, was overheard in a Des Moines hotel describing the steps he would have to take to run for president, given “the possibility of Bernie Sanders taking down the Democratic Party — down whole.” If true, Kerry’s remarks are just the tip of the iceberg in highlighting the general discomfort felt by many establishment figures within the party.
Although Kerry responded with a profanity-laced tweet denying the allegations (later deleting the tweet and replacing it with the PG version), the notion that establishment Democrats may in fact be fearful of a Sanders candidacy is not new. Now, I don’t feel bad for establishment Democrats scrambling to find a left-of-center candidate to challenge the surging self-declared socialist rising in their midst. For years, Democrats in Washington have played footsie with the avante garde Marxists within their party, yet now have the audacity to feign shock at the possibility that these Marxists might actually seek to run the party.
For months, Democratic leaders, as well as big Democrat donors, have expressed consternation at the thought of a directly socialist candidate leading the Democratic Party. The New York Times reported in April of last year about the growing discontent felt among the Democratic donor class about a Sanders nomination, while AP reported mere weeks ago about the rising crescendo of fear within the Democratic party, citing a host of Obama administration veterans and Democratic leaders who believe Sanders presents a “tough” platform for Democrats across the country to run on.
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who once worked as a senior aide to President Obama, pointed to the difficulties of a Sanders’ candidacy, given the senator’s identity as a democratic socialist and staunch support of radical health-care redistribution, like “Medicare for All.”
Even President Obama has joined the anti-Bernie fray. Back in November, Politico reported that President Barack Obama privately assured that he would “speak up” to stop Sanders if it looked as if the Vermont politician were going to clinch the Democratic nomination.
But again, it’s hard to feel sympathy for establishment Democrats fearing a socialist wave. These are the same individuals who championed the rise of the socialist-laden “Squad” and shamed anyone for daring to question the communist-like “Green New Deal” proposed by one of their members. These are also the same people who have championed government-run medicine since at least Hillary Clinton during the early ’90s. In a Soviet-like maneuver, these are the same individuals who reinvigorated class warfare rhetoric to challenge President Trump’s tax cuts, the repeal of net neutrality, and basically any anti-socialist policy.
Indeed, Speaker of the House and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi sat idly by as members of her own party proposed abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reminiscent of the sort of borderless world rhetoric that emanates from those chasing a socialist utopia.
When conservative figures attempted to warn the left about the rise of socialism on college campuses, they were summarily dismissed and their speakers chased off those campuses. Democrats saw the potential for young voters to keep them in office and consequently did their utmost not to criticize rabid left-wingers, exhibiting the sort of desperation that you would expect from the Resistance.
As it stands now, polling reveals that the majority of Millennials and Generation Z tend towards socialist policies. According to an Axios poll conducted last year, almost three-quarters of Millennials and Generation Zers support socialist health care, funded by the government. Nearly 70 percent believe taxpayers should pay for all college costs. Half of them state that they would prefer to live in a socialist country, and more than 40 percent support abolishing ICE.
While it’s comforting to see establishment Democrats alarmed at the radical left’s takeover of the party, the recognition is simply too little, too late. If Sanders wins the nomination, it will be because the left didn’t take the threat of socialism seriously and embraced it for political gain. Someone savvy should ask Pelosi whether her Rolling Stone cover with the “Squad” was worth the destruction of her party. I have a feeling her answer will be interesting.
December 29, 2019
He has praised totalitarian regimes and thinks billionaires shouldn’t exist. What’s not to love?
By MONA CHAREN • National Review
You won’t hear young Democrats deride Bernie Sanders with the “Okay, Boomer” dig. At 78, he’s actually too old for the cohort, but that’s not why he won’t get dinged. He’s the most popular Democrat among the under-35 crowd, and judging by recent polling, he’s the second most popular Democrat overall. Sanders has raised nearly twice as money as the front-runner, Joe Biden, and seems to have scooped up support from a declining Elizabeth Warren in the past 60 days. Despite a heart attack that sidelined him for a week, he marches on, now buoyed by a poll showing that in a head-to-head match-up against Donald Trump, he would do better than Biden — though within the margin of error.
Sanders’s appeal, the experts explain, is founded on “authenticity.” Is he humorless, repetitive, cloying, and rigid? Sure. But these are signs that he really believes something! He’s not a packaged, blow-dried (no argument there), insincere pol cooked up in a political laboratory. He’s the real deal.
Let’s concede that Sanders is sincere, and that he is, with some small hypocrisies (did you know he was a millionaire?), honest. But what people actually believe is kind of important, and Bernie Sanders professes and sells a series of prejudices that do him no credit.
Sanders claims to be a democratic socialist in the European mold; an admirer of Sweden and Denmark. Yet his career is pockmarked with praise for regimes considerably to the left of those Scandinavian models. He has praised Cuba for “making enormous progress in improving the lives of poor and working people.” In his memoir, he bragged about attending a 1985 parade celebrating the Sandinistas’ seizure of power six years before. “Believe it or not,” he wrote, “I was the highest ranking American official there.” At the time, the Sandinista regime had already allied with Cuba and begun a large military buildup courtesy of the Soviet Union. The Sandinistas, Mr. Sanders had every reason to know, had censored independent news outlets, nationalized half of the nation’s industry, forcibly displaced the Misquito Indians, and formed “neighborhood watch” committees on the Cuban model. Sandinista forces, like those in East Germany and other communist countries, regularly opened fire on those attempting to flee the country. None of that appears to have dampened Sanders’s enthusiasm. The then-mayor of Burlington, Vt., gushed that under his leadership, “Vermont could set an example to the rest of the nation similar to the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America.”
Sanders was impatient with those who found fault with the Nicaraguan regime:
Is [the Sandinistas’] crime that they have built new health clinics, schools, and distributed land to the peasants? Is their crime that they have given equal rights to women? Or that they are moving forward to wipe out illiteracy? No, their crime in Mr. Reagan’s eyes and the eyes of corporations and billionaires that determine American foreign policy is that they have refused to be a puppet and banana republic to American corporate interests.
Sanders now calls for a revolution in this country, and we’re all expected to nod knowingly. Of course he means a peaceful, democratic revolution. It would be outrageous to suggest anything else. Well, it would not be possible for Bernie Sanders to usher in a revolution in the U.S., but his sympathy for the real thing is notable. As Michael Moynihan reported, in the case of the Sandinistas, he was willing to justify press censorship and even bread lines. The regime’s crackdown on the largest independent newspaper, La Prensa, “makes sense to me” Sanders explained, because the country was besieged by counterrevolutionary forces funded by the United States. As for bread lines, which soon appeared in Nicaragua as they would decades later in Venezuela, Sanders scoffed: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food. The rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”
Bernie Sanders stopped learning about economics and politics about the age of 17. He still believes that corporate “greed” is responsible for human poverty and that the world is a zero-sum pie. The more billionaires there are, the less there is for everyone else. “I don’t think billionaires should exist,” he told the New York Times. So in the Bernie ideal world, we non-billionaires would be deprived of Amazon.com, personal computers, smartphones, fracking (which reduces greenhouse gases), Uber, Walmart, Star Wars movies, and very possibly our jobs. Millions of children would be deprived of school scholarships, while the arts, medical research, and poverty programs would be that much poorer. Billionaires are not heroes, but by making them boogeymen, Sanders betrays his economic infantilism along with a large dose of demagoguery.