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Bernie and Elizabeth came to Phoenix this weekend. A crowd, estimated between 2,000 and 2,000,000 filled the convention center. Imagine that! Insular as my existence is, I’m still surprised that an avowed Socialist and a faux Pocahontas populist statist could find so many enthusiastic supplicants in free-carry Arizona. Then again, the world is filled with government workers, teachers’ union members, students, and would-be artists, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
They all gathered in the whinefest I’ll call the “New Weekend with Bernie.” Sanders is markedly old and stiff, but filled with vituperous energy directed at “banks, big business and Republicans” — Satan’s trilogy of the free markets. Republicans blame the government. Socialists blame free markets. Elizabeth has obviously joined the Sanders entourage as the de facto VP candidate. Bernie, as we all can see, is one weekend away from being a recyclable mass in the mulch pile, so Elizabeth is the real heir apparent, challenging Hillary from behind. Interesting strategy.
But the really interesting thing about all this is that any pretense of free markets as a force for any good at all is condemned as vulgar, reflexively ignorant, and a kind of mass Stockholm Syndrome. To paraphase their muddled logic: We’ve all had to accept corporatism because we rely on it for everything, but this is a massive lie. Right wing corporatism, that is free markets, has no conscience. Those on the Right seek only one thing, money, and they use this money to control everything and to buy power, which gives them access to more money.
This is really the same conceit that spawned the Reign of Terror, the Russian and Cultural Revolutions and the rise of Marxist-Socialism around the world. It always begins this way, with the demonization of capitalism. It ends as the Socialists find it impossible to control economic reality. Productivity declines, resources diminish, and rationing follows. Since the government becomes the provider of everything, competing theologies with alternative messages must be throttled and eliminated. The end result is decline in everything – economic, social, political, artistic, religious. This always ends badly.
And yet the Bernies and Elizabeths of the world attract naive and economically challenged, well-meaning fellow travelers who are true believers. This time, they believe, we will get it right and we will crush the corporatists, the banks, the Republicans, and the Evangelicals, who stand between us and Valhalla. The power of human self-deception is epic. The message of Bernie Sanders is a mythical mixture of arrogance, covetousness, contempt and ignorance.
It’s the same philosophy that turned Russia into a vodka-sodden economic and environmental disaster. It’s the same philosophy that turned Cuba into a deteriorating time capsule filled with cowed and starving citizens. It’s the same philosophy that turned Venezuela, a country with vast oil resources, into a country of peasants facing shortages of everything. This is the philosophy that banned religions around the world, that murdered priests in Mexico, burned churches in Cuba and turned amazing Orthodox churches in Eastern Europe into crumbling hulks. And yet, as we face the rising threat of jihadist Islam throughout the world, the Bernie Sanders of the world say that our enemy is within, it is us, or those of us who believe in freedom, liberty, property, and the pursuit (not the guarantee) of happiness.
This is the message that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren spread in Phoenix this past weekend. And between 2,000 and 2,000,000 came to cheer them on.