American Nightmare — Sanders versus Trump

American Nightmare” is The Economist’s latest cover story. This is an authoritative, extremely serious, sober publication, not given to hysteria. But this editorial is strong stuff. I copy it below, with some editing by me, mainly for brevity:

Sometimes people wake from a bad dream only to discover that the nightmare goes on. This is the prospect facing America if Democrats nominate Sanders against Trump. An appalling choice with no good outcome.

Sanders is so convinced he is morally right, he has a dangerous tendency to put ends before means. And, where Trump has whipped up politics into a frenzy of loathing, Sanders’s election would feed the hatred.

He is not a cuddly Scandinavian social democrat who would let companies do their thing and then tax them to build a better world. Instead, he believes American capitalism is rapacious and needs to be radically weakened. He puts to shame Jeremy Corbyn [hard-left British Labour party leader who recently led his party to electoral disaster] proposing to confiscate not 10% but 20% of the equity of companies and hand it over to workers [actually, the government]. On trade, Sanders is at least as hostile to open markets as Trump is. He seeks to double government spending. With unemployment at a record low and wages in the bottom quarter growing by 4.6%, his call for a revolution in the economy is an epically poor prescription for what ails America.

Sanders displays the intolerance of a Righteous Man. He embraces perfectly reasonable causes like reducing poverty, universal health care and decarbonising the economy, and then insists on the most unreasonable extremes in the policies to achieve them. Like banning private health insurance (not even Britain, devoted to its National Health Service, goes that far). He wants to cut billionaires’ wealth in half over 15 years. A sensible ecologist would tax fracking; Sanders would ban it outright. Making college cost-free is a self-defeating way to alleviate poverty, because most of the subsidy would go to people who are, or will be, relatively wealthy. Banning nuclear energy would stand in the way of his goal to create a zero-carbon economy.

His ideological bent gives him a habit of indulging autocrats, like in Cuba and Nicaragua, so long as they claim to be “socialist.”

Last is the effect of a President Sanders on America’s political culture. The country’s political divisions helped make Trump’s candidacy possible. They are now enabling Sanders’s rise. Leftist activists find his revolution thrilling. They seem to have almost as much hatred for his Democratic opponents as for Republicans.

This speaks to Sanders’s political style. When asked how he would persuade Congress to eliminate private health insurance (which 60% of Americans oppose), Sanders replies that he would hold rallies in the states of recalcitrant senators until they relented. Traveling around the country holding rallies for a far-left program he could not get through Congress would widen America’s divisions. Political realities blocking his revolution would frustrate his supporters. On the right, an actual socialist in the White House would generate even greater fury.

The mainstream three-quarters of Democrats have begun to tell themselves that Sanders would not be so bad. Some say he would not be able to do many of the things he promises. This sounds worryingly familiar. Trump has shown that it is unwise to dismiss what a man seeking power says he wants to do with it.

If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, America will have to choose between a corrupt, divisive, right-wing populist, who scorns the rule of law and the constitution, and a sanctimonious, divisive, left-wing populist, who blames a cabal of billionaires and businesses for everything wrong with the world. All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as ever. It is hard to think of a worse choice. Wake up, America! 

Postscript (this is Frank writing): Sanders could not be nominated were Obama still alive. Everything he worked for faces destruction. His weighing in would have huge impact. Yet he is inert. One commentator discussing this stressed the word “caution.” Reminds me of Obama’s anemic foreign policy. There are times for caution and times for taking a stand. This time, right now, is the latter.



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11 Responses to “American Nightmare — Sanders versus Trump”

  1. Lee Says:

    Again, Sanders is not my first choice, but I have to defend against this attack piece. There are a lot of scare words in there (socialist!) to distract us from actually considering the issues. However, if one is careful one can throw those aside and look at the actual facts. In the article I found only:
    He seeks to double government spending — yes, all the spending that currently goes directly to insurance companies would instead go directly to government; either way it is on its way to the medical professionals who provide the service. I don’t find this scary; to me it sounds like cost savings.
    banning private health insurance — I hadn’t heard that he is seeking to ban supplement plans like those available for current Medicare participants. Is this actually true?
    Sanders would ban [fracking] outright — Given the emergency that is climate change, this sounds right to me, so long as substitutes are available.
    Making college cost-free — they left out the word “public”; it is public college that would be free. New York just did this. This seems like a fine idea.
    Banning nuclear energy — given climate change, this might be a bad idea in the short run.
    create a zero-carbon economy — amen!
    he would hold rallies in the states of recalcitrant senators until they relented — using democracy to get those bought by special interests to instead do their jobs properly; that’s good.

  2. Doug Weston-Kolarik Says:

    I disagree completely..if anything this publication thrives on Hysteria.

    On Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 7:32 AM The Rational Optimist wrote:

    > rationaloptimist posted: ” “American Nightmare” is The Economist’s latest > cover story. This is an authoritative, extremely serious, sober > publication, not given to hysteria. But this editorial is strong stuff. I > copy it below, with some editing by me, mainly for brevity: Som” >

  3. frankzollo Says:

    “[The Economist] is an authoritative, extremely serious, sober publication, not given to hysteria.”

    The Economist is a very conservative publication demonstrating nothing less than hysteria about Sanders. The editorial does not say who they would recommend people vote for if the choice is Sanders or Trump. A serious and sober publication would admit that Sanders is the better choice.

  4. Basil C. Demetriadi Says:

    What surprises me is that a country like the U.S could not produce a better candidate. Is this a sigh of our times? Are people really fed up of politics?

  5. rationaloptimist Says:

    Frank Z — Actually, The Economist calls its philosophical positioning “LIBERAL.” That is in the John Stuart Mill classical liberal sense. Like me.
    The editorial is not hysterical, but faces up to the very real calamity that a Sanders nomination would entail. If Sanders wins in November, what that would mean for America’s political culture is dire. And that deepening political polarization will make us an increasingly backward nation, paralyzed from tackling our challenges.
    But the main calamity of a Sanders nomination would be Trump’s re-election. Believing Sanders could beat him is delusional. For every new voter he’d energize, he’d provoke two or three to come out to vote against him.
    As for choosing between Sanders and Trump, for me that would be an excruciating choice. Sanders might be literally the lesser of evils, but only by a small margin. Much as I loathe Trump, if Sanders is the nominee, I’m not sure I could bring myself to vote for him (rather than some third party candidate).
    I am still hoping Democrats will come to their senses and unite behind Biden, a very decent human being who would be most likely to win the election and restore sanity to America.

  6. Lee Says:

    @rationaloptimist, I see that you dislike the rhetoric surrounding Bernie Sanders, but I would like to know which of his actual platform positions you find polarizing, if any. Is it single-payer healthcare, tighter regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, free tuition at state colleges, a carbon-neutral economy, a wealth tax, using democracy to out-shout special interests, or what?

    Like you, I don’t agree with every detail of everything that he says, … but I don’t find him polarizing.

  7. rationaloptimist Says:

    As The Economist explains, he invokes what are genuine concerns, but puts forth the most extreme proposals to address them. The editorial characterizes his political ethos quite accurately.
    BTW, what Frank Z labels a “very conservative publication” endorsed Obama over Romney, Obama over McCain, and Kerry over Bush.

  8. Lee Says:

    For one (or several) of those Sanders platform positions, what less extreme proposal would you like to see instead? Sure, I would nudge some of them a bit, but to me that’s just detail work, not a harbinger of extremism and polarization.

    We really, really, really need a green new deal. Do you disagree?

    Single-payer healthcare will save oodles of lives and prevent oodles of bankruptcies. Although, it’s at the level of detail for me, I’d like to point out that “Medicare for those who want it” is less desirable. It has the problem that people will be incentivized to buy poor-grade commercial insurance until they get sick and then to switch to the public option at that point. We can either let them switch (thus permitting them to get away with stealing money from the rest of us) or not let them switch (in which case they go untreated or bankrupt). Not so good either way.

    Making public college free isn’t so different from making public high schools free. It ain’t perfect necessarily, but I don’t see it as extremism or polarizing.

  9. rationaloptimist Says:

    I’ll turn the question back on you, Lee. If you don’t think Bernie’s policies are extreme in the context of today’s U.S. politics, what sort of proposals WOULD you consider extreme?
    Sorry Lee, you can rationalize it all you like, but a Sanders presidency would be no success, it would be highly polarizing and would enflame even more the divisiveness wrecking America. A somewhat different nightmare from Trump’s, but a nightmare nonetheless.
    But I don’t think he can win, he will energize more voters to oppose him than to support him.

  10. Lee Says:

    Nationalizing Microsoft, Amazon, Google, or Apple would be extreme. Does that help?

    It is definitely a Fox / Trump talking point that Sanders is a polarizing personality. If it is repeated enough, it will stick. However, I’d like to see the facts first.

  11. rationaloptimist Says:

    Just watch and listen to him. Polarizing and extreme enough to ME!

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