It is in large part because of people like Bernie Sanders and his methodically simple approach to profoundly difficult social and economic problems that we have arrived at a post-truth era of presidential politics. There was not and still is not a conundrum of fiscal or economic policy with which people like Sanders are not equipped to address by rehashing the usual banalities of blaming the super wealthy or downsizing some complex dataset on income distributions to an edible, audience-gauged, applause-generating soundbite. And by doing so, Sanders effectively normalized that culture of truth-engineering and fact-mining. The internet became a natural petri dish for such democratic delusions as well. Long boring paragraphs about the intricate relationship between economics and market dynamics soon became less abstract and dumbed down to a one-liner or pictographic meme about how “1 percent own most of the wealth” and the “middle class is being destroyed” by free trade and income inequality (despite evidence to the contrary). It combined the appeal of intellectual laziness with mob fury; it gave people a reason to fume and rage against problems they fundamentally misunderstood.
In fact, post-election analysis indicated that Bernie Sanders could have beaten Trump in a final face-to-face battle. Even if he could not win, the data suggests that his popularity was comparable to Trump’s. But doesn’t that just suggest that Sanders appealed to the same working-class narrative which catapulted Trump to victory? However you make sense of it, these numbers offer a strong case that Sanders was a key actor in unleashing the riotous frustrations amongst disillusioned voters. These people were convinced that the system had failed them. And Bernie Sanders was a long standing projector of this illusion.
Its clear that the sore losers of this election considered Hillary to be the lesser of two evils. But look at it another way: the angry marchers who made this historical election possible more likely saw Trump as a compromise between the ideally worst choice in their eyes (Hillary) and the best choice (Sanders). In other words, Trump was the lesser of two evils afforded to them and Sanders was the choice they simply didn’t have. This only underscores the role Sanders played in molding the political demographic of our decade. In many ways, he is quite responsible for what happened on that special Tuesday, regardless of his “scrupulous” intentions.
Donald Trump was the alternative mutation of this populist thinking. He simply coasted on the momentum of that very same strain of impatience and ignorance. With his master ability to manipulate human psychology and tap into misplaced frustrations against the system, his presidential victory was inevitable. But it could not have happened without the usefully idiotic and destructive labor of the “anti-establishment” revolutionaries.
This article by Newsweek investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald is full of fury for liberals who sat out the election or voted third party. But in the middle of the piece he drops a few paragraphs on what the GOP had planned for Bernie Sanders had he become the nominee. Anexcerpt:
Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it – a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.
Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.
Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”
The Republicans had at least four other damning Sanders videos (I don’t know what they showed), and the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick. (The section calling him a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida.) In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone reallyattacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance.
Read the full article and pull out any other bits you find interesting.