This piece was originally published in The Mises Institutes' Power & Market Blog on March 18, 2020.
By: Joseph MacKinnon
Michael Moore, patronizing saint of poisoned water wells, hospital waiting lines, and the Rust Belt, has decided to shill for the establishment while waxing poetic about the poor. He may get a lot wrong, but he was absolutely right in 2015 about Trump: people wanted to vote for him in droves because he symbolized the Molotov cocktail they could throw at the system. Trump’s victory as a populist would signal the “biggest f%$k you” in American history, and it did. But it was neither the end of the populist revolt nor its full realization, and certainly did less to mollify the radical left than their time spent screaming at the sky. It was simply the beginning—the first of many incendiary cocktails.
Even if Joe Biden manages to dodge needling questions concerning his mental health (or follow-ups re: his alleged detention in apartheid South Africa) and Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Mike Bloomberg connects his billions with the right Democratic rainmakers, Bernie Sanders stands to remain the Democratic front-runner going into Super Tuesday. If his unfair treatment by CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times coupled with the karmic return of the Russian collusion hoax (this time pointed his way) are any indication, Sanders threatens the Democrat establishment much in the same way that Trump did the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) and the swamp in 2016. Sanders is offering a vision for the future that does not comport with the deep state’s designs for America—certainly not with those held dear by corporate Dems like Pelosi and Schumer. He is a populist, to be sure, and is becoming more popular every day.
The decision facing America on November 3 is the decision it was robbed of on November 8, 2016: between a leftist populist and a nationalist conservative populist. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Donna Brazile, Podesta, and the mainstream media successfully conspired to kill Sander’s movement then, which only emboldened his progressive followers and the BernieBro base. The same geniuses who rigged the Democratic primaries four years ago are right now attempting to do the same again, and this time their efforts will backfire. Their fear and opposition will continue to excite the populism on the left—just as the RINOs’ opposition did the Tea Party—until they are either consumed by it or pushed out of the way. It is unfortunate that the Democratic Party is so out of touch, so unlikable, and so damned corrupt, because their failure here means that once again, the rest of America will be forced to solve a problem that the establishment created.
While Sanders and his supporters recognize many of the problems facing America that Donald Trump's supporters want him to solve, Bernie's people of course have very different "solutions" in mind.
Although both Trump and Sanders have been called populists, Sanders’s brand of populism is ultimately collectivist, not individualist. It is urban-focused and antagonistic to rural America (recall Jefferson's statement in 1785 that, “the mobs of the great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body”). Leftist populism tends to be atheistic; anti-capitalist; big on eugenics and population control; hostile to entrepreneurs; convinced that America is an evil place; an enemy of the nuclear family; anti-Christian; anti-Semitic; class and race conscious; utopian; and—despite the poison of postmodern thinking—once again epistemologically rationalist as opposed to empiricist, meaning that they are all for forcing humanity to fit their vision rather than refining a vision to accommodate humanity. The populist left shirks responsibility yet demands rights, and is terrified of liberty. With direct democracy they hope to level all differences in society—to topple the mountains and fill up the valleys—hence their loathing for the electoral college and the country’s much-envied system of checks and balances. The America sought by the populist left is uniform in thought and humanist creed. There, it is not only the economy that is directed but life itself, micromanaged by the mob from birth to death.
These last statements may seem hyperbolic. After all, Sanders is supposedly a democratic socialist, not a full-blown communist. It is, however, a slippery slope he wishes to take America up—along the road to serfdom, towards that utopia that sees various industries socialized, wealth redistributed, and the economy turned upside down making the lunatic Green New Deal. Destructionist policies and the exponential growth of government will make it such that his democratic socialism could very quickly turn undemocratic or more blatantly socialist, all the while hobbling the United States and giving the Chinese Communist Party an unchallenged run at world hegemony.
Bernie Sanders’s candidacy must be taken deadly seriously, and not just because 100 million people were murdered by the same socialist regimes and policies that he has praised over the past several decades. If the Democratic Party is going to ice him again, they must explain why and their explanation must be satisfactory for leftists, otherwise the party has resigned itself to being the party for liberal corporatists and will see the birth of a new progressive party driven by leftist populism. If the Democratic Party embraces him, they had best nerf his administration, otherwise they will watch him destroy the system we all rely upon. If he does become their candidate and has the cardiovascular strength to somehow best Trump, Sanders-style populism will be seen for the first time in America, and by the end, we will all see what horrors republican checks and balances fended off.