Lenin of Brooklyn, or Socialist Diogenes?
Funny: conservative commentator Monica Crowley recently called Bernie Sanders Lenin of Brooklyn.
I don’t think Bernie has Lenin’s cunning and brutality. Vladimir Lenin managed to seize the day in 1917, leading his extreme minority party to overthrow the very tenuous government of the largest country on Earth and then held on to the power, consolidating the majority of the crumbling empire.
Clown-haired Bernie doesn’t leave an impression of an individual capable of such feat.
The way I see Sanders, the reason I think he’s popular among the college campuses or those under 30 in general, is very similar to the reasons why Ralph Nader was popular sixteen years ago. Both men leave a similar impression on the impressionable. They’re very much alike in appearance: Nader, like Sanders, had rather imperfect hair; his suits were ill-fitted, his face — asymmetrical. This was all part of his appeal. Although Nader received loads of favorable attention from the media, his imperfections lent him an aura of authenticity. After eight years of Clinton, a candidate who didn’t seem overly media-produced was refreshing.
Nader’s (and Sanders’s) supporters want to believe that they cast their vote for an authentic man of ideas. And if back in 2000 Nader’s unpresidential appearance was pure identity politics — cool kids voted for Nader, today Sanders can play for keeps. The Senator from Vermont is once again surging in the polls and just might get the major party nomination.
As Gloria Steinem recently admitted, young women are among his strongest supporters, which, if we consult the babe theory of revolution, we are dealing with a cultural phenomena.
Sanders has a lot working for him biography-wise. My husband commented that it’s unfair to compare Nader to Sanders because the former actually achieved something, like taking perfectly safe cars and convincing everyone that they are unsafe, whereas Sanders… well, consider Investors Business Daily’s expose:
2016: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said Monday his parents would never have thought their son would end up in the Senate and running for president. No kidding. He was a ne’er-do-well into his late 30s.
“It’s certainly something that I don’t think they ever believed would’ve happened,” the unabashed socialist remarked during CNN’s Democratic town hall forum, as polls show him taking the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire.
He explained his family couldn’t imagine his “success,” because “my brother and I and Mom and Dad grew up in a three-and-a-half-room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, and we never had a whole lot of money.”
It wasn’t as bad as he says. His family managed to send him to the University of Chicago. Despite a prestigious degree, however, Sanders failed to earn a living, even as an adult. It took him 40 years to collect his first steady paycheck — and it was a government check.
“I never had any money my entire life,” Sanders told Vermont public TV in 1985, after settling into his first real job as mayor of Burlington.
Sanders spent most of his life as an angry radical and agitator who never accomplished much of anything. And yet now he thinks he deserves the power to run your life and your finances — “We will raise taxes;” he confirmed Monday, “yes, we will.”
One of his first jobs was registering people for food stamps, and it was all downhill from there.
Sanders took his first bride to live in a maple sugar shack with a dirt floor, and she soon left him. Penniless, he went on unemployment. Then he had a child out of wedlock. Desperate, he tried carpentry but could barely sink a nail. “He was a shi**y carpenter,” a friend told Politico Magazine. “His carpentry was not going to support him, and didn’t.”
Then he tried his hand freelancing for leftist rags, writing about “masturbation and rape” and other crudities for $50 a story. He drove around in a rusted-out, Bondo-covered VW bug with no working windshield wipers. Friends said he was “always poor” and his “electricity was turned off a lot.” They described him as a slob who kept a messy apartment — and this is what his friends had to say about him.
The only thing he was good at was talking … non-stop … about socialism and how the rich were ripping everybody off. “The whole quality of life in America is based on greed,” the bitter layabout said. “I believe in the redistribution of wealth in this nation.”
So he tried politics, starting his own socialist party. Four times he ran for Vermont public office, and four times he lost — badly. He never attracted more than single-digit support — even in the People’s Republic of Vermont. In his 1971 bid for U.S. Senate, the local press said the 30-year-old “Sanders describes himself as a carpenter who has worked with ‘disturbed children.’ ” In other words, a real winner.
He finally wormed his way into the Senate in 2006, where he still ranks as one of the poorest members of Congress. Save for a municipal pension, Sanders lists no assets in his name. All the assets provided in his financial disclosure form are his second wife’s. He does, however, have as much as $65,000 in credit-card debt.
This proves that the candidate, unmoved by material hardship, spent decades following his ideas. His life story must be very comforting to college students and recent grads who had learned about socialism in school and are now unsure about what to do with this knowledge. Sanders is their Diogenes in a barrel, the philosopher who challenges conventions of the day and rejects material possessions, except that of course, Sanders embodies familiar values and promises material possessions.
On stage or during a town hall meeting, Sanders comes across warm and, in his own ironic way, charismatic, but up close, it’s a different story. A progressive Vermont journalist describes his trouble with Bernie:
With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.
I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.
Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.
They weren’t. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. Burdened by the cross of his socialist crusade, he was a scold whose counter-culture moralizing appealed to the state’s liberal sensibilities as well as its conservatives, who embraced his gun ownership stance, his defense of individual rights, an antipathy toward big corporations and, generally speaking, his stick-it-to-them approach to politics.
This revelation is not going to sink Bernie — he’s a savant, you know.Sanders is a questionable candidate for commander in chief:
Bernie Sanders was a pacifist during the Vietnam War and applied for conscientious objector status at the time, his campaign told ABC News.
“As a college student in the 1960s he was a pacifist,” campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said in an email. “[He] isn’t now.”
The information was confirmed after a Vietnam veteran wrote a letter to The Des Moines Register asking how a Democratic Socialist like Sanders, who did not serve in the military by applying for the conscientious objector status, could be commander in chief.
Whether or not Sanders evolved on pacifism, I doubt his supporters hold his conscientious objector status against him. The Senator doesn’t impress one as a commander in chief material anyway. What his followers want is a philosopher king.
In this respect, the American people should be reminded about a certain Cold War fixation called nuclear doomsday clock, which is presently at 3 minutes to midnight. William Perry, the Secretary of Defense under Clinton, had recently raised concerns about the threat of nuclear disaster which in his opinion was greater today, in the 7th years of Obama presidency, than at any point during the Cold War. It might just be that old-fashioned commanders in chief are better at diplomacy than community organizers.
So Bernie doesn’t seem like much of a Lenin-like revolutionary. More a Diogenes for Socialists.
The author writes the blog Sitting on the Edge of the Sandbox, Biting My Tongue and occasionally posts at Legal Insurrection. She is an American citizen and a native of Kharkov, a Russian-speaking city in what was, when she was growing up, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.