America’s socialists are having a moment. With assistance from their fellow travelers in the media, they’ve rebranded one of history’s most cataclysmic ideologies as both “just” and hip. Like all Big Lies permitted to bubble along, this one is causing grievous damage.
Today’s socialists are bifurcated into two main groups. There’s the older vanguard, led by longtime true believer Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, and the younger, more impatient rebels, led by freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, New York Democrat. AOC is having her leftist star turn, but Mr. Sanders is the one running for president — for the second time. Now as in 2016, he promises to complete what former President Barack Obama began and they’ve both tellingly called for the nation’s “fundamental transformation.”
While many younger leftists would like to see the baton passed to the next generation, the 2016 Hillary Clinton hangover looms large. Mr. Sanders‘ last campaign enjoyed a buzz of organic emotional energy. Part of that was due to the lack of same for Mrs. Clinton. Alarmed by the natural enthusiasm for Mr. Sanders, she and her campaign pulled some “Game of Thrones” dirty tricks to deny him the nomination.
According to current polling, Mr. Sanders is leading the sprawling Democratic field and commanding the fund-raising game, having raised $18.2 million so far. But much of that support is 2016 sentimentality. Democratic voters want to make it up to him. They should understand, however, that they lived this movie before, just three years ago. Many of them wanted to make it up to Mrs. Clinton after she got trampled by Mr. Obama in 2008, only to see her get trampled again by Donald Trump in 2016.
The base may very well be making the same mistake again. In politics, allowing the emotionally charged desire to remedy a past wrong is generally a bad idea, particularly when it comes to the nomination derby. You end up with someone whose time — and viability — have passed. A mercy choice rarely ends well.
Predictably, though, this impulse to fight the last war may well lead the Democrats to nominate Mr. Sanders, a prospect that must delight President Trump. A race between an avowed socialist and an unabashed capitalist would put their two very different visions for the country into bold relief.
The guy who sang communism’s praises upon returning from his honeymoon in the Soviet Union versus the guy whose self-made global company considered building a monument of capitalism — a hotel — in the new Russia. The contest would be between an actual billionaire and a guy who for decades has ripped “millionaires and billionaires” as villains who have exploited the working man. Land of class warfare versus land of opportunity. A classic match-up.
Given that the country still values the free-enterprise system, Mr. Sanders faces an uphill battle.
And he’s got another glaring problem. He’s now one of those millionaires he’s condemned. According to his recent tax returns (which he refused to release until this week), Mr. Sanders is indeed a millionaire, thanks in large part to book sales.
Knowing this personal wealth opens him up to charges of rank hypocrisy, Mr. Sanders says, “I didn’t know that it was a crime to write a good book, which turned out to be a best-seller.”
Translation: Sorry not sorry that I made major bank. He clearly learned from Mr. Trump to unapologetically embrace his wealth and not run from it, as Mitt Romney did in 2012.
“If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too,” he added.
Translation: While we’re still in this vile capitalist system, we might as well exploit it.
It’s funny how real money changes things.
In an attempt to save socialist face, he reiterated his shopworn call for a “progressive tax system which demands that the wealthiest people in this country finally start paying their fair share in taxes.”
As if they don’t already, the top 1 percent pay approximately 43 percent of all federal income taxes.
Now that Mr. Sanders is in that evil 1 percent of earners, he should set the standard by writing a check to the U.S. Treasury above and beyond what’s required of him. If he thinks his earning group is undertaxed and not carrying its freight, nothing stops him from paying more. Come on, Bernie: Put your money where your mouth is. Now that you’re one of them, show them how paying one’s “fair share” is done.
He won’t, of course. In fact, at a recent Fox News townhall, Mr. Sanders rejected the suggestion that he pay the higher tax rates he advocates: “I pay the taxes that I owe,” he said flatly.
The loudmouthed socialists always want you to pay more, but them? They never pay more to the government than what’s due. Even when they’re millionaires. Especially when they’re millionaires.
• Monica Crowley is a columnist for The Washington Times.
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