I love the Democratic Party. I love it with the ardent zeal of an apostate Republican. But some days I wonder.
Many of my friends and comrades are Bernie Sibs dearly in love with the ideals of “democratic socialism.” There used to be a time when you weren’t allowed to use the word “socialism” in American discourse. Now, the neo-liberal corporate sellout media is cashing in on it. And if you’re not a democratic socialist–you don’t want free tuition, free health care, free subway rides, free everything, etc.–well, then from a Bernie standpoint it’s pretty obvious that you stand with the plutocratic 99%. And trashing Hillary Clinton–something I’m only too happy to do–doesn’t give you any points with this crowd. As far as they’re concerned, it’s either dirigisme or oligarchy.
I have a lot of objections to socialism, but here’s a simple way of putting things. How is it that the people who have trouble running the Iowa caucus or the New York City subway system are as certain as Bernie Sanders that they have an app for running the American economy? I mean, let’s be as charitable about their motives as possible, and as generous with everyone’s bank account as they want us to be. Still, does the sheer logistical performance of the Democratic Party inspire so much confidence that you’d hand your health care or the whole of your livelihood over to these people on their say-so? I hate to sound like a big, bad oligarch here, but I wouldn’t. And I can’t think of a whole lot of reasons why anyone should.
If you really want to get a sense of what the government looks like when it’s managing the whole of something, look at our foreign wars, assuming you can count them all. If governments are so great at managing and directing things, how did we manage to blunder our way to defeat or at best Phyrric quasi-victory in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq? It doesn’t seem so outlandish to infer that if that’s what a well-funded, well-organized, bipartisan federal program looks like, we might want to hesitate before entrusting that same exact government with running the rest of our lives. Meanwhile, the Bernie Brigade is content to adopt mantras about “democratic socialism” and more or less content to take on faith that if Uncle Bernie has his heart in the right place, he will magically get us out of Yemen, Iran, and Afghanistan. It’s heartwarming until you wonder whether magic will do.
I get that, to his credit, Bernie wants us out of our foreign wars, but what I don’t get is what exactly is his “democratic socialist” master plan for doing so. I mean, call me chintzy and crazy, but how do we “Green New Deal” our way out of Iraq? It’s awesome that he’s got a plan for getting corporate money out of politics, but how about getting our troops out of all the foreign countries they’re in? I mean, it’s not as though every dollar you leave in politics could die if you didn’t get it out. Whereas with soldiers it’s different. This is what he says:
Follow the American people, who do not want endless war.
I thought socialists were supposed to lead us to awesome outcomes, relying on the beneficient if somewhat coercive-ish powers of government. But Uncle Bernie’s throwing the onus back on us. The government would get out of all those wars…if only we would lead them? What next? Anarchy?
Liberty Uncertainly Leading the People As They Glance Anxiously About for an Exit from their Insane Predicament
So here is my question for the Bernsters. You want democratic socialism. So you want an expanded role for government. You want this government to command us to new heights, but you also want this government to stop engaging in all those endless foreign wars. How is it that we’re supposed to lead you out of the wars, but you get to command us to those new heights? Why can’t we reverse that? Why don’t you get us out of the wars, and just kinda leave us alone for awhile–if only to catch our breaths before you move to the next crusade?
People laugh at me for backing Tulsi. And I’m the first to admit that the Tulsi Crusade is currently going nowhere, and has no chance of electoral success. I’m even man enough to admit that this is partly (maybe even in large part) Tulsi’s own fault.
But the one thing the Tulsicrats have going for them is their monomaniacal sense of priorities: why not fix what’s wrecked before we decide to wreck what’s at least half-fixed? I went without health insurance for a good twenty years. Now I have some. It’s not great, but I don’t relish the prospect of losing it entirely to a scheme concocted by people with stars in their eyes and guns in their hands. Let’s give their centralized government planning a test run, first. Let them devote their energies to the considerable planning involved in engineering a retreat from all of the endless wars they say they want us out of. Once they do that, maybe then we can revisit the issue of their running Midwestern caucuses, urban subways, national health care systems, and all the rest. But not until then, comrades. First get one thing right. Then we’ll give you a chance to get everything else wrong.