Friday, July 31, 2015

the "Bernie Sanders as Nazi" meme

It seems to have sprung up among conservatives both spontaneously and independently: the idea that Bernie Sanders is a "national socialist." The uncomfortable phrase comes from a teasing-out of Sanders's self-identification as a socialist and his nationalist fight to keep jobs within American borders.

On Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds wrote:

BERNIE SANDERS ON IMMIGRATION: “Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal. . . . It would make everybody in America poorer —you’re doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that.”


If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

I think from a moral responsibility we’ve got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don’t do that by making people in this country even poorer.

So it’s okay to have socialism, but it can’t be international socialism, it has to be socialism in one nation. A sort of national socialism, I guess.

That was on July 29, 2015. Nine days earlier, Kevin D. Williamson, one of National Review's wittier, more lively writers, released a retread version of a July 6 article titled "Bernie's Strange Brew of Nationalism and Socialism." In it, we read:

...there’s not a lot of overtly Soviet iconography on display around the Bernieverse, but the word “socialism” is on a great many lips. Not Bernie’s lips, for heaven’s sake: The guy’s running for president. But Tara Monson, a young mother who has come out to the UAW hall to support her candidate, is pretty straightforward about her issues: “Socialism,” she says. “My husband’s been trying to get me to move to a socialist country for years — but now, maybe, we’ll get it here.” The socialist country she has in mind is Norway, which of course isn’t a socialist country at all: It’s an oil emirate. Monson is a classic American radical, which is to say, a wounded teenager in an adult’s body: Asked what drew her to socialism and Bernie, she says that she is “very atheist,” and that her Catholic parents were not accepting of this. She goes on to cite her “social views,” and by the time she gets around to the economic questions, she’s not Helle Thorning-Schmidt — she’s Pat Buchanan, complaining about “sending our jobs overseas.” L’Internationale, my patootie. This is national socialism.


In the Bernieverse, there’s a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics. The incessant reliance on xenophobic (and largely untrue) tropes holding that the current economic woes of the United States are the result of scheming foreigners, especially the wicked Chinese, “stealing our jobs” and victimizing his class allies is nothing more than an updated version of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s “yellow peril” rhetoric, and though the kaiser had a more poetical imagination — he said he had a vision of the Buddha riding a dragon across Europe, laying waste to all — Bernie’s take is substantially similar. He describes the normalization of trade relations with China as “catastrophic” — Sanders and Jesse Helms both voted against the Clinton-backed China-trade legislation — and heaps scorn on every other trade-liberalization pact. That economic interactions with foreigners are inherently hurtful and exploitative is central to his view of how the world works.

Mark Steyn, meanwhile, sees creeping Nazism everywhere (with thanks to Malcolm for the link).

What else were Germans doing in 1933? Well, on April 8th - one day after the passage of the Civil Service Restoration Act - the German Student Union announced the Säuberung - the cleansing, the purification - of German culture. That's book-burning to you and me. The Germans were a far more literate people than we are, so book-burning wouldn't get you very far today, although the cleansers and purifiers of our own time have gone quite a long way on that - to the point where a Los Angeles school teacher is in the fifth month of his suspension for reading his class a passage from Huckleberry Finn. But, as I said, we're not as literate as the Germans and we disseminate thought-crimes by other methods, like telly and movies and stand-up comedy.

So, for example, an ancient TV show called "The Dukes of Hazzard" has vanished from the rerun channels because the principal characters in the course of their adventures occasionally travel by motor vehicle and on the roof of said motor vehicle can be glimpsed a verboten emblem. They haven't yet burned all existing prints of the show, although I wouldn't entirely rule it out: the owner of the actual car is already painting the roof.

Meanwhile, apparently non-"lunatic" persons are discussing across the cable networks whether the motion picture Gone With The Wind should be banned from cinema and television screenings. Oh, don't worry, they won't burn all the prints. If you're a credentialed researcher researching a thesis on racism in 20th century racistly American racist culture, you'll be permitted to go to some vault in Sub-Basement Level 12 of the Smithsonian Museum of the Forbidden and arrange a screening.

So Steyn makes the case for a sort of ambient Nazism descending on the American cultural landscape. Meanwhile, Williamson and Reynolds seem to be implying that Bernie Sanders is bringing his own brand of National Socialism to American politics. What to make of all this? Time to run, or to fetch a gun?


1 comment:

Sperwer said...

The easy assimilation of Sander and whatever he (or Trump) is stirring up (or reflecting back) to Nazism is too facile, not least because of the crude determinism it implies about the result - not to mention the scare-mongering. There are, though, it seems to me some important similarities between our times and say the '30s in Central Europe. A good guide would be Fritz Sterns' "Politics of Cultural Despair".