Weimar America

2016 is a pivotal year in which accustomed referents of a stable West are now disappearing. We seem to be living in a chaotic age, akin to the mid-1930s, of cynicism and skepticism. Government, religion, and popular culture are corrupt and irrelevant—and the world order of the last 70 years has all but collapsed.

Neither the president nor his would-be successors talk much about the fact that we are now nearing $20 trillion in debt—in an ossified economy of near-zero interest rates, little if any GDP growth, and record numbers of able-bodied but non-working adults. (The most frequent complaint I hear in my hometown is that the government lags behind in their cost-of-living raises in Social Security disability payments.)

No one can figure out how and why America’s youth have borrowed a collective $1 trillion for college tuition, and yet received so little education and skills in the bargain. Today’s campuses have become as foreign to American traditions of tolerance and free expression as what followed the Weimar Republic. To appreciate cry-bully censorship, visit a campus “free-speech” area. To witness segregation, walk into a college “safe space.” To hear unapologetic anti-Semitism, attend a university lecture. To learn of the absence of due process, read of a campus hearing on alleged sexual assault. To see a brown shirt in action, watch faculty call for muscle at a campus demonstration. To relearn the mentality of a Chamberlain or Daladier, listen to the contextualizations of a college president. And to talk to an uneducated person, approach a recent college graduate.

If all that is confusing, factor in the Trimalchio banquet of campus rock-climbing walls, students glued to their iPhone 6s, $200 sneakers, latte bars, late-model foreign cars in the parking lot, and yoga classes. Affluence, arrogance, and ignorance are quite a trifecta.

Bernie Sanders—a proud Eugene Debs-like socialist whose campaign in normal times would have been the stuff of caricature—is now running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. He rails like an Old Testament prophet at Wall Street, often oblivious that Wall Street’s totem stands a mere three feet away on the debating stage.

Obama may have wrecked his party by losing the Congress and most of the state legislatures, but he certainly has moved it to the hard community-organizing left. Sanders has little appreciation that he is an artifact of free-market capitalism, which alone has created enough bounty for such a demagogue to call for massive redistribution—in a way impossible for socialists any longer in exhausted Cuba, Greece, Venezuela, or any other command-economy paradise. Where does Sanders think his statism has worked—China, North Korea, Bolivia, Cuba, or the ossified European Union?

Bill Clinton on the stump has reminded us that there need not be any dignity to the post-presidency. He offers a blueprint to becoming fabulously wealthy by monetizing a mere eight years in office with lifetime quid pro quos and Putin-like leverage. He has managed to make the sanctimonious scold Jimmy Carter seem reverential in comparison. The mystery of Hillary Clinton is not that she should be indicted on charges that are routinely filed against lesser miscreant bureaucrats, but that her entire corrupt career has always somehow been exempt, from cattle speculation to withholding subpoenaed evidence.