Team Obama is clearly worried about the enduring appeal of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders to Democratic primary voters, but as we learned from an absolutely delicious Daily Beast item on Monday, Obama and his “top lieutenants” are clueless “how to stop him.”
Hanna Trudo writes, “as Sanders gained new flashes of traction in recent weeks, the former president’s lack of official guidance to halt his momentum, and the scattering of his inner circle to rival campaigns, have hampered any meaningful NeverBernie movement.” Trudo adds that “Obama has reportedly acknowledged problems with Sanders’ vision for the country,” and yet according to the AP, “less than a month before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses, the doubters are being forced to take Sanders seriously.”
In other words, Obama and his former lieutenants worry that Sanders is crazy enough to win the Dem nomination, but too crazy to win the general election. But the root question is: Who unleashed the crazy on the Dems?
Barack Obama, that’s who.
I know you come here for the flippancy and the snark, so I hope you’ll forgive me for getting all philosophical for a moment. But in order to understand what’s happening to the Democrats, we have to cut to the philosophical roots of modern leftism, and we’ll find that in the works of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.
Perhaps the most pernicious of E&M’s many foul ideas was that of “false consciousness.” The dictionary definition is that it is “a way of thinking that prevents a person from perceiving the true nature of their social or economic situation.” What that means is that a working-class person who doesn’t feel oppressed (and look for a Marxist solution) isn’t a real working-class person. A woman who doesn’t rail against the patriarchy isn’t really a woman. A black man who isn’t a leftist isn’t genuinely black. And so on. This is where the Left gets its notions of being a “class traitor” or a “traitor to your race,” etc. And we all know what happens to traitors.
You can draw a straight line from E&M’s 19th-century theory to the 20th-century practice of putting Jews in gas chambers and starving Ukrainian and Russian kulaks to death by the millions. A kulak isn’t a real peasant; A Jew isn’t a real German — traitors, all of them.
Barack Obama is what I call a “Marxian” thinker.
The good news is that nobody really believes in seizing the means of production or establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat or any of that old-school Communist BS anymore — assuming anyone ever did believe in actual Marxism. The bad news is that a Marxian takes Marxist notions like false consciousness and group identity, uses them in pursuit of political power and wealth — and often it works. Obama, despite his moderate tone, is a Marxian thinker through and through. He was a Red Diaper Baby, a 20-year parishioner at a black nationalist church, and one of the smoothest identity-politics operators it has ever been this country’s misfortune to endure.
Identity/grievance politics has been a part of the Democratic agenda for over a century, but only rarely has it been unleashed to the extent that it is today. A Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could never have come so far in a Democratic Party still dominated by Bill Clinton’s centrist (or at least “centrish”) Democratic Leadership Council.
Let me give you a real-world example of how Marxian thinking plays out: Clintoncare versus Obamacare.
Early in his first term, Clinton put his wife Hillary (who is no moderate) in charge of a workgroup for overhauling American health care. The Clintoncare plan she and her people came up with, officially known as the Health Security Act, was a bureaucratic nightmare. The HSA would have inserted Washington at every point of health care, right down to how many medical students could study which specialties in school. I honestly thought it might pass, but the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies saw that their very existence was on the line, and mobilized against the HSA with the smart and reasonable Harry and Louise ad campaign. The HSA went down in flames so badly, even in the Democrat-controlled Senate, that it was one of the contributing factors to the Dems losing control of the Senate and the House (for the first time in 40 years) in 1994.
Flashforward to 2009. Obama had similar goals, but rather than threaten to put the health insurers out of business, he co-opted them. And so instead of lobbying against Obamacare, they lobbied to get it passed. The key to keep in mind is this: Obamacare was sold as an old-school lefty benefit for the masses, and was pushed as part of an “us-versus-them” group-identity agenda. In actuality, Obamacare was a welfare program for health insurers and other big government/big business types. Even if Obamacare was and remains unpopular, it continues funneling money and power to the Democrats’ favored interest groups. That’s the power of Marxian thinking applied to modern American politics.
The problem is while Obama usually knew exactly how far he could push his agenda, those even more radical — and with less political smarts — never know when or where to stop. That’s why the Revolution always eats its own, as they say.
Make no mistake about it: Obama got this ball rolling. It was with full-throated approval that the Washington Post’s Eugene Scott marked the tenth anniversary of Obama’s election to the presidency:
Identity politics, the idea that an individual’s various identities shape how they view politics and policies, went from being a little-known concept, often bemoaned by those on the right, to the central method that both political parties use to rally their bases to the polls.
As appeals to “one nation” appear to have decreased at the highest levels of governments, they have been replaced with an awareness that gender, race, faith, socioeconomic status and region very much determine how likely one is to experience “the American dream.”
The very thing Scott celebrates is exactly what’s tearing us apart, but here comes Bernie Sanders promising to bring us all back together again. “Divide and conquer – first. But then, unite and rule,” as Ayn Rand’s lefty villain Ellsworth Toohey explained.
The problem for the Obama Democrats, who now pass as their party’s centrists, is this: The broad American public is having none of it. Having normalized Marxian thinking, it’s inevitable that the actual Marxists have come out to push the Democrats far further to the left than most Americans will tolerate. And Team Obama, much to its horror, has no idea how to call back the hounds it unleashed.
Leftism always plants the seeds of its own demise, whether it comes in the form of the guillotine, economic collapse, the ballot box, or just from an unwilling public that’s been pushed too far. I’m not sure I expected to see Marxian thought discredited in my lifetime, but if the panic emanating from Team Obama is any indication, we might see something very much like that come November.