Don’t do it, Bernie.

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Dream jobs: mine include naming paints and flying an F-16. A Blackbird would really fit the bill, but it’s less likely than naming paints. A more likely possibility is personal advisor.

I see myself with lots of famous clients. Perhaps Hillary Clinton would’ve asked me, “Should I wear that $12,495 Armani jacket?” No, unless you’ve got a story about buying it at a thrift store. No one cares that you’re worth $31 million. Flaunting it, different matter.

Coke brought out New Coke, a term unfamiliar to the younguns. Of course, anyone could have told them no.

McKinney built a $70 million football stadium. Didn’t they notice the $60 million one in Allen cracked? No, to whoever wants to go for $80 million. Your kids can barely read and write. Buy books. Pay your teachers.

All remakes, most sequels.

President Trump: “Should I send this twee…” No.

Obviously, the list recurs eternally, as do politicians. This week Bernie Sanders announced that he’d consider running for president in 2020. If he were to hire me, I’d advise against it.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders’ chances were nil. While some have speculated that the primaries were rigged, Donna Brazile countered with her own research; while nothing illegal happened, Clinton’s takeover of the party’s finances and strategy before she was the nominee altered the course of the campaign for everyone but her.

Sanders remains popular, broadly as well as with his supporters. The most popular of any senator, with a 72% rating in Vermont, nationally he has an astonishing 76% approval rating as a presidential candidate. Santa Claus may not be that popular.

In the 2016 primaries, Sanders garnered 12 million votes; Clinton took almost 16 million, a margin of 3.75 million. Here’s the odd thing: A recent poll shows that 12% of Sanders’ supporters voted for Trump in the general election. That suggests a depth of feeling as well as a rejection of the status quo. It was Bernie they wanted; Clinton wasn’t an alternative.

These reasons—a rigged first effort, popularity, and a close finish to the front-runner—might suggest that he should try again. But no…

First, he may have done well in the primaries, and he likely sent the party to the left. Yes, people who “felt the Bern” were adamant, but that didn’t spread or translate into the general population. I think he received all the votes he’d be likely to get.

Second, his signature programs would require more money than is realistic. Free college tuition, for example, uses as a base $70 billion a year for public 4- and 2-year colleges. Sanders’ bill proposes $47 billion in federal funding with the remaining portion picked up by the states. New York passed a similar bill in 2016. With all factors in place, the number of students qualifying for Excelsior Scholarships is actually low, just 6%. Other funding must be explored first, for example. Over 275,000 New York students submitted FAFSA applications last school year; 22,000 applied for the New York scholarships, for which $87 million was budgeted. The individual awards do not quite meet tuition, however, and don’t cover anything but tuition. Room and board, fees, and books often present substantial barriers to students in need. And it’s a complicated process. One college professor said this: “I think they absolutely struggle with the complexity. It’s not nearly as simple as it was marketed.” The limitations are not lost on the intended recipients. “Basically, it’s a scam,” one student (said). “It didn’t help that SUNY schools had a $200 tuition increase this year.” Imagine extrapolating that complexity and lack of enthusiasm to the entire country.

Medicare for All, another Sanders initiative, comes in at $1.4 trillion a year according to some sources. The Urban Institute ups that to $36 trillion for 10 years. Taking into consideration that the FY2019 US budget is only $4.407 trillion, somebody must be dreaming. How could this work? It may all be political “framing,” according to this article from NPR. Initially, Sanders introduced the bill in 2013 but had no co-sponsors. This time, he has 16, suggesting that the idea is to get votes even if the bill cannot pass.

Finally, let’s forget the numbers. The United States remains a country with a Judeo-Christian moral base. Church attendance aside, Americans help each other because of the deeply ingrained Golden Rule. Living by that precept requires money. Both liberals and conservatives give to charities; this article describes different motivations. This New York Times article notes that liberals give 30% less than conservatives, however. Here Huffington Post graphs out not just giving but also volunteering. Red states do better in both, though the 30% figure doesn’t hold.

But what does that have to do with Bernie Sanders? The more philosophical argument has to do with Sanders’ democratic socialism itself. Consider this passage from a 1965 tract by Jamaican activist Bertell Ollman: “Pained by the sight of so much suffering, many high minded Christians have turned to socialism as the solution.” The title of this work says a lot—Socialism Is Practical Christianity. Many more examples abound with this conclusion: If we turn our goods over to the state, a more equitable society will result. If you’re Christian (or Jewish or Muslim), you are supposed to agree that the poor must be taken care of. For Sanders, the state will manage better than you can.

Historically, even the religious community has never eradicated poverty or inequality. Human nature will out. Having all things in common is a millenialist ideal; its time has not come. Marc E. Fitch says it best, quoting first from The Brothers Karamazov:

“So, in the end, they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us: ‘Enslave us, but feed us!’ And they will finally understand that freedom and the assurance of daily bread for everyone are two incompatible notions that could never co-exist!” Christ may have been able to turn stone into bread or feed 5,000 with three loaves and two fish, but the state is no miracle worker. Any time the state embarks on a miraculous quest, it is always an act of power, not faith or charity. (emphasis added)

So, no, Bernie, don’t do it. We’re just not good enough for what you want from us. Not next year anyway.

3 thoughts on “Don’t do it, Bernie.”

  1. Mary Ann–I think this is the very best piece you have written on your blog. It could easily anchor a published collection of your work. I especially like the wide-ranging research that supports your case, but more importantly, the research is interesting and should appeal to many reader outlooks (though I always have doubts about HuffPost, but that’s just me). As you reveal, Sanders is only a symptom or example of a much larger subject throughout American society: the growing battle between some grand attempt to gain total perfection versus the historical bad result when other people’s money runs out.

  2. I shall have to read and reread your blog to absorb all the lessons and wise words. I am always amazed how you tie together various themes. As always your blog is so well-written and gives me much food for thought. 🙏💕🙏😊

  3. He probably shouldn’t run, BUT:

    1. I think the idea of America as a nation having any moral base is pure fantasy. Hearing the attorney general cite Romans when defending the practice of separating children from their families is proof enough of that. This country has however mastered the art of being complicit. I agree that socialism is not viable on its own as a government, especially here. But I think Bernie spoke out about a lot of things that need to change to shrink gaps of inequality that exist all over the place.
    This leads me to a thought about the crossover between Bernie voters and DT voters. They both appealed to people who are hurting. They both talked about shaking up the status quo. They both came from outside the establishment. The primary difference is that DT is a pathological liar and well, 16 months of this dumpster fire.. you can draw your own conclusions about how all of this is going.

    2. Again, not advocating for socialism at all, but I think Bernie and his movement speaks to a larger effort to try and make what we think of as the American dream accessible for everyone. Not just certain individuals or groups, but actually everyone. Charitable giving is great, but it is not going to be able to solve the strains on society caused by income inequality and unequal access to things like healthcare and education.

    I for one would MUCH RATHER see what a Bernie presidency looks like as opposed to what we currently have in office.

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