A Fascist System with Communist Slogans

The Search for Sanity, Part 2

How far out of hand has the Democratic Party’s nomination contest gotten? I think The Onion pretty much sums it up: “Media Urged Not to Release Names of Any More Presidential Candidates in Effort to Prevent Copycats.”

“When a person launches a bid for president and then receives widespread media coverage, it only inspires other unstable individuals out there to do the exact same thing,” said media ethicist Payton Howard.

This is supposed to be satire, but it’s a pretty exact description of reality. Presidential politics is fueled by rampant, delusional megalomania, which is the only thing that can account for the spectacle of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio running for president when even New Yorkers can’t stand the guy. When your defender—I’ve only seen one person take on this role—has to plead with people not to sneer at you, you just shouldn’t be running for president.

Partly, as I explained in my previous review of Democratic candidates, this is fueled by the sense that anything can happen, and even a relatively obscure candidate has a shot at becoming a front-runner. But maybe the goal is more modest. It’s a tall order to go from failed Texas senate candidate or mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to president. But to get to vice-president? That’s more realistic. So perhaps the crowded field is just a giant audition for who will be Joe Biden’s running mate. Does he think he needs to balance the ticket with a woman from the Midwest? Maybe he’ll choose Amy Klobuchar. Does he need a “red state” governor from the West? That’s the only glimmer of hope for a guy like Steve Bullock, who is also running for president, though I doubt any of you noticed. More realistically, maybe Biden feels he needs to shore up his support with the left, but he wants someone young who won’t seem scary to the moderates—and that will be Pete Buttigieg’s moment.

As Jonathan Last points out, this is creating a problem for Democrats because many of their politicians who could be strong Senate candidates are instead pursuing long-shot campaigns for president. The result could be Joe Biden winning the presidency but then having to deal with a Republican majority in the Senate. Frankly, that sounds like a pretty good outcome to me, since it would guarantee that nothing much gets done for the following two to four years.

In my last review, I only got through a few of the candidates, and as the Democrats start to hold more forums and debates, I thought now was a good time to do another batch. I’m not going to profile every no-hoper at 0% in the polls, just a few of the leading candidates and some of the more colorful also-rans.

First, let’s revisit Joe Biden.

Joe Biden: Moderate Democrat 2.0

A few weeks back, I attended an event at the University of Virginia where TV host Chris Matthews had some interesting things to say about the Democratic primaries. Matthews is not my favorite pundit, partly because he is a hard-bitten pragmatist. But that gives him a good sense of the horse-race, particularly the internecine battles in the Democratic Party. One of the points Matthews made is that there are basically two paths for a Democratic candidate seeking the nomination: you can campaign as a “moderate” or you can campaign as a “progressive.” You can campaign by billing yourself as the guy who can appeal to a wider audience, winning over independent voters and moderate Republicans and working with politicians on the other side of the aisle to get legislation passed. Or you can bill yourself as the fiery fighter who will accept no compromise short of socialism. What Matthews argued is that Biden has already won the contest for who will be the “moderate” Democrat. All the other candidates above 0% in the polls are competing to be the “progressive,” i.e., pro-socialist, champion. (Yes, I know Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have disavowed the “socialist” label, but for reasons that will become clear below, I don’t find the disavowals convincing, and I don’t think either woman intends it to be convincing to the party’s far left.)

The other thing Matthews said is that for a significant segment of the Democratic Party, the real election contest is not about beating the Republicans. It’s about beating the moderates. Their goal is to purge the squishy “liberals” who show too much willingness to accommodate markets, private property, and free speech.

So you can see Biden’s dilemma. I had described him in my previous overview as “the man that time forgot,” as someone out of step with the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party. But that was before he announced his candidacy. Since then, his leading position in the polls—though it’s still early and his lead has already faded a little—indicates that he might be less out of step than he seemed. The educated, upper-middle-class woke white people who dominate Twitter are not the same as the average Democratic primary voter.

Yet the woke brigade, by virtue of being activists and donors, still have a disproportionate influence in the primaries, so Biden will feel the need to appease them. The signature example so far is his cave-in on the Hyde Amendment. This is an old political compromise from way back in 1976, named after Henry Hyde, a then-prominent Republican congressman. The compromise was that Congress did not ban abortion, but it banned the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. A lot of people on the religious right these days are bad-mouthing the “libertarians,” but this was actually a pretty straightforward libertarian compromise: government won’t ban it, but it won’t make you pay for it with your taxes. Yet for everybody else, the Hyde Amendment was always just a compromise, one that has survived for so long only because neither party has been politically strong enough to move this issue their way.

Joe Biden was around for the original Hyde Amendment, and because he is a creature of compromise, he has supported it ever since—until a few weeks ago, when he once again affirmed his support for the Hyde Amendment then hastily reversed himself under pressure from the left. This in itself is not a problem for him politically. Few people who are not already partisans even know what the Hyde Amendment is, and this flip-flop is happening so early in the election cycle that the average primary voter will have no knowledge of it by the time the voting really starts. The danger to Biden is if this becomes a pattern: if he keeps staking out what used to be the “moderate” position, then keeps caving in when the far left screams. If he keeps doing that, then what’s the point for anybody to vote for him in the primaries, when they can vote for the candidates who are actually calling the ideological shots?

Biden faces the basic dilemma of the “moderate,” whose position is always defined by a middle ground between others, who set the terms, leaving him to adjust to the shifting ground between extremes. Biden seems to be trying to feel his way through to find out what the new “moderate” Democrat looks like, so he can become that.

And yet, there is still something appealing about the moderates, because in a very substantial way, a moderate politician is someone who believes in the American system. He is a politician who is committed to persuasion and to the actual process of politics, rather than some form of authoritarianism.

Biden expresses this in his challenge to Democrats who are opposed to any form of cooperation across the aisle.

If you start off with the notion there’s nothing you can do, well why don’t you all go home then, man? Or let’s start a real physical revolution if you’re talking about it. Because we have to be able to change what we’re doing within our system…. The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive. Zero…. You have to go out and beat these folks if they don’t agree with you, by making your case—and that’s what presidents are supposed to do: persuade the public.

The state of the world being what it is, some outrage-mongers on the right have tried to portray this as Joe Biden calling for violent revolution, but it’s pretty obvious his intent is the opposite: to hold up violence as the undesirable alternative to persuasion and working within the American political system.

To be sure, this is still somewhat clumsily expressed. Joe Biden has a history of being gaffe-prone, and he is a candidate with many flaws. Yet it will be hard to use those flaws against him in the general election, because his flaws are pretty much the same as Donald Trump’s flaws. Is he sometimes rambling and inarticulate and prone to verbal gaffes? Check. Is he impulsive and tends to go off half-cocked with crazy ideas? Check. Does he have few core convictions and does he seem motivated more by simply wanting to be important and at the center of things? Check. Does he have a history of being handsy and boorish with women? Check. Does he have ridiculous hair that is a monument to personal vanity? Check.

Yet Biden has these faults to a somewhat lesser extent than Trump. If Trump is like every other politician, only more so, then Biden seems like a return to comparative normalcy.

This is the internal divide within the Democratic Party, expressed in sense of life terms. Some of the candidates, like Pete Buttigieg—a socialist “progressive” with the veneer of a moderate—are insisting that “there is no back to normal,” because “there’s something deeply wrong with the old normal,” so “we’d better come up with something completely different.” By contrast, consider a recent Biden speech in which he portrayed Donald Trump as the one who threatens to “forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation” and pledges that he, Biden, will work to “restore” America’s “basic values.”

Biden’s actual agenda is not as blandly inoffensive as this implies. Like I said, he’s feeling out the position of the new moderate Democrat, which is somewhat to the left of the old moderate Democrat. (With one exception: through the magic of reflexive partisanship, Biden and most other Democrats are in favor of free trade now.)

The theme of a restoration is a very effective political message, particularly in the general election, because I suspect that the average voter desperately longs for a return to normal.

Immanuel Kant: Wrong for America

There’s one other footnote on Biden that I just can’t resist: his apparent fascination with the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

On Tuesday, the former vice president made his second campaign stop of the 2020 election cycle, deciding at some point that Iowa needed a dose of German philosophy to fully understand his platform. Biden dug out a quote about the dignity of work during that event, attributing it not to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), but to Immanuel Kant.

Of course, that’s far from Biden’s only display of Kantian prowess. In his first campaign rally on Monday, Biden also delivered a paraphrased Kant line to a Pennsylvania crowd, saying ‘people should never be treated as a means to an end, but an end in themselves.’

With a tad more Google searching, one can find an even earlier recorded instance of Biden sharing some Kantian wisdom. At the beginning his book Promise Me, Biden relays Kant’s “rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for,” which NPR took as a hint in 2017 that Biden would eventually run for president again.

I don’t think I need to rehearse to an Objectivist audience why a politician having an interest in Immanuel Kant is concerning. The attack ad is right: Immanuel Kant is wrong for America.

Then again, Biden’s citations of Kant are pretty superficial and anodyne. Treating people as ends in themselves sounds really great until you understand what Kant actually means by it. And that’s the thing. This is Joe Biden, so I doubt he understands what Kant actually means.

For now, until we have more evidence, I’m going to file Biden’s interest in Kant under the category of “things as they appear” and not necessarily “things as they are in themselves.”

Kamala Harris: Queen Kamala, First of Her Name

The most interesting part of Joe Biden’s case for political compromise is this: “if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive.” Well, Biden ought to know, because he was vice-president when Barack Obama was vowing to use his pen and phone—that is to say, the unilateral power of the executive—to promote his agenda in the face of opposition from Congress.

Yet it is definitely true that without the ability to achieve some kind of political consensus, the temptation for a president to abuse his power becomes irresistible. For further proof, we can look to the people competing for the “progressive” spot in the Democratic primary. Kamala Harris has made this her specialty.

Harris is a hyper-ambitious social climber of exactly the type you would expect to find running for president. She got her start in politics by getting appointed to a bunch of make-work positions by the married man she was having an affair with—onetime California power broker Willie Brown. Three cheers for “empowering women.” She then positioned herself as a passionate “progressive,” who was also vigorously devoted to enforcing the drug war and putting people in jail for minor offenses. Reason‘s Elizabeth Nolan Brown describes the contradiction:

In 2006, Harris gave a speech at Yale decrying mass incarceration and the disparate effect of our criminal justice system on poor and black communities. “As many of you know, many of our biggest challenges to social justice are tied to the [criminal justice] system,” she told students. “In this country, we currently have over 2 million people in jail.” Yet even as she preached about criminal justice reform, Harris repeatedly rejected lighter sentences and alternatives to prosecution—and touted increased arrests and prosecutions as victories.

This is summed up by her critics in the charge that she is “a cop.”

The phrase, which the candidate’s critics use frequently, is meant to conjure more than just Harris’ history as a hard-nosed San Francisco prosecutor. It’s colloquial…. It implies the person is a bully, a bootlicker, a professional tattler—the sort of person who shuts down un-authorized lemonade stands run by kids. A cop, in this context, is someone who will always defer to authority and the status quo, someone who is unaccountable and not to be trusted. Calling someone a cop invokes the worst sorts of police overreach, a legalistic authoritarianism that exists for its own sake.

Harris has certainly embodied this on the campaign trail, where she has two characteristic responses. The first is the vague punt.

Harris has mastered giving satisfactory-on-first-blush but vague and noncommittal answers on all sorts of issues. She told Jimmy Kimmel in March that she’s “open to the discussion” about getting rid of the Electoral College. “We should have that discussion” about voting rights for felons, she said on CNN. “We need to study” the issue of reparations for black Americans and should take “steps toward” the impeachment of President Trump. And so on. (“The future is looking at the best way of doing that” could be her campaign motto, journalist Jeb Lund joked on Twitter.)

So what Harris wants to do is vague, but how she wants to do it is pretty specific, which is her second characteristic answer: the vow to use unilateral executive authority.

Kamala Harris has unveiled an ambitious set of policies as part of her presidential campaign that have a common theme: going it alone.

The California senator is proposing action on long-held Democratic values—legalizing undocumented immigrants, combatting gun violence and ensuring women are paid the same as men for equal work.

But unlike many of her competitors, Harris would tackle those priorities with a novel set of executive actions that would require nothing from Congress.

Specifically, she has promised, if elected, to give Congress 100 days to pass new gun-control legislation before imposing these measures by executive order. Harris explains, “The majority of my career I’ve spent in the executive branch, so exercising executive power is something that I do and I’m used to.” Oh, that’s nice.

The basis for Kamala Harris’s campaign is the premise that authoritarian strongman rule is fine, but we just have the wrong strongman in office and need to replace him with a strongman (or strongwoman) who will utter the right “progressive” bromides.

Elizabeth Warren: Fascist Dictatorship with Communist Slogans

Elizabeth Warren is the antipode to Beto O’Rourke. His candidacy was based on an appealing personality backed by very little substance—and he has faded quickly as Democratic voters figured this out. Warren, by contrast, often seems like Hillary Clinton without the charm, yet as O’Rourke has faded, she has begun to challenge Bernie Sanders for the lead among the “progressives” by offering the most substantive policy proposals.

The problem, of course, is the nature of those proposals.

Elizabeth Warren economic plans are summed up by the New York Times.

As the 23 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination struggle to distinguish themselves, Senator Elizabeth Warren has set herself apart with a series of sweeping proposals that would significantly remake the American economy, covering everything from tax policy to student debt relief and offering a detailed portrait of what her presidency might look like….

Her proposals would tip power from executives and investors to workers and allow the federal government to more aggressively steer the development of industries. She has called for splintering technology companies, like Amazon, that millions of consumers rely on in their daily lives. She would reduce the rewards for entrepreneurs to build billionaire fortunes and for companies to create global supply chains, scrambling the incentives for work, investment, and economic growth.

Ms. Warren would seek big tax increases on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, creating a new tax on household assets that exceed $50 million as well as a new tax on corporate profits. From those two steps alone, she says she would raise at least $3.8 trillion over a decade—money that would go toward her plans on student debt cancellation, free college, child care, the opioid crisis, and green manufacturing….

Her ideas resonate with a growing group of liberal economists who see evidence that free markets need more forceful government intervention in order to function properly and not just deliver spoils to the very wealthy.

All that guff about wanting markets to function properly is cover for the fact that this is not about markets at all. It’s about “allow[ing] the federal government to more aggressively steer the development of industries.” And what do we call that economic system?

I took a shot at naming it in a previous analysis of Warren’s so-called “Accountable Capitalism,” which is actually a throwback to pre-capitalist feudalism.

Corporations were originally a grant of special privileges given by a monarch to reward his loyal supporters. They grew out of the old feudal system of prerogatives and privileges. At the center of that system was the feudal concept of property in which no one but the king owns anything free and clear. All property is held in “tenancy” from the crown, in exchange for services rendered back to the king. That relationship was then propagated downward. The highest level of aristocrats held their land as tenants of the king, a lower level held their land as tenants of the lords, and so on. Various forms of European common law built up extensive rules about the obligations owed back and forth between the crown, the lords, and their vassals.

This is the context in which corporations were first conceived as just another form of privilege offered by the crown to its supporters. In America, and to some extent in Britain and Europe, as the legal remnants of feudalism were being cleaned up, the basis for the law of corporations was changed from one of privileges to one of rights. A corporate charter wasn’t a special favor granted by the sovereign in exchange for special services. It was a recognition of free-and-clear ownership of the corporation by its shareholders.

This is what regressive “progressives” have always hated, the concept of free-and-clear ownership, and they have been struggling all along to go back to a neo-feudal system in which all economic activity takes place only with the permission of the sovereign. They merely give it a gloss of democracy by claiming that the sovereign, this time, will be “the people.”

You can see this in the whole concept of the “wealth tax,” in which tribute must be rendered to the crown solely to buy permission to keep one’s estates.

Kevin Williamson cites a few other relevant historical precedents.

“Economic patriotism” has been a popular idea in the United States for a century or so, but it is not an idea of American origin. It was a German idea in the 1930s, and an Italian idea during the Fascist era, and a French idea long before that, one generally associated with Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a 17th-century politician who served as an economic and trade adviser to King Louis XIV. Like President Trump, he favored high tariffs and expensive public works, which he believed to have a stimulating effect on the economy. Like Senator Warren, he favored strict regulation of industry (noncomplying business owners were put into stocks; if Senator Warren really wants to lure those Bernie voters…) and active management of the labor market. These policies came to be known as dirigisme. They did not do much for France, and other countries that have tried to replicate them, such as India, inflicted catastrophic damage on their peoples and economies.

Williamson points out that while this is done in the name of “the people,” it will actually lead to what is inaccurately called “crony capitalism,” or even more inaccurately “state capitalism.”

Another way of expressing what Senator Warren is talking about here is that she proposes debasing the currency to subsidize a small number of export-oriented businesses at the expense of regular consumers and anybody who has been forward-thinking enough to save money. Yet another way of expressing this is that she intends to imitate the Beijing model and artificially lower the standard of living of ordinary Americans in order to enrich the owners of a few politically sensitive and well-connected businesses.

And:

She argues that the Export-Import Bank—the premier corporate-welfare program in the United States, sometimes known as the “Bank of Boeing”—does not spend enough money subsidizing American businesses. How much more should it spend? Senator Warren does not say, but she does note that the Chinese version of the Export-Import Bank spends about 100 times what its American counterpart does.

He concludes:

What does “economic patriotism” really mean? It means that the owners, managers, and workers of American businesses will not do what they think is best for their businesses but will do what politicians want—or be forced through the power of the state to do what politicians want.

The actual contemporary name for this system is not “crony capitalism” or “state capitalism.” It is national socialism, better known as fascism. It is an authoritarian approach to economic regulation.

The best proof of this is that the rising illiberal wing of the right absolutely loves Warren’s proposals. Here is Tucker Carlson, who has become the most popular voice of right-wing anti-capitalism.

Yesterday, Warren released what she’s calling her “plan for economic patriotism.” Amazingly, that’s pretty much exactly what it is: economic patriotism. There’s not a word about identity politics in the document. There are no hysterics about gun control or climate change. There’s no lecture about the plight of transgender illegal immigrants. It’s just pure old fashioned economics: how to preserve good-paying American jobs. Even more remarkable: Many of Warren’s policy prescriptions make obvious sense: she says the US government should buy American products when it can. Of course it should. She says we need more workplace apprenticeship programs, because four-year degrees aren’t right for everyone. That’s true. She says taxpayers ought to benefit from the research and development they fund. And yet, she writes, “we often see American companies take that research and use it to manufacture products overseas, like Apple did with the iPhone. The companies get rich, and American taxpayers have subsidized the creation of low-wage foreign jobs.” And so on. She sounds like Donald Trump at his best.

Carlson ends up calling for a political faction that would be “nationalist on economics, fairly traditional on the social issues.” What he is calling for is an authoritarian synthesis in which the government will tell you what to do in the boardroom and in the bedroom. Fortunately, I don’t think there is yet much of a market for this synthesis, though a number of conservatives are trying to talk themselves into the idea that there is.

The interesting thing is that a lot of Democrats seem quite comfortable signing up for an authoritarian economics indistinguishable from Trump’s “economic nationalism”—so long as it is presented in the guise of leftist economic populism instead of right-wing traditionalism.

Long ago, Ayn Rand predicted that America was heading toward “a fascist system with communist slogans.” That is precisely what Elizabeth Warren is offering.

Andrew Yang: The Techno-Totalitarian

Andrew Yang is not one of the serious Democratic candidates. Yet he is still important, for one small reason and one big reason.

The small reason is that his campaign is the biggest trial balloon so far for the old idea of the guaranteed minimum income, which has been resurrected under the new name of the Universal Basic Income.

Yang’s whole sales pitch comes from his background as a Silicon Valley hanger-on, and he lays on the tech-industry credentials pretty thick, talking about how he “believes in science” and boasting about how much he loves math. Yet the Universal Basic Income is a proposal whose most obvious flaw is that the math doesn’t add up. (This problem even has a name: the Basic Income Impossible Trinity.)

But the far more important thing about Andrew Yang is that he is advocating a quasi-totalitarian control of digital communications, and it seems that nobody can be bothered even to object.

Back in March, I pointed to Yang’s proposal for a federal “News and Information Ombudsman.” It went like this:

“Fake news” is a rampant problem. Online media market incentives reward ‘clickbait’ and controversy even as our social media feeds send us more and more outrageous stories to incite a reaction.

The rewards for publishing inflammatory content are high with no real penalty. At the extreme end, those who wish to misinform the American public can do so with little fear of repercussions. The lack of trusted news increasingly isolates us in information silos that hurt our democracy.

We must introduce both a means to investigate and punish those who are seeking to misinform the American public. If enough citizens complain about a particular source of information and news is demonstrably and deliberately false, there should be penalties. I will appoint a new News and Information Ombudsman with the power to fine egregious corporate offenders. One of the main purposes of the Ombudsman will be to identify sources of spurious information that are associated with foreign nationals. The Ombudsman will work with social media companies to identify fraudulent accounts and disable and punish responsible parties.

The Ombudsman will be part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Yang has since removed this proposal from his website, but now he’s back at it with another proposal to create a “Department of the Attention Economy” specifically to regulate smartphones and social media.

While these devices provide unparalleled access to information, their impact on the mind is barely understood. Researchers are just beginning to look at the impact focusing on a screen all day has on human development, and the conclusions are devastating.

There has been an unprecedented surge in depression, anxiety, and suicide, and a marked decrease in sociability. Teenagers are spending more time worrying about whether their online acquaintances like their recent post than they are in person with their friends hanging out and developing social skills. The average teenager spends Friday nights at home, interacting with a machine, instead of out with friends at a game or event.

In short, many experts are worrying that the widespread adoption of a poorly understood technology have destroyed the psyches of a generation….

As president, I will….

Create a Department of the Attention Economy that focuses specifically on smartphones and social media, gaming and chat apps and how to responsibly design and use them, including age restrictions and guidelines….

Direct the Department to investigate the regulation of certain companies and apps.  Many of these companies essentially function as public utilities and news sources—we used to regulate broadcast networks and newspapers and phone companies. We need to do the same thing to Facebook, Twitter, Snap and other companies now that they are the primary ways people both receive information and communicate with each other.

Anybody else notice that line about how we used to regulate newspapers? When was that, exactly?

I’m beginning to wonder if Andrew Yang’s campaign is just an elaborate stunt to test whether you can get Silicon Valley types to sign up for techno-totalitarianism if you bury it under loud advocacy of trendy techno-socialist ideas like the Universal Basic Income.

Like the lady said, fascism with communist slogans.

Tulsi Gabbard: Karma Chameleon

If this review seems depressing—well, this is the Democratic Party we’re talking about. What were you expecting? Thomas Jefferson? It’s been a long time.

Amidst all this, we have to look for our entertainment where we can find it, so I give you one of the Democratic primary’s more flamboyant entrants: Tulsi Gabbard.

Gabbard is a Hawaii congresswoman who is at zero in the polls and has no chance of winning the nomination. What makes her interesting is how she got here. She lists her religion as “Hindu,” so I initially assumed she must be of Indian descent. But no, what that actually means is that her parents were Hare Krishnas.

For those who don’t remember, the Hare Krishnas were hippies who cosplayed Eastern mysticism. They used to hang out at the airports back before everybody clamped down on security. At any rate, I got this little detail about Gabbard from an excellent profile done by Jim Geraghty. It turns out Gabbard’s parents were associates of Chris Butler, a “surfer-turned-guru” who led a breakaway Hare Krishna cult back in the day. It later morphed into a New Age spiritual movement before getting involved in politics and electing Gabbard’s parents to positions in Hawaiian politics.

But wait, it gets crazier. As late as the mid-2000s, Gabbard was a vocal opponent of what she called “homosexual extremists.” (Her parents were activists against “gay propaganda” on television.) She was also an Iraq War hawk who served two tours of duty in the Middle East. Her criticisms of Barack Obama’s foreign policy won her praise from National Review as late as 2015.

Then, in 2016, she flipped over to support Bernie Sanders and started denouncing “neocon” interventionists—which won her a meeting with Donald Trump and praise from Steve Bannon. Her current run for president seems to be based on nothing more than a few puff-piece magazine profiles written by journalists who thought she had a pretty face and didn’t bother to look very closely at her past.

The political debate has always had its con-men and self-promoters—the currently fashionable word is “grifters”—people who are ideological chameleons and change to exploit the latest opportunity for money or power. Tulsi Gabbard is just another one, using techniques no doubt honed by the previous generation in promoting bogus “spiritual” nostrums.

Every side has these characters—I did just mention Trump and Bannon, didn’t I?—but I still contend that the grifters are more fundamentally a problem for the left than for the right, because they are a constant reminder of why we need government to have a whole lot less power than it does now.

That’s a principle that happens to work against both parties at the moment, but it is not likely to be something that recommends the Democratic Party’s candidate any time soon.

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