September 17th, 2021


The Socialist thinks he wants a run at the Merry Prankster

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published Jan. 22, 2016

The good news for the Democrats, looking toward next November, is that they have a back-up candidate if Hillary Clinton goes down. The bad news for the Democrats is that the back-up is Bernie Sanders.

But who is Bernie? What does he believe? Who does he admire? What was he saying back in the day when he had all that hair?

Only ideological bumpkins and urban rustics take Bernie's description of himself as a Socialist seriously. They seriously believe that Sweden or Canada and maybe even Albania in its glory days, is what America ought to be. For the rest of us, not so much.

A Socialist in the eye of Americans of a previous century was little better than a Communist or at least an anarchist, a harmless Marxist without either gun or blackened bomb the size of a soccer ball with the fuse curling like a pig's tail from the top of it, waiting the terrorist's match to touch the fuse.

Bernie might not be a Socialist that the real McCoy in Stockholm or Havana would recognize. He was close when he was a hippie terrified of a bathtub, with oily hair coiling at his shoulders. Being something besides a hippie was not hip.

He still affects the frumpy, unkempt appearance of his granola days. He goes Jimmy Carter, who insisted on carrying his own garment bag up the stairs of Air Force One, one better with his disdain for the presidential look of John and Jackie Kennedy. "If he has seven sweaters," his wife, Jane Meara, once said, "that's three too many for him." His hair is frequently rumpled, but there's not enough of it to rumple in the fashion of Donald Trump. He answers such criticism with contempt. "The media still very often spend more time worrying about hair than the fact that we're the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee free healthcare to all people." What can you say about a man who took his wife to Moscow for their honeymoon in the days when the Soviet Union was flowering in all its privation and wretched misery. But you have to say that he was a man who knew what he liked, even if his bride expected something a little more thrilling on her wedding night than reading about the failures in the third year of the Five-Year Heavy Industry Plan. Women can be unreasonable that way.

No one has looked closely at Bernie's private prejudices and Utopian enthusiasms, preferring instead to see only that he's the seriously "Not Hillary" in the race. The mainstream media will no doubt avoid looking at the wrinkles and warts for as long as possible, but if he continues to show that taking down Hillary is not the impossible dream it was a month or so ago, the inspection, reluctant or not, will soon be upon us.

He promises to soak the rich, the favorite formula of the dreamers on the left, but a close look at his "economic theories," such as they are, shows there's not much promise in the Monopoly money he expects to collect from hedge-fund managers, Wall Street speculators and tycoons who light their Cuban cigars with hundred-dollar bills. Alas, there won't be enough of them to make even a down payment on his dreams.

His obsession with "free" healthcare for all won't be free for anybody, and he concedes that "no more co-pays, no more deductibles and no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for changes," as he promises on his Web site, would be financed mostly from a bigger tax on payrolls.

That's in addition to spending $1 trillion — that's with a 't,' a lot of billions — on roads, bridges, tunnels, water treatment, railroads, and airports that we thought Barack Obama was taking care of. Who needs institutional socialism when you can do it with confiscation through taxation?

Bernie (he prefers being called by his first name) thinks he wants to run against the Donald. This is from the wizard who thought the way to run against Hillary Clinton was to make a spirited defense of her email scandal in the first Democratic debate. "I have to tell you," he told a recent press conference, "On a very personal level, it would give me great satisfaction to run against Donald Trump."

Only a few weeks ago that was a pipe dream as foolish as thinking a Socialist could win the nomination of Democrats. Now a showdown between the Socialist and the Merry Prankster doesn't look so unlikely at all. Is this a great country, or what?

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.