[Vision2020] Paul Krugman: Bernie Has Gone Too Far

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 8 14:48:00 PDT 2016

"The Sanders campaign has brought out a lot of idealism and energy that the
progressive movement needs. It has also, however, brought out a streak of
petulant self­righteousness among some supporters. Has it brought out that
streak in the candidate, too?"

NYTimes The Opinion Pages | OP­ED COLUMNIST Sanders Over the Edge Paul
Krugman APRIL 8, 2016

>From the beginning, many and probably most liberal policy wonks were
skeptical about Bernie Sanders. On many major issues — including the
signature issues of his campaign, especially financial reform — he seemed
to go for easy slogans over hard thinking. And his political theory of
change, his waving away of limits, seemed utterly unrealistic.

Some Sanders supporters responded angrily when these concerns were raised,
immediately accusing anyone expressing doubts about their hero of being
corrupt if not actually criminal. But intolerance and cultishness from some
of a candidate’s supporters are one thing; what about the candidate
himself? Unfortunately, in the past few days the answer has become all too
clear: Mr. Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers. Bernie is
becoming a Bernie Bro.

Let me illustrate the point about issues by talking about bank reform. The
easy slogan here is “Break up the big banks.” It’s obvious why this slogan
is appealing from a political point of view: Wall Street supplies an
excellent cast of villains. But were big banks really at the heart of the
financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?

Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were
no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non­Wall Street
institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not
on big banks but on “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers that weren’t
necessarily that big. And the financial reform that President Obama signed
in 2010 made a real effort to address these problems. It could and should
be made stronger, but pounding the table about big banks misses the point.
Yet going on about big banks is pretty much all Mr. Sanders has done. On
the rare occasions on which he was asked for more detail, he didn’t seem to
have anything more to offer. And this absence of substance beyond the
slogans seems to be true of his positions across the board.

You could argue that policy details are unimportant as long as a politician
has the right values and character. As it happens, I don’t agree. For one
thing, a politician’s policy specifics are often a very important clue to
his or her true character — I warned about George W. Bush’s mendacity back
when most journalists were still portraying him as a bluff, honest fellow,
because I actually looked at his tax proposals.

For another, I consider a commitment to facing hard choices as opposed to
taking the easy way out an important value in itself. But in any case, the
way Mr. Sanders is now campaigning raises serious character and values
issues. It’s one thing for the Sanders campaign to point to Hillary
Clinton’s Wall Street connections, which are real, although the question
should be whether they have distorted her positions, a case the campaign
has never even tried to make. But recent attacks on Mrs. Clinton as a tool
of the fossil fuel industry are just plain dishonest, and speak of a
campaign that has lost its ethical moorings.

And then there was Wednesday’s rant about how Mrs. Clinton is not
“qualified” to be president. What probably set that off was a recent
interview of Mr. Sanders by The Daily News, in which he repeatedly seemed
unable to respond when pressed to go beyond his usual slogans. Mrs.
Clinton, asked about that interview, was careful in her choice of words,
suggesting that “he hadn’t done his homework.” But Mr. Sanders wasn’t
careful at all, declaring that what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s past sins,
including her support for trade agreements and her vote to authorize the
Iraq war — for which she has apologized — make her totally unfit for

This is really bad, on two levels. Holding people accountable for their
past is O.K., but imposing a standard of purity, in which any compromise or
misstep makes you the moral equivalent of the bad guys, isn’t. Abraham
Lincoln didn’t meet that standard; neither did F.D.R. Nor, for that matter,
has Bernie Sanders (think guns). And the timing of the Sanders rant was
truly astonishing. Given her large lead in delegates — based largely on the
support of African­American voters, who respond to her pragmatism because
history tells them to distrust extravagant promises — Mrs. Clinton is the
strong favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Is Mr. Sanders positioning himself to join the “Bernie or bust” crowd,
walking away if he can’t pull off an extraordinary upset, and possibly
helping put Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the White House? If not, what does
he think he’s doing? The Sanders campaign has brought out a lot of idealism
and energy that the progressive movement needs. It has also, however,
brought out a streak of petulant self­righteousness among some supporters.
Has it brought out that streak in the candidate, too?

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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