The Bernie Brigade vs. Bill Maher

Bill Maher
Besides the pathological, farcical triumph of Donald Trump, the most interesting aspect of this election cycle for me is the passion and devotion Bernie Sanders has elicited from a considerable slice of the electorate. Sanders, as we know, speaks passionately about inequalities in income distribution and the degradation of the environment with little modulation in a tone that I would call hectoringly shrill.

His catalogue of campaign promises includes universal healthcare, free college tuition, and breaking up banks, but as far as I can tell, he hasn’t laid out detailed plans about how he could accomplish these goals. His plan, if you could call it that, is starting a revolution, which in a country where a majority of citizens squander their days staring into “mobile devices” and don’t even bother to vote, starting a successful revolution seems about as likely as Franklin Graham being chosen as the grand marshal at a San Francisco LGBT parade.

However, it is emotion, not rationality, that drives the most fervent of Sanders’ supporters, and if you ever speak out against their saint, or even question some of his premises, you can expect a tsunami of invective expressed in metonymic vulgarities likening you to genitalia.

Take the comedian Bill Maher, a former Bernie supporter who has now accepted the inevitable and thrown his support to Hillary. Here is a sampling from the comment section of the website Cosmoso’s post entitled Watch: Bill Maher Shows His True Colors, Calls Bernie’s Plan ‘Santaism’.

First the clip.

Now a sampling of comments:

Linda Carrico: “Dick Head.”

Vince Travis: Bill Maher is just another over 0pinionated asshole and he says what he what thinks his viewers will lap up and call him a very smart feller when in actuality hes a very fart smeller because like I always say opinions are like assholes everybodies got one and they stink (sic)

John Pugs Licitra: I have whatched your show for years…I have always found it informative and entertaining…after tonight, go fuck yourself, and your time warner paycheck… I’m so dissapointed to see what a fraud you are!!!! SHAME ON YOU, John Licit! (sic)

Rather humorless reactions, you might say.

No telling what Louis CJ has coming after this argument by analogy:

I keep going back and forth. Sometimes I think the system is so deeply fucked up that somebody as disruptive as Bernie — maybe he doesn’t even do a good job as president but he jars something loose in our system and something exciting happens. I mean, Hillary is better at this than any of these people. The American government is a very volatile, dangerous mechanism, and Hillary has the most experience with it. It’s like if you were on a plane and you wanted to choose a pilot. You have one person, Hillary, who says, “Here’s my license. Here’s all the thousands of flights that I’ve flown. Here’s planes I’ve flown in really difficult situations. I’ve had some good flights and some bad flights, but I’ve been flying for a very long time, and I know exactly how this plane works.” Then you’ve got Bernie, who says, “Everyone should get a ride right to their house with this plane.” “Well, how are you going to do that?” “I just think we should. It’s only fair that everyone gets to use the plane equally.” And then Trump says, “I’m going to fly so well. You’re not going to believe how good I’m going to fly this plane, and by the way, Hillary never flew a plane in her life.” “She did, and we have pictures.” “No, she never did it.” It’s insane.

Dripping jackhammer!  Quivering Quim!

Cults of Personality, Similarities between Trump and Sanders

The Scream

Alas, it seems as if the revolution Bernard Sanders has tried to foment has devolved into a prolonged elitist temper tantrum.

Certainly, the impoverished of our country, the “32.8 million adults” who live in “food insecure households,” have not shown up in sufficient numbers at caucuses or voted in primaries, as Sanders himself has acknowledged, bemoaning the fact that “poor people don’t vote.”[1] To make matters worse, when they do, they don’t vote overwhelmingly for him — at least according to the Washington Post:

“Sanders has lost Democratic voters with household incomes below $50,000 by 55 percent to 44 percent to Clinton across primaries where network exit polls have been conducted.”

Sanders has, on the other hand, done a bang up job with younger voters, undergraduates and college-educated millennials, who, if they haven’t actually read Das Kapital themselves, have had it sympathetically explained to them by liberal high school and college instructors.[2] The bad news is that a minority of these supporters have taken “the revolution” rhetoric a bit too much to spleen and turned violent, most notably hurling chairs in general and the c-word in particular at Barbara Boxer during last week’s Nevada Democratic Convention. Afterwards, Bernie supporters bombarded the state chairperson with obscene and threatening voicemails, including a threat to kill her granddaughter, and vandalized the venue where the event was held. Unlike the thugs associated with Trump, who can be identified by their baseball caps and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” tattoos, vulgarians of the Bernie brigade tend to sport pork pie hats and Tibetan mandala ink. Otherwise, you really can’t tell them apart from their behavior.

And, not to put to fine a point on it, despite their antithetical ideologies, Sanders and Trump themselves share remarkable similarities in their MOs.

For example, both propose grandiose policy initiatives without providing details about how these policies would be implemented. Trump, famously, will make America great again by somehow getting Mexico to build and finance a gigantic wall on its side of the border and by coercing China into changing its monetary policy. How, you ask? Don’t ask; trust. Likewise, Sanders will break up banks “too big too fail” and provide free college tuition for American citizens. How you ask? Don’t ask; believe.

What we essentially have in both cases is a cult of personality.

There is a one significant difference, though. Trump condones if not encourages violence at his rallies:

There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience,” Trump warned people at a rally in Iowa last month. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”

On the other hand, Sanders doesn’t actively condone violence, but rather, merely rationalizes, makes excuses:

“Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals. But [my italics], when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.”

He could, for example, have said something to the effect of “the behavior of a minority of my supporters at the Nevada caucuses was unconscionable, and I want to emphatically condemn it and express my regret that it was done in my name and to make it unequivocally clear to any follower of mine behaving in such a manner that you’re hurting, not helping, our campaign.” He could have also added, “It’s Hillary Clinton who espouses violence as a solution to geopolitical problems, not us.”

I’m not going so far as Josh Marshall and claim that “[t]he tone and tenor of a campaign always come from the top” and “knowledgeable sources” claim “in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie.” However, a lawyer for the Democratic Party in Nevada offered this characterization of the convention violence: “At no time did any Sanders representative make anything more than token gestures towards peace in the hall, and at the times of most intense crisis offered little more than shrugs and smirks.”

Whatever the case, the New Yorker cover artist this week could have replaced the caricature of Trump with Bernie and replaced the elephant with a donkey, and we would have essentially the identical message. It’s not mere happenstance that Chris Matthews interviewed Ralph Nader in tonight’s edition of Hardball.



[2] In fact, I’m talking about myself here.


Confessions of a Future Opium Eater

opium addict wesIt’s been my experience that the more eventful a period, the longer that span seems to last. Take college, for example. The four years from my days as a freshman to those of my senior year seem like decades, the Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and David Bowie’s “Young Americans” separated, not by 48 mere months, but by twenty years or so.

Dorm rooms, dives, suitemates, hook-ups, break-ups, friends, foes, professors, TAs, incense, cafeteria trays, campus bars, road trips, acid flips, pick-up basketball, lecture halls, black beauties, kegs, bathroom graffiti, the clicking of typewriter keys . . .

College memories crowd the file cabinets of my mind in such profusion that it seems as if those experiences couldn’t have transpired in so short a span.

And the same goes for this goddamned interminable presidential campaign. The 24/7 news cycle frenetically spins stories like those jugglers of yore on the Ed Sullivan Show spinning plates — each story delivered with the gravitas of an announcement that a Kennedy has died.

Did the first Republican debate actually occur on 7 August 2016, or was it during the Peloponnesian War? Were hula-hoops all the rage back when Carson was a serious contender? Crazy college kids swallowing goldfish and cramming themselves into phone booths when Florina was the darling of the under-debates?

No, believe it or not, that was just a couple of months ago, not in the 1950’s.

For example, take the rise and fall and rise and fall of Marc Rubio: rat-a-tat-tat, he ascends above Jeb! (remember him?), racks up endorsements like young Tiger Woods collecting championship trophies, goes robotic before the New Hampshire Primary, has his campaign pronounced as dead as Houdini, then the next week struts across a stage arm-and-arm with Nikki Haley, goes after Trump with both pea shooters popping only to get mugged by the irony-mongers on Twitter for being a vulgarian, and now he’s reduced to addressing a stadium “crowd” that could fit comfortably in a high school gymnasium.

With all of this quick cutting, we lose all perspective. Each spinning plate becomes a monumental game changer. Bernie ties Hillary in Iowa. She’s in real trouble.  Now he’s obliterated her in New Hampshire. Whoa, wait a minute. Hillary wins Nevada, trounces him in South Carolina! She’s racking up delegates galore! It’s all but over. Hold on! He upsets her in Michigan!  Now she’s in real. real, trouble (until next week when she wins Florida and Illinois).

So I have decided to pack my bags and head to the nearest opium den (Laos?) and spend the next eight months in a stately pleasure dome. Maybe do some kayaking on the sacred river Alph.

Wake me up and get me into rehab when it’s over.



Bernie’s Big Challenge

 Photo by Betty Void

Photo by Betty Void

One of the noteworthy early triumphs of Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been his enchantment of millennial voters with degrees from prestigious universities who, though they themselves wouldn’t slum it at a state school, seek free tuition for upcoming matriculators.[1]

Some of these graduates with pedigree degrees whine about the massive debt they’ve incurred seeking humanities diplomas from joints like Columbia, Duke, Stanford, Georgetown, etc. Call me callous, but racking up an ocean of red ink for an English or history or education BA strikes me as demonstrating very poor “critical thinking” skills, or even worse, if you’ve borrowed 200K for an English degree from Columbia, you’ve flunked the basic Darwinian test of financial fitness.

In fact, if you could get into Columbia, chances are you could cop a free ride at the University of New Hampshire or Iowa, graduate summa cum, and with off-the-charts GRE scores, get a Columbia masters for a fraction of the undergraduate expense.

Entitled elitists hankering after socialistic solutions for their elitist mistakes ain’t doing nothing to alleviate the toxic levels of cognitive dissonance poisoning this here Republic founded on rationalism.

But, hey, don’t get me wrong — I’m not blaming them – it’s their parents’ fault.

In fact, I tip my fedora to Bernie and don’t at all question his sincerity or integrity. He’s certainly won over a wide swathe of white voters in New Hampshire and Iowa who identify as Democrats. Moreover, his campaign’s Olympian transcendence of paltry expectations and dismal early poll numbers suggests that his message resonates. It does, of course, in large part because of the effectiveness of Bernie as medium..

The cat possesses not only credibility but also charisma.[2]  His performance among snowy Democratic demographics has been, at least in New Hampshire, spectacular. The day after, right-wingers like Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post are hyperventilating/salivating at the prospect of “an vowed socialist as the Democratic nominee.”

[cut to snow ball gaining mass as it tumbles down Mt Bernie aimed smack dab at Goldman Sacks]



Now, what Bernie needs to do, and in an awful hurry, is to convince female African American primary voters like the ones pictured above to vote for a Jewish man who doesn’t believe in an anthropomorphic god.


[1] Perhaps, the one-word-for-two EB White rule doesn’t work so well with matriculators. At any rate, I applaud the millennials’  philanthropic spirit.

[2] Of which I’m immune.