The Danish delusion of Bernie Sanders

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James Bowman, a resident scholar of the Ethics & Public Policy Center:

The young, raised in the post-modern era and getting most of their politics from comedians and fake news shows, know that the socialist promise of free stuff is nonsense and simply don’t care. Polls consistently show that people don’t believe what politicians tell them anyway. Perhaps there is a significant number of them who have made their peace with that, accept that they’re all lying and therefore make their decision about how to vote on the basis of the most attractive lies. They know they’re not going to get free health care and free college and free everything else, but they honor Bernie just for making up such a beautiful lie.

Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute:

So if neither Trump nor Sanders really trusts or defends the people, what is it that makes them populists? To some extent, it is simply telling people what they want to hear. They are finding a mob, jumping in front of it, and calling that leadership.

William Jennings Bryan, the quintessential populist icon, once explained his support for the free-silver movement by saying, “The people of Nebraska are for free silver, so I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later.” But there is a reason why the Founding Fathers rejected such rank majoritarianism, and why they founded this country as a republic and not a pure democracy. They understood that our rights are not dependent on transient political majorities but are inherent in all men, bestowed by nature and nature’s God, as the Declaration puts it. Neither Trump nor Sanders seems to understand this.

Perhaps that is why neither Trump nor Sanders refers often to the Constitution or to constitutionalism. They reject the Founders’ vision of a government of limited, carefully enumerated powers. Instead, both candidates seek to mobilize political passions in search of enemies — the banks, “the establishment,” foreigners, or the “billionaire class” — in order to impose their vision of society on others. Their goal is not to leave us alone to run our own lives, but rather to run our lives for us.

This is a belief, not in the individual wisdom, initiative, and responsibility of common people, but in big government. It says that people cannot take care of themselves but must be cared for by someone much smarter than they are — someone like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. This is faux populism. It is not a belief in “the people,” but a message of contempt for them.

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