Two years ago, a Kevin Williamson piece on Bernie Sanders got some angry responses from the left, because he pointed out that Sanders, an avowed socialist, was also a nationalist, and therefore a nationalist socialist, which Jeet Heer saw as the equivalent of insisting that Sanders, a Jewish man, deserved to be hung at Nuremberg. There’s another part that was illustrative from Williamson’s work.
Team Bernie is trying to make this a real race, but it isn’t — not yet, anyway. As of mid-July, Bernie was sitting at 12 percent in the Iowa polls, Herself at 54 percent. Bernie’s best showing is in New Hampshire, immediately adjacent to the state he represents, and Herself still leads him by a fat margin there. Team Bernie does all the usual tedious stuff, such as planting volunteers in the audience to shout on cue, “Yes, yes!” and the occasional Deanesque “Yeaaaaaaah!” It’s all very familiar, but there is a sense that what’s going on here isn’t really politics, but kids play-acting at politics. Sanders, as stiff a member as Congress has to offer, repeatedly refers to the audience as “brothers and sisters,” and the union bosses greet one another as “brother,” and you get the feeling that after a beer or three one of these characters is going to slip up and let out a “comrade.”
If it’s anybody, it’s probably going to be the grandmotherly lady in the hammer-and-sickle T-shirt. She’s well inclined toward Bernie, she says, though she distrusts his affiliation with the Democratic party. “He’s part of . . . them,” she says, grimacing. “Yeah,” says her friend, who stops to think for a moment. “He’s a senator, right?”
Obviously, Sanders did better in the actual vote.
What was telling to me was the woman with the hammer and sickle T-shirt. It seems that socialist imagery like that is the leftist/ coastal version of the Confederate flag. For a while, I thought we’re going to have a brouhaha about it at some point in the near future, because it’s one of those things that does not hold up to any scrutiny, just as supporting the Confederate flag doesn’t due to all the casualties and the reality that they were on the wrong side of history.
Now that the Russians are blamed for Trump’s presidency, an inevitable cultural clash within the left seems even more certain. It’s become a divide between the mainstream left, and those who want Russia to be more powerful as a check on the United States (which seems to be the implicit position of some liberals who pop up on KCRW’s Left, Right and Center) or just have fond memories of the cold war. The younger generation doesn’t remember Russia as a left-wing state, and don’t want a check on the power of future President Elizabeth Warren.