It’s pretty rare to see a resurgence of such a 1950s attitude toward modern politics so I thought I should take note of David Brooks’ latest effort, one of those “Never Bernie under any condition” that says more about the author than about the target. It does not surprise me that David Brooks, inherently Republican and responsible, would be opposed to Bernie Sanders. After all, Sanders has a soft spot for the rhetoric that was at the heart of left wing optimism in the 1950s and 1960s, where people could actually find good things to say about the Soviet Union and be accepted by their audiences. It’s not that way any more. But it pays to understand the mindset of liberal America in the 1950s was driven by fear of nuclear war and the mindset of contemporary America is driven by simple fear of what the buffoon the White House will do next!
Well, Brooks notes that he covered the Soviet Union in the Cold War and that clarified his thoughts about a lot of aspects of socialism and dictatorship. Well, I covered the Soviet Union during the Cold War, too, (1977 to 1980) and I have my clear thoughts about what the Russians have always been up to. They have been up to being Russians. If ever there was a nation with paranoia, it was and remains Russia. You can’t do anything that isn’t suspect in the Kremlin’s book, and the fact that the place is run now by an autocrat who goes shirtless in the summer and rides a pony doesn’t change that a bit. It’s still a big paranoid place full of confused people who want the assets of capitalism and the certainty of state sponsored socialism. Communism doesn’t much enter the picture these days. We asked a lot about that during our three year stay there toward the end of Leonid Brezhnev’s presidency and always got the same answer, “We’re on the way to communism and just now, we are cruising through an interim period of socialism.” Never was bullshit plastered more thickly on foreign correspondents. Some of them bought it. Most did not. It was clear the place was running on a flawed power plant and mechanics that needed more attention and grease than they ever got. It was a rolling disaster.
Which is why the Russians abandoned it as soon as they could and reverted to something like Tsardom with upgraded weaponry and a new need to meddle wherever they could. It’s their blood so don’t be surprised. That’s what happens when you are surrounded by enemies who want to wipe you off the map. You develop aggressive defensive strategies. We didn’t have to do that because we had oceans on both sides and friends (at one time) on the northern and southern borders. That, in brief, is where my thoughts about the Russians come from. I had some good friends there and good enemies, too. I was young and ready to roll with anyone.
Those days are gone.
In me and in Russia, too. It’s going make noises like a world power. It’s going to troop those empty rocket tubes and smoky tanks through Red Square on holidays, but it is essentially meaningless.
Which is why arguments about what Bernie might have believed in the 1960s are useless for critical purposes. Which is why Mr. Brooks sounds so much like an old cranky-panted Manhattan fart. What Bernie has done is forge a connection to young people who love him and all that talk about free college and health care and what not. If they vote for him, it’s the most they can do. And I believe they will vote for him.
It’s time to abandon all this “Stop Bernie” bullshit and pay attention to what the voters tell us they want. If you want an old fart to punch around, turn on President Trump. He is a mendacious creep with bad ideas and bad people around him. And he deserves some punching. Bernie doesn’t. He needs room to run.