I devised The Paul Krugman Bernie Sanders Giving Game just three days ago. If I were actually playing it, I would now be broke. Three days! Krugman doesn’t seem to be interested in much of anything but how wrong it would be to vote for Bernie Sanders and how Hillary Clinton is the only sane choice.
He also has taken to complaining about Sanders’ supporters not being nice to his friends and him. In fact, last week, he wrote, Health Wonks and Bernie Bros. Now I don’t know the etymology of the term “Bernie Bros”; it probably started with Sanders supporters, but among the liberal punditocracy, it has become a pejorative. The implication has long been that Sanders appeals to young men and that being a Sanders supporter is somehow sexist (despite the fact that the people supporting Sanders first wanted Elizabeth Warren). And note: young women now support Sanders far more than Clinton.
But Krugman’s column yesterday was truly over the top, Plutocrats and Prejudice. It’s a straw man, as so many arguments against Sanders are: Sanders is an idealist who can’t get his big ideas accomplished and Clinton is a pragmatist who will make incremental improvements. The implication is always and forever that Sanders is some ossified old sixties socialist who can’t adjust to political reality. Listening to Krugman, you would think that when the public option was off the table, Sanders had voted against Obamacare. What actually happened was that he got the Senate to roughly double funding for community clinics in exchange for his support. Sounds like a guy who is capable of making incremental change.
So Krugman argues that since Sanders talks insistently about economics, he must think that is the only (or almost the only) issue. It’s funny. Just a few days before, Jonathan Chait wrote pretty much the same thing, What Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Understand About American Politics. I’m not suggesting that these guys are on the Clinton payroll, but they both have the same ax to grind, and they grind it the same way.
But it is worse than that. Because Krugman starts off by going over territory that I’ve gone over before: the plutocrats were able to get their lower taxes and decreased regulation by supporting politicians who got votes by demagoguing against minorities. But that isn’t entirely true. We got the Taft–Hartley Act in 1947 — long before the Silent Majority, Welfare Queens, and Willy Horton. But does Krugman really believe that Sanders doesn’t understand the role that bigotry has played in helping the plutocrats since the 1960s? I don’t think so.
If you look at the other things that Krugman has been writing, you’ll see a certain level of hysteria. He’s been looking for anything he can hammer away at Sanders on. There’s never a kind word. And there is never a negative word for Clinton. No, in Krugman’s world, Clinton is right and perfect and Sanders is wrong about everything that matters. As one commenter (PN) put it, “Prof Krugman seems to dream of ways to disagree with Sanders and to support Hillary.” It’s true.
So we have a Republican Party that is bigoted. One of their great bigotries is against powerful women. And one of their greatest bigotries is Hillary Clinton herself. And she’s the one who is going to be able to make incremental progress? Krugman ended the article with a question, “Isn’t there something noble, even inspiring, about fighting the good fight, year after year, and gradually making things better?” Yes! Yes! Again, I say, yes! But isn’t there also something incredibly suspicious about a candidate who campaigns in that way?
Everyone (and certainly Krugman) knows the Mario Cuomo quote, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” And Bernie Sanders’ entire career has demonstrated that. The only place that isn’t true is in the fever dreams of people like Krugman. It could be that Krugman either doesn’t really like Sanders’ positions, but this seems unlikely given that they really aren’t that different from Clinton’s. I think it is that Krugman doesn’t think Sanders can win the general election. That’s a fair argument. Make it! Don’t give us this garbage about how Sanders is too high minded and naive to be president.