The rise of Bernie Sanders feels familiar to me. When I was a libertarian-leaning Republican, I was a delegate for Ron Paul in the 2008 Nevada State Convention. Paul’s supporters were passionate if a bit nutty, but change seemed, if only for a moment, possible. The problem was that the ideology behind the candidate was bankrupt. The experience was the beginning of the end of my affiliation with simplistic libertarian blather and GOP politics altogether, but Paul’s rise was driven by the same frustration and anger that is now propelling Sanders.
For too long, the anger and passion has been driven by Tea Party types and libertarians. Their solution seems to be throwing more gasoline on a trailer-park fire. Inequality? Cut taxes for the wealthy and implement a “flat tax.” Poverty? Eliminate the social safety net and cut food stamps. Those not actively making problems worse are obsessed with non-stories and fictitious “scandals,” featuring Benghazi, Jade Helm, e-mail servers or any of the other innumerable, invented outrages.
Even issues I care deeply about, like prison reform, can distract. Our country grows more lopsided by the day, and despite big wins on gay marriage and health care, too many trends are moving in the wrong direction. Are we a society that works for people or are we in something like feudalism, where corporations and private organization all but own their employees?
The current problem with politics, the economy and culture comes from treating human beings like just another business asset to be exploited or replaced. We say a person’s value is what the “market will bear,” and if the market has no use for a particular human, he or she has no inherent worth. That’s pretty sick. Should we just let them starve to death? For the radical right, the answer is an enthusiastic “absolutely.” If all else fails, deport them.