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Pink Bernie’s Radical Chic

No getting away from Sanders's Cold War useful idiocy
Pink Bernie’s Radical Chic

You see this? You should see this:

I expect that if Sanders gets the nomination, the media will run interference for him, and scold as a red-baiter anyone who brings up his longstanding fondness for the Softer Side of Communism. But it’s real, and it’s important. JM Rieger of the Washington Post did a deep dive into Pink Bernie’s penchant for finding nice things to say about left-wing totalitarians. Excerpts:

But a Fix review of more than 10 hours of Sanders appearances over the past three decades reveals how Sanders has often been quick to downplay abuses of authoritarian regimes, instead focusing on aspects and programs he admired. During his two presidential bids, Sanders has at times appeared to contradict or try to explain away his earlier views on authoritarian regimes, examples of which you can watch in the video above.

In 1985, Sanders praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for his education and health-care programs. In 1986, he recalled being “very excited” by Castro’s revolution. And after he returned from a trip to Cuba in 1989, the Rutland Daily Herald paraphrased Sanders as calling Cuba a “model of what a society could be” for Latin America.

At the time, Castro’s human rights abuses had been documented in media reports and by Congress.

More:

After dodging a question in 2016 about his past praise of the Sandinista party, Sanders on Friday called

Nicaragua an authoritarian society where things are not well.

Returning from a 1988 trip to the Soviet Union, where Sanders praised its investment in culture and mass transit, among other things, he told reporters he did not see “much deprivation” among Soviet citizens, despite reports of just that at the time.

Something he said as recently as February 2019 has even required a bit of a walk-back. Sanders then refused to call Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a dictator, instead emphasizing the “democratic operations taking place in that country.” Sanders reversed himself less than a year later, calling Maduro a dictator and a tyrant.

Read the whole thing. Flip-flopping on communist tyranny is not a good look for a US presidential candidate.

Here’s more from a different WaPo story:

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.

The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”

Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.

And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”

More:

“If people are going to vote for socialist candidate Bernie Sanders, they need to understand what socialism means historically. And it’s not Scandinavia,” said Marion Smith, executive director of the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Smith recently tweeted a clip from a 1988 news conference in which Sanders lauds the Soviet Union for its chandelier-filled transit stations and its “palaces of culture.” Smith demanded an apology for what went unmentioned.

“He turned a blind eye to what was known about the ongoing systematic human rights abuses, the suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, the jailing of dissidents,” Smith said. “He was very clearly joining the ranks of the useful idiots who believed in the propaganda of the Soviet Union and carried it to the West.”

Read it all.

I think Sanders was a standard American Baby Boomer leftist — not liberal, leftist — who romanticized radical regimes. I was around these people during the 1980s. To them, anti-communism was a greater threat than communism. They got the most important political question of the postwar era wrong. That’s not nothing.

People who came of age after the end of the Cold War don’t have a natural understanding of why that is a big deal. If Sanders is the nominee, they are going to be told. They don’t have to believe it, but they are certainly going to be told about history. They may wonder too why any of this matters, now that the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Here’s what I would say. This “no enemies to the Left” stance runs very deep on the American Left. Bernie’s unrepentant pink past tells us that he will soft-pedal bad things that left-wing governments do as long as they Mean Well, and are providing other benefits important to leftists. Why does that worry me as an American, considering a Sanders presidency? Because Bernie will see no enemies to the Left domestically. He may care more about health care and economics than he does about social issues, but there is nothing about him that would keep the wokest of the woke out of social policymaking positions, and judgeships. I believe Bernie when he says he’s a democratic socialist, but he’s still a socialist, and that implies a certain view of social justice — one that is inimical to individual liberties when they stand in the way of egalitarian goals.

To be fair, given how far left the Democratic Party has gone on social issues, I doubt Bernie would in practice be any more or less woke than Elizabeth Warren. But Bernie really is a true ideologue, who is on record defending some of the world’s nastiest regimes. In the Miami Herald the other day, Fabiola Santiago wrote about what it was like to go through one of the Cuban literacy programs that Sanders praises. She begins the column with a photo of herself as a little girl, in a school after the revolution. Santiago talks about what schooling was like under the Castro regime. In the column, Santiago refers to herself in the third person. Excerpt:

Yes, by the time she leaves Cuba in 1969, this girl knows that the Cuban education system is dogmatic and abusive to innocent children who are ostracized for their parents’ beliefs.

Her parents’ heart-wrenching decision to leave it all behind and start a new life in Miami, saves her from worse. After their 12th birthdays, her friends have to enroll in la escuela al campo. They have to leave their home and their parents to live in barracks in the countryside and work in agricultural fields.

Because the “free education” in Cuba isn’t free, and the Castro literacy program the American left has bought into is rooted in indoctrination and devotion to the one-party political system.

Your apparatchik views on Cuba, senator, are as old and dated as the photos of me and my mother.

Santiago says she is a registered Democrat in Florida. She will not be voting for the Castro apologist.

At Buzzfeed News, Miriam Elder has a good, critical piece noting that Sanders traveled to the Soviet Union, and found good things to say about it, but according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s widow, Sanders never found time to go visit Vermont’s most famous former Soviet citizen: the author of The Gulag Archipelago. In one of these TV town halls, somebody ought to ask Bernie why.

UPDATE: David Brooks, telling the truth:

I covered the Soviet Union in its final decrepit years. The Soviet and allied regimes had already slaughtered 20 million people through things like mass executions and intentional famines. Those regimes were slave states. They enslaved whole peoples and took away the right to say what they wanted, live where they wanted and harvest the fruits of their labor.

And yet every day we find more old quotes from Sanders apologizing for this sort of slave regime, whether in the Soviet Union, Cuba or Nicaragua. He excused the Nicaraguan communists when they took away the civil liberties of their citizens. He’s still making excuses for Castro.

To sympathize with these revolutions in the 1920s was acceptable, given their original high ideals. To do so after the Hitler-Stalin pact, or in the 1950s, is appalling. To do so in the 1980s is morally unfathomable.

I say all this not to cancel Sanders for past misjudgments. I say all this because the intellectual suppositions that led him to embrace these views still guide his thinking today. I’ve just watched populism destroy traditional conservatism in the G.O.P. I’m here to tell you that Bernie Sanders is not a liberal Democrat. He’s what replaces liberal Democrats.

UPDATE.2: Reader Old West:

There are those these comments who are comparing the love affair with leftist dictatorships from the 60s through the 80s that Bernie and others had to the tidy relationships that US governments has had with various authoritarians like the Shah or Batista or various states in the Middle East.

I lived through those decades, hearing all of the arguments in real time, and this is a complete category error, or something like it. The Shah and the odd Latin American dictator were allies of sorts solely because they were useful to US foreign policy and economic interests, nothing more. Nobody–and I mean nobody–in the US wanted to institute their type of government in the US. Their misdeeds were not defended or denied or reinterpreted in a positive light as though they were some sort of role model for us to follow, or as though those governments were leading the way to a bright tomorrow for mankind. Those on the right (and sane anti-communists in the Democratic Party) would certainly make the argument that a non-leftist authoritarian regime was no worse than a leftist authoritarian regime, and that the former was not hostile to the US, while the latter was. And they were right about that, every time.

The Bernie types were outright fans of leftist governments in other countries, and supported them not because their governments were useful to the US or friendly to our country. In fact, their usefulness came primarily through their hatred of America and our people’s inherent resistance to the international “revolution.” Leftists in the US loved these governments precisely because they were both united in their hatred of our system of government and our way of life. They loved the fact that they confiscated private property and that they were militantly atheistic, and bought into the idea that you had to break a few eggs (i.e. kill and torture and imprison people, or drive them into exile) to make the omelet of a socialist/communist paradise.

The sheer level of mendacity by the American left in denying and defending and minimizing the atrocities of leftist regimes and leftist revolutionaries around the globe has been so exhaustively documented as to be beyond argument, and no amount of “but free health care” and “but literacy programs” can change that history.

They did not hide the fact that they preferred those countries and their system of economics and type of government to ours, and they saw them as necessary steps toward bringing about leftist goals around the globe.

The question, then and now, is whether leftist ideologies are more important than human life, and whether loyalty to the abstract promises of an abstract ideology, taken on faith, is more laudable than loyalty to one’s own countrymen. Those of a conservative or moderate temperament have always answered those questions in one way, and those on the left–of which Bernie Sanders has long been a part–have answered it, either actively or passively through silence, in another.

I pray that American voters are still clear-headed enough to answer it in the same way that they answered it in 1972–but after decades of leftist propaganda dominating our educational system and media, I am not as confident about that as I was just a couple of decades ago.

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