Magazine | February 29, 2016, Issue

The Revolution Will Have a Terrible Soundtrack

It is delicious to see Bernie Sanders push Madam Hillary leftward to the north of Lenin. It is revelatory to see the soul of the Democratic party channeled through a honking, septuagenarian collectivist whose ossified ideals predate Dylan’s going electric. It’s just a joy to watch HRC imply that Wall Street quavers when they hear the approaching clump of her sensibly shod feet, and to realize that the half-million-dollar paychecks they threw her like meat over the wall to satiate the wolves were wasted, all wasted. But at some point you have to realize that there’s a problem with Bernie: His fans are fools, his platform is a lie, and his music is the absolute worst.

His fans are often youngsters, nostrils full of the vaporish ideals favored by those who moved from the parental nest to the intellectual hive-mind of college. They believe that the perfect model for the organization of a diverse, immense, sprawling society like the United States is Amsterdam, because weed is legal and everyone rides bikes. This utopia is financed by taxes on the rich, whose obese corpuses are enthroned in gilded chambers like immense Queen Bees, dapper bureaucrats whisking off the gilded eggs they excrete. Awesome!

Conversations with these people can be lots of fun. 

One-tenth of the One Percent has more money than the gross national product of Gambia over the last ten years! Here’s a map. Point to Gambia. What? That’s not relevant. Two-tenths of the top 5 percent pay less in taxes than the entire school budget of the city of Chicago! If we raised taxes, poor kids would learn more! Would it affect critical factors such as family cohesion, or reading to kids when they’re young, or making academic excellence a primary cultural value? That’s blaming the victim. We need more investment! Raise taxes on the people who speculate! If we passed a tax on speculations, we could fund workshops on environmental justice that would raise awareness of the historic and systemic effects of industrial pollution in challenged areas that disenfranchise stakeholders in the transition to the new economy! God I hate rich people.

If you persist, you point out that the One Percent, if billed for Bernie-Bennies, will be found to have insufficient funds. The obvious rejoinder: Cut defense. These two words have an almost erotic appeal to the Left. When you note that the devolution of the U.S. military to the Coast Guard isn’t enough to pay for the Bernifits, they might shrug: Maybe not, but it’s a start.

Which leads us to the second irritation: Bernie’s lies. For Bernie’s plans to work, the State has to take your stuff. He’ll probably be content to take half, for starters. There are two ways to do this.

Jackbooted thugs, which certainly has an upside. The State could open massive jackboot factories in every state; hundreds of thousands of people could be employed designing, making, and distributing jackboots. (They would be unionized, naturally. The Jackboot-Manufacturers Union would have the power to sway elections.)

The Jackbooted Thugs, or JBTs, would be sent house to house to take your stuff to pay for Bernifits. This would be handy for finding bad mean scary guns, but that’s just frosting. The main objective would be taking half of your property, putting it on the truck, having you sign right here . . . and here . . . and here, thank you. You will be receiving a Citizen’s Entitlement Card in six to eight weeks, and it can be redeemed for aspirin or community-college lectures about Transgender Literature in Post-Colonial Asia. Have a nice day. Sorry we ran over your cat.

This would not go well. You can imagine the protests: “The JBTs came into my house to take half my stuff and broke up my Franklin Mint collectible ‘Legends of Nifty Fifties’ plates. Look on eBay! The Lucy one goes for $40, but it’s a hundred bucks if you have the Ricky one, too. What kind of economically illiterate tax-collection system breaks up a set?”

Or people might protest the confiscation on general principle, believing the government had no right to waltz in and cart away their stuff. Americans are odd like that. It gets our back up, by cracky. This is why President Bernie would never send out the JBTs but would simply use the old established method: taking your stuff before it lands in your hands. A 50 percent tax on everyone, with rebates to ameliorate the regressive aspects of the necessary VAT.

Lots of Millennials are fine with this, because they grew up under Obama and can’t imagine getting a job that pays much anyway. If half their income goes away and stuff’s free, they’re probably making out pretty good. Especially if you get, like, paid family leave for six weeks if you get a cat. (If the government runs it over, you get another one.)

Finally: The worst thing about the Sanders campaign, aside from everything it stands for, is the music. I heard a broadcast of a Bernie rally wherein two awful singers attempted to harmonize a version of “This Land Is Your Land.” It was like listening to a tree sloth mate with a cheese grater. When the youthful fans hear these wheezy old folky tunes, they believe they’re connecting with some pure, authentic era of American radicalism, when various bearded Commie-lite buskers crooned deeply meaningful speculations about what they’d do if they had a hammer.

I know what they’d do. They’d hammer down the doors of the kulaks to get the sacks of wheat hidden under the floorboards, is what they’d do. Jackboots are awesome if the right people are wearing them. Recycled plastics for soles, hemp for fabric? Totally sustainable.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

Our Last Emperor

Our system of government does little to prevent a strongman or a crank from winning the presidency. As long as Electoral College members adhere faithfully to the election results in ...


Politics & Policy

Seeing North Korea

North Korea is embarked on a steady, methodical, and relentless journey whose intended endpoint is a credible capability to hit New York and Washington with nuclear weapons. Pyongyang’s nuclear test ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Faith in Hollywood

The last time I wrote about the Coen brothers’ world-picture in these pages, reviewing their Job-in-Minnesota movie, A Serious Man, I suggested that the elusive auteurs were “proudly mysterian” — ...
Politics & Policy

Love and Order

In 2000, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) was asked to identify the biggest change he had seen in his 40-year political career. Moynihan, a man of unusual wisdom, experience, ...
Politics & Policy

Explorations of Love

Early in this book, material for which originated in a highly successful Notre Dame course now available on iTunesU, philosopher and classicist David O’Connor puts the point of the investigation ...


Politics & Policy


Timeless Classics Samuel Goldman writes well about the value of “traditional” education (read: classical education) and studying beautiful things (“Reclaiming Traditional Education,” December 31, 2015). He aptly takes on Marco Rubio’s ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Who knew the Democrats were that picky about which kind of socialist they prefer? ‐ Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees — $225,000 a pop — from Goldman Sachs and other big-deal ...
Politics & Policy


YOUR MOVE “No modern poem was ever as obscure as Miss Sullivan’s naming water water for Helen Keller.” – Walker Percy When a bear hears ice crack he doesn’t listen, He moves.  He doesn’t think ...

Most Popular

White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More