I’ve been an unapologetic shill for Bernie Sanders, writing articles, sending small donations and attending rallies, but after the recent debacle in my home state of Nevada, coupled with undeniable delegate math, it has became clear to me that Bernie cannot win the nomination. It’s sad for his supporters, like me. But what is more troubling is the heated, false and sometimes vile rage coming out of some Bernie supporters, as they grow ever more frustrated at the loss. I’ve worked hard in my own life to embrace progressive values, and the rhetoric coming from some parts of my own community reminds me of the Tea Party.
Something scary is happening in the so-called libertarian west. Armed terrorists have taken over a federal building in Oregon. By now, you know the story, even as it plays out in real time. It’s an escalation of an ongoing battle that started with the Cliven Bundy Ranch fiasco, wherein a gutless Federal government let a bunch of armed kooks run roughshod over basic law enforcement. Bundy refused to pay his grazing fees, and instead decided to make his private profit with stolen public resources, threatening violence if authorities attempted to correct his infractions. This latest dustup is superficially about a couple of ranchers given five-year prison sentences for setting fires that destroyed public land, but that is only a flimsy pretext; this is another round of antisocial behavior by a group of (mostly) men who are watching the decline—if not outright elimination—of their power and influence in the west.
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.
Through a quirk in state term limits combined with a terrible midterm election, the Nevada legislature has been taken over by amateurs and extremists. The legislature is now debating whether to dismantle the Nevada public employee pension system (PERS), a system that has gotten consistently high marks for transparency, responsibility and stewardship.
The most dangerous thing you can do on the Internet is to send your banking information to a mysterious Nigerian prince. The second most dangerous thing you can do is to write even the most tepid criticism of libertarians. I recently wrote piece about my trip to Honduras and how conditions in that country reminded me of a “Libertarian Utopia.” I was inspired not only by the trip but also from reading many articles that have outlined a failing libertarian experiment in that country (here and here, for instance). I focused on just this one small factor when, of course, I also realize that the problems of Central America are historical, entrenched, and above all, complicated. From the reaction online you would have thought I personally kicked Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek square in his wrinkled, decomposed sack.
Last month, I spent my final vacation night in Honduras in San Pedro Sula, considered the most dangerous city outside of the war-torn Middle East. I would not have been scared, except that I traveled with my wife and our four children, aged 5, 7, 14 and 18. On our last taxi ride, we could not find a van to fit us all, so we rode in two taxis. Mine carried me and my two daughters, aged 5 and 14, while the driver blasted Willie Nelson singing “City of New Orleans” (a city that is also considered very dangerous).
My first college experience was failing half my classes at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 1992. The highlight was getting a “D” in English 101. Like many small town kids, I was overwhelmed and underprepared. I dropped out of UNLV, joined the military and got married. Being a 20-year-old father and “enlisted” man showed me exactly how not to live, so I started a backward, fumbling and circuitous process of getting my undergraduate degree. In seven years, I attended four community colleges, a university on a military base and attended military journalism school. I pieced the whole mess into a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College, a credit aggregator that caters to military members.
This recent midterm election was my first real setback since I became a committed liberal (after years on the other side), and what I don’t understand is why so many well-meaning liberals refuse to fight dirty. Sure, some Democratic politicians “sling mud,” but the “professional left” (as they are often derisively called) spend too much time debating the exactitude of certain issues and not enough time shutting down the bad ideas of the opposition. It might speak well to one’s character, but it’s an ineffective way to do battle. There is a place for self-examination, but it’s not on the battlefield. Sometimes the proper reaction to cruelty or stupid ideas is disgust or even a well-timed insult. For many on the left this art is sadly as dead as the late hero of mine quoted above.
Over the past few years, America has been divided by religion. The culture wars have heated up with secularists on one side and God-fearing Americans on the other, and to understate things: They disagree. But does that mean we hate one another? If the animosity is so intense, what kind of outrage goes too far? Bonnie Weinstein has tackled this issue in an important but very troubling book out Dec. 2, titled “To the Far Right Christian Hater … You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both: Official Hate Mail, Threats, and Criticism From the Archives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.”
I Was a Conservative Coward: How the Midterms Evoked My Shameful Past of Buying Into the Fox News Spin
What worries you, masters you.