Trump and Sanders both deliberately undermine our Democratic system’s legitimacy

Few things are as lethal for the healthy conduct of democratic politics as a crisis of legitimacy. As far back as the Classical Era, Aristotle argued that a state’s legitimacy hinged on the stability created by distributive justice, which is to say, the equitable distribution of society’s material rewards according to individual merit. More recently, the German political philosopher Jurgen Habermas has identified what he calls a “legitimization crisis,” which occurs when the state structures legally endowed with administrative powers “do not succeed in maintaining the requisite level of mass loyalties” allowing them to exercise those powers.  Among the results, he argues, ...

Bernie Sanders and the vanity of old men

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Few things open quite so broad a path to folly as the vanity of old men. Bernie Sanders needs to weigh that existential reality, along with the political ones, as he considers how to proceed from his decisive loss to Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s New York primary. There will be a batch of primaries next week—including key states like Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland—and, on June 7, another great prize in the suddenly relevant California contest. His prospects of elbowing Clinton aside and winning the Democrats’ nomination, however, now seem somewhere the other side of remote. Clinton’s camp is being careful not to ...

Bernie Sanders is a dangerous combination of idealist and fantasist

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The problem Bernie Sanders poses for Democratic primary voters actually is an old one in public life: How are we to distinguish an idealist from a fantasist? Thursday night, in his Brooklyn Navy Yard debate with frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and Friday, when he addressed a Vatican conference marking the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s social encyclical Centesimus Annus, the crusty Vermont senator came across as a bit of both. This only increases the problem he poses for the party and, particularly for younger Democrats. It’s also true that, when it comes to his electoral survival, Sanders converts rather conveniently to realpolitik. ...

Beneath our angry politics exists a corrosive insecurity

Even in this Alice In Wonderland electoral cycle, most analysts agree that the insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are fueled by deep fissures of heretofore underestimated anger among voters in both parties. There’s less agreement on the sources of that rage. Some, but not all, Trumpites are expressing racial animosity; others a mixture of that old bigotry with a new version of anti-immigrant Nativism. Still others, are gripped with a generalized antagonism toward so-called elites—political, financial, academic and journalistic. Correlations of census data with Trump’s support show that the person most likely to vote for him is an unemployed ...

Hillary Clinton Faces Tough Battle Winning Over Young Women

Hillary Clinton’s decisive win in the Nevada caucuses is a critical validation of her candidacy, though it also brought into sharper relief one of her campaign’s unexpectedly vexing problems: A majority of younger Democratic women are passing on the chance to cast their vote for the first female president and, instead, throwing in with the crusty socialist firebrand Bernie Sanders. In the three Democratic contests so far—Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada—nearly eight out of ten of the women voters under 45 supported Sanders. Nationally, polls show that 64% of the Democratic women under 45 currently back the Vermont senator. In each ...