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. ...