Without hint of hypocrisy, a presidential candidate can declare allegiance to government solutions and advocate higher taxes for the top 1 percent while book royalties push him into that bracket.
That is to say that a person can be genuinely populist and seriously rich at the same time.
The person needs only to be defined by values of the heart and mind rather than net worth on paper.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is being criticized both by the right wing and the Democratic establishment--a signal that he's doing something right.
It's because newly released tax returns show that he made more than a million dollars year before last, mostly from a best-selling book, yet he advocates a single-payer and government-run health care system while railing against the wealthy elite benefiting from a rigged economy.
The right wing says Sanders is a socialist who, by his supposed principles, should eschew capitalist excess such as book royalties.
But Sanders' advocacies are less than socialist. He doesn't propose to make the entire American medical-care industry a government function. He proposes only to have private bills paid to private providers out of a public fund.
Sanders' advocacy of higher taxes tracks with a campaign theme in 1992 from a centrist Democrat named Bill Clinton.
Anyway, a typical democratic socialist doesn't object to individual achievement. A typical democratic socialist simply advocates for relatively high taxation to provide government-centered public services.
Meanwhile, a group called the Center for American Progress founded and run by close associates of the Clintons has an affiliated online site called ThinkProgress that recently charged that Sanders belies his professed populism by his new wealth.
In a video, ThinkProgress accuses Sanders of hypocrisy for now bellowing in speeches against "multi-millionaires and billionaires" rather than, as before, "millionaires and billionaires," now that he is a millionaire himself.
What's really at play here is:
• The right wing's lazily expedient reliance on a demonizing label like socialism without understanding it or applying it fairly.
• The Clintonian Democratic establishment's continuing fear and resentment of Sanders as a threat to become a Democratic nominee who would surely lose to the same Donald Trump to whom Hillary lost.
• That Sanders has made a simple rhetorical slide so that he won't be lambasting himself. You might say that whether Sanders is in the top 1 percent depends on what the meaning of is is. You also could say that a million dollars is not what it used to be.
Through all that, there are two legitimate critiques of Sanders.
One is that he becomes less the outsider and more a politician as usual by essentially cashing in on his political emergence by writing a book certain to make him rich if but a fraction of the mobs coming to his rallies purchase copies.
Getting rich after gaining political prominence--usually by a book deal ... that's utterly politics as usual.
The other is that Sanders has behaved in a cavalier and ham-fisted fashion in dealing with the book-income fallout. He has said both that he didn't know that writing a good book was a crime and that anyone else could become a millionaire, too, by writing a best-seller.
No one said anything was a crime. And not everyone has a best-selling book essentially guaranteed by a high public profile achieved by the supposed noble and altruistic endeavor of seeking high public service.
Sanders is fully entitled to preach populism while cashing royalty checks.
But he is not entitled to the Democratic presidential nomination, much less the presidency, if he can't handle the issue better than he's handled it so far.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Web only on 04/17/2019
Print Headline: BRUMMETT ONLINE: Breaking down Bernie