Election 2016

Bernie Sanders Supported Press Crackdowns, Bread Lines, and Castro's Cult of Personality

The democratic socialist has a history of defending very undemocratic socialism.


Bernie Sanders once boasted Burlington, Vt.,

You don't need 14 different kinds of bread lines.

the city of which he was mayor from 1981 to 1989, was the only American city of 40,000 with a foreign policy. An odd boast considering his clear discomfort discussing international affairs has been the brush Hillary Clinton has used to paint him as a naive dove not fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief. 

But as former Reasoner Michael Moynihan has uncovered by digging through troves of hiding-in-plain-sight materials, the democratic socialist senator and Democratic presidential candidate has a history of supporting some very undemocratic initiatives by some very undemocratic socialist regimes.

In an article at The Daily Beast, laid bare are Sanders' more problematic ventures into international politics, in which The Bern eschewed his more familiar envy of Danish-style social deomocracy, and instead opined that the United States had a great deal to learn from Latin American communist dictatorships.

Moynihan writes that in the 1980s, Sanders was wont to offer a "full-throated defense of the dictatorship in Nicaraguara," including its crackdowns on a free press:

What "made sense" to Sanders was the Sandinistas' war against La Prensa, a daily newspaper whose vigorous opposition to the Somoza dictatorship quickly transformed into vigorous opposition of the dictatorship that replaced it. When challenged on the Sandinistas' incessant censorship, Sanders had a disturbing stock answer: Nicaragua was at war with counterrevolutionary forces, funded by the United States, and wartime occasionally necessitated undemocratic measures. (The Sandinista state censor Nelba Blandon offered a more succinct answer: "They [La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it.")

To underscore his point, Sanders would usually indulge in counterfactual whataboutism: "If we look at our own history, I would ask American citizens to go back to World War II. Does anyone seriously think that President Roosevelt or the United States government [would have] allowed the American Nazi Party the right to demonstrate, or to get on radio and to say this is the way you should go about killing American citizens?" (It's perhaps worth pointing out that La Prensa never printed tutorials on how to kill Nicaraguans. And it's also worth pointing out that in 1991, Sanders complained of the "massive censorship of dissent, criticism, debate" by the United States government during the Gulf War.)

Having already written off free expression as a bourgeois capitalist construct, Sanders actually praised what is perhaps the single most vilified optic of economic life in a communist society, bread lines:

When asked about the food shortages provoked by the Sandinistas' voodoo economic policy, Sanders claimed that bread lines were a sign of a healthy economy, suggesting an equitable distribution of wealth: "It's funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don't line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death." 

After returning from a trip to Cuba, Sanders declared the Green Mountain State had much to learn from the totalitarian basket case of the Caribbean, not the least of which was the island's impoverished people's devotion to a cult of personality:

Sanders had a hunch that Cubans actually appreciated living in a one-party state. "The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Fidel Castro]. The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values."

Hillary Clinton frequently brags about her foreign policy experience, which can reliably be described as loaded with calamatious failure from which she never learns a thing. For a while it seemed Sanders' inclination toward non-interventionism made him at least a somewhat attractive alternative for libertarian-leaning voters to Clinton's uber-hawkishness.

But the yeoman's work done by Moynihan provides a stark reminder that it wasn't just Reaganites supporting the actions of ruthless Latin American regimes in the 1980s, it was the ever-authentic cuddly democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, too. 

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  1. Oh, come on. Stop twisting his words.

    He means well.

  2. It’s a shocker that Bernie and his supporters would support brutal, socialist, totalitarian regimes?

    Related: Netflix sent me a promotional Frank Underwood ’16 bumper sticker and button. Based on the current crop of candidates there’s a 99.6% chance I’m voting for him for President. Better than my usual Mickey Mouse/Donald Duck slate.

    1. *ahem*

      I thought we were going with Almanian/Cthulhu ’16 ?!

      1. Not unless they come up with some bumpin’ swag.

        1. Is there swag for Sweet Meteor of Death 2016?

    2. I’ve been a faithful watcher of House of Cards; hopefully they will send me one too. I will be hopefully peering into my mail box as soon as I get home today!

    3. It should be a Claire Underwood ’16 sticker.

      Frank will be bumped off by election day.

  3. Why would you need to chose between all those parties and candidates when one of them is just perfect?

    1. “Do we really need more than two political parties (or even more than a single party to choose from) when there are children starving?” – Bernie supporter

      1. Anybody who would dissent regarding Bernie’s USSA (Union of Soviet States of America) would obviously be suffering from some sort of mental illness. Obviously, Universal Medicare would cover their confinement to hospital, treatment, and re-education prior to release if ever.

  4. Not to worry; after Tuesday he is toast.

    1. And we can focus 100% on Trump.

      1. Right? We get it, he’s a lefty nut job. Preaching to the choir.
        Moar Trump!
        /sighs while weeping softly

    2. Too bad, he’d have made for an even more polarizing election.

  5. so we can stop trolling readers with the libertarian case for Bernie?

    1. I’ll bet money that several Reason Writers vote for Sanders if he wins the nomination.

      1. Moot. He’s not going to get the nomination.

      2. I’ll take that action

      3. I think some voted for Obumbles.

      4. He’s not Trump. That’s a big thing in his favor.

      5. In one specific way, Bernie is the best choice: A Republican Congress is almost guaranteed for the first two years, and he would have one heck of a time getting much at all through them.

        I’d almost put Hillary in the same category, and better than Trump + Republican Congress, except that Trump has such a short attention span that he’d never remember from one minute to the next what he wanted, and Hillary has 30+ years of experience with skeletons in political closets, combined with no principles or morals of any sort.

        What the heck. It doesn’t matter. None of us have any effect on this election, so it’s just a game anyway.

        1. I would say first four (assuming they maintain control in 2016). They would kill it in the midterms in 2018.

          Not that it matters. Hillary is going to beat Bernie.

  6. Then the economically ignorant Trump supporters will scratch their heads when they find their paychecks don’t go as far as they used to.

    Dude- Yosemite Sam is the most libertarian cartoon character.

    “Once I git muh hands on that widder’s money, I’ll buy the Old Ladies’ Home and kick all them old wimmen out.”

  7. Wow- serious QuoteFail. Cut and paste is harder than it looks, I guess. Shoulda oughtta bin:


    Better than my usual Mickey Mouse/Donald Duck slate.

    Dude- Yosemite Sam is the most libertarian cartoon character.

    “Once I git muh hands on that widder’s money, I’ll buy the Old Ladies’ Home and kick all them old wimmen out.”

    1. If I’m writing in cartoon characters for their libertarian bent, it would be Rick and Morty.

      1. “You have a whole planet… sitting around making your power for you?! That’s slavery!”

        “It’s society! They work for each other, Morty. They pay each other, they buy houses, they get married and make children that replace them when they get to old to make power.”

        “That just sounds like slavery with extra steps!”

        “Ooh la la, someone’s gonna get laid in college!”

      2. I always thought Bugs Bunny was the Libertarian cartoon character. How many times did he fight off the eminent domainers?

        1. Bugs Bunny is the archetypal libertarian cartoon character, don’t tread on my rabbit hole buddy and I wont mess with you. But if you do…

      3. Rick and Morty does have some pretty libertarian moments. But South Park still takes the cake.

    2. Bugs Bunny is the quintessential Libertarian cartoon character: he’s never the one who started it, but he’s the one who ends it.


  8. We’re basically doomed. Instead of arguing about who’s worse between Trump and Clinton (hint: it’s a trick question), how about people actually start trying to convince people to go third party. If there was ever an election for it, it’d be this one. Gary Johnson may be irritating to listen to and his face looks like a muppet, but it’s not like anybody likes listening to or looking at Trump or Hillary either.

    1. So frustrating to me. I try to convince people, but none of them will have it. They are so invested in demonizing the opposition. Even when they can acknowledge the awfulness their party’s candidate, they still bite down and vote for that person because they see it as a more effective way to prevent the opposition from winning.

      There’s hardly any cognitive dissonance anymore. They just don’t care how awful their candidate is because, surely, they aren’t as bad as the person from the opposition party. Even single-issue people will vote against their interest on that issue because they think the opposition is even worse. That anti-war crowd still backed Obama in 2012 despite his first four years and they are going to back Hillary in 2016… Because surely a republican would be worse. The “small-government” fans will continue to vote for the imperial republicans because surely a democrat would be worse.

      They never consider a 3rd party candidate that they might agree with because they are so focused on the person with the greatest chance to defeat their TeamRed/TeamBlue opponent.

      1. ^ This.

      2. The lizards oppress us. We hate the lizards. But if we don’t vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in

        1. hitchhikers guide?

      3. Since I seem destined to go down-ballot this year, I would love a series about third-party candidates. I assume Gay-Jay looks even more half-baked than last time. What are the Constitutional Party guys up to? What will the Conservative Party do if Cruz can’t come back?

        1. Austin Peterson is running for LP as well.

          1. his website alone is enough to not vote for him. Any man who loads his page with ads like that is a terrible person.
            my computer has a seizure everytime I accidently click on the libertarianrepublic.

        2. Agreed, I think a little more coverage on third-party runs would be a welcome change from the relentless Trumpocalypse / Sandstorm the rest of the internet is happy to provide. I actually quite enjoyed the Minor Parties Debate in 2012 and would love to see those get a little more popular.

      4. It’s basic psychology. People like to vote for winners. And in a first-past-the-post election, third parties are seen as idealistic protests. In parliamentary systems, they do much better.

        1. I think you are confusing proportional representation with parliamentary system. One is an election system the other is how you form a government. You can use first-past-the-post to elect members to a parliament ( the party with the most elected members chooses the leader) – witness Great Britain. You can use proportional representation to elect member to a congress and still separately elect a president as in Costa Rica.

          1. I could have phrased it better, yes, but parliamentary systems are rarely just two parties, so third parties (and Nth parties) seem to do better there as well. The smaller parties are courted by the larger ones in order to get a majority and choose a head of government.

          2. The UK is a special case anyways. scotts call themselves scotts, irish call themselves irish, welsh call themselves welsh.

            Americans are not that quite divided. The US will not develop northeast, southern, midwestern, rockies, and pacific parties.

            Easiest way is to have expand senate to 150, have senate elections at same time, then have top 3 parties getting a seat.
            at worst parties split in two.

            The thing is when the colonies were made into the us each state had its own interest and were much more locally based than now.

      5. +1 wasted vote.

        If I had a nickel for every time somebody told me I was wasting my vote …

        As far as I’m concerned, a vote is wasted when it is cast for an awful candidate … which is pretty much what both parties have been serving up for decades. This year the choice will be between truly reprehensible candidates.

        1. To me, a third party vote is absolutely not a wasted vote. It tells the world and eventual winner that I spent hours of my day to get to the polling place, wait in line, and cast a vote for someone other than TeamRed/TeamBlue because I believe in better options. Yeah, they don’t give a fuck, but hopefully more people will gradually catch on if they see 3rd Party candidates growing beyond a few percent.

          Casting a vote for TeamRed/TeamBlue because you think their opposition is terrible is truly a wasted vote. You’re doing nothing but adding legitimacy to the winner’s claims of having a “mandate”.

          Sure, at best they got the vote of ~20% of the eligible population. If that isn’t a solid basis to claim a “mandate” then I don’t know what is.

          1. Strategically speaking, a third party vote, as well as a non-vote, is basically a signal to the two parties (or at least the one closest to you) would need to alter it’s platform in order to get you to vote, or to get you to vote for them instead of third party. In the long run, in fact, if all libertarian-leaning Republicans voted libertarian one year and caused the GOP to lose the election by a landslide, yeah, a Democrat would win, but the GOP would be forced to become more libertarian in the next cycle.

            In effect, a third party or non-vote is trading the short run (this election) for the long run (how the parties will respond to their performance today in the next election).

        2. “wasting” something implies that it had value in the first place. I would pay maybe a nickel for the opportunity to make a fraction of a fraction of a choice about a fraction of our government

    2. how about people actually start trying to convince people to go third party

      I don’t disagree, but be careful what you wish for. Sanders is one of two non-major-party members of Congress…

      1. 30 years ago he was way out in left field compared to the average Democrat. Now he’s the middle of the party.

      2. And I still can’t figure out how he can run for the nom of a party he’s not even a member of.

    3. I would expect Reason to endorse the LP candidate. If they don’t, then they have some serious ‘splain’ to do, seeing as the whole magazine is a libertarian one. I doubt anyone who works at The New Republic or Salon was voting for Bush, for example.

      And the true “libertarian case” for Bernie, or anyone else left in the race on either side is that there is NONE. It is authoritarians all the way down this election. All the more reason to throw the two major parties in the trash once and for all. To hell with “strategic voting” or the lesser of two evils. It’s that kind of thinking that lead to the present mess.

      1. I don’t think they’re allowed to officially endorse a candidate. But I expect most of the writers will vote LP

    4. How about we convince Gary to run for a NM senate seat like he should have years ago instead of continuing with whatever it is he’s trying to accomplish now. If I remember correctly, he was up in the polls in NM and could have won a seat easily.

      1. does seem like a mistep by him.

        Maybe he didn’t want to be apart of The Paul&amash; gang of troublemakers.

  9. “They [La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it.”

    I don’t know if that’s a real quote or a joke from the 80’s, but that’s awesome.

    1. I think it’s real. It’s attributed to Nelba Blandon, Nicaraguan Interior Ministry Director of Censorship, 1984, on freedom of speech, said to have been quoted in the NYT:

      “They [La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it.”

      Reagan and PJ O’Rourke thought is was real, also.

      By the way, The Donald is promising to reform libel laws toward the same end.

      1. Yeah, I think the initial shock at the quote’s brazenness wore off when I really considered how close we are to openly advocating for that in the US.

  10. The democratic socialist has a history of defending very undemocratic socialism.

    Could be that he’s full of shit, and isn’t really a “democratic socialist” but a “full socialist.” And you never go full full socialist.

    1. Could be that he’s full of shit, and isn’t really a “democratic socialist” but a “full socialist.”

      Or, more likely, it’s that you ultimately have to make a choice between the “nice” and the “socialist” when you’re talking about “nice socialists” and the whole “democratic” part is just a convenient way to do away with the former in favor of the latter.

    2. All socialists at least attempt to robe themselves in the thin cloak of Democracy. Even the USSR and the Nazis held elections.

      1. Generally speaking, it’s usually more of a fig leaf than a robe.

      2. i can’t remember the source but there’s some quote (I think it qualifies as a cliche) that tyranny always comes under the guise of good intentions. it was probably some dead white dude though, and who cares what they think?

    3. What does the D in DPRK stand for again?

        1. dick penis rectum… koch?

  11. Guess bread lines are a sign of a healthy economy in much the same way as firing squads are a sign of robust political engagement.

    What an evil little piece of shit Sanders is.

    1. And I guess Stalin’s gulags for political dissidents (who were obviously mentally ill for daring to disagree) were just a sign of a government that was truly committed to helping those with mental illness.

      1. We’re so concerned for your well-being we help till it hurts…you that is.

      2. I’m from the government and I’m here to help.

  12. You don’t need 14 different kinds of bread lines.

    *stands to applaud*

  13. “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”

    Ha! Classic Sanders. What a joker.

    What’s that? Oh, he’s serious…

    1. You didn’t see all those poor people starving to death on your way to buy a loaf of white bread for $1.50? Check your privilege, yo.

      1. Starving? No; they were already dead. Yesterday I drove past the local Wal-Mart and the parking lot was full of cadavers of poor and working-class people who had died because the few rich people in town bought all the food. Sadly, these poor people did not know enough to go two blocks down the street to the local Trader Joe’s where Connor, Hannah or Noah would gladly sell them the loaf of gluten-free banana bread for $5.

      2. “white bread”
        Ah, so you’re a klansman?

  14. They [La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it.

    doublethink at its finest, ladies and gentleman.

    1. We had to destroy the village to save it.

  15. Only about 36 hours left for this dipshit. If he had anything like shame in him, he go back to Vermont and quietly wait to die.

    1. Once Bernie’s out, Warren can roll in and put Hillary out of her misery. Right about the time that the FBI starts calling her staffers to testify, Hillary will bow out due to stress or something and hand the mantle to someone else.

      1. Hillary will never drop out. She would just be the first federal inmate to run for president.

        Besides, no one under Obama is going to let her get prosecuted.

  16. There are no rich people in Cuba and there were very few still in Nicaragua after the revolution. That’s all Bernie cared about.

    1. Income equality, baby!

    2. There are no rich people in Cuba

      There is actually a small number of very rich people in Cuba. As there are in any dictatorship. Nobody wants to take a pay cut to be the Jefe Supremo, after all.

      1. That’s different, RC. Castro and his cronies got rich by working for the people. Not by being blood sucking capitalists.

    3. Fidel Castro has an estimated net worth of $900M, but clearly he’s not rich, right? There are certainly rich people in Cuba- it’s just that they all got rich by stealing from everyone else.

  17. You know how we libertarians often get accused of jumping straight from socialism to purges and ovens too quickly? THIS IS WHY WE KEEP COMING BACK TO IT!

    God, Sanders is loathsome. As awful as Clinton is, at least she seems to be motivated by self interest. C.S. Lewis was right about that. But what’s scary is that the Democratic party is showing no signs that Sanders’ type isn’t still in their future. We’ll get a president like him eventually, and then God help us.

    1. support for socialism comes either from ignorance or evil. i was happy considering sanders just a doddering teenager who refuses to acknowledge anything that’s happened since the sixties, but ignorance is really the best possible explanation. im starting to doubt that a little, but either way, those arent the primary qualifications im looking for in a potential president (PPOTUS?)

  18. Someone should ask Robby if he factored this in during his “libertarian case for Bernie Sanders”.

    1. But those don’t matter. The President is not yet a dictator, he still has to get Congress to allocate money and pass laws. All the things which make Bernie loathsome are things he can’t do alone, and therefore they don’t matter. You may as well worry about which way he wants people to tie shoelaces or which pants leg to put on first. It is irrelevant which papers he wants to shut down or how many bread lines he wants to create.

      About all the President has any unilateral control over is foreign policy, and he still needs Congressional approval in some fashion. Judicial appointments — he needs Senate assent.

      1. SCOTUS appointments, Scarecrow, think about those.

        1. They still have to go through a Republican Senate. And the way Obama pushed recess appointments, the Senate has learned to never go into recess. The more Bernie pushes his socialist martyr credentials, the more Senate Republicans will block him.

          1. You’re hoping that the Republicans do your dirty work for you. When I would advise them – let Bernie do whatever he wants to. The American people (Scarecrow) have spoken. Tyrant away.

            Be careful what you ask for, buddy. You’re hoping the opposition consistently acts like the opposition. You vote for Bernie, you live with the consequences.

      2. Yeah, no President would ever drone an American citizen or send American citizens to internment camps. We have checks and balances!

        Sure, we can elect a socialist because the opposition in Congress will temper his excesses. We can even elect an orange-skinned con-man with raccoon hands and stubby fingers because, “same as above”.

        1. The President already has all the authority he needs to lock up anybody he wants. All he needs to do is provide his AG with an enemies list. The AG can find the crimes if he wants to, and can pressure the president’s enemies one by one with a choice between confession to lesser crimes and cooperation in the investigation of other enemies, or a full investigation and trial for a laundry list of two to five felonies per day. Everybody is guilty of something … failure to record a garage sale on Form 1040, an EPA violation in the use of a lawn mower, past possession of a prohibited substance, use of a company cell phone for personal purposes, surfing the Reason comments on company time, etc.

          I don’t know which I fear more: AG Chris Christie or whoever Hillary would pick.

      3. I jump into my pants with both legs simultaneously

  19. Bernie Sanders once boasted Burlington, Vt., the city of which he was mayor from 1981 to 1989, was the only American city of 40,000 with a foreign policy.

    Hopefully since then someone’s pointed out to him that in fact cities don’t get to have foreign policies that aren’t just posturing?

    Apart from that, typically reflexive-left/Progressive idolization of any foreign Socialist/Communist exercise; Nicaragua was the ideal target then, just like Venezuela was a few years ago.

    Seen it a million times.

    1. I would have been shocked if he wasn’t an apologist for the Sandinistas.

  20. “(The Sandinista state censor Nelba Blandon offered a more succinct answer: “They [La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it.”)”
    Part of their policy of being so extreme they’re unparodiable.

    1. No, they are self-parodying.

  21. the United States had a great deal to learn from Latin American communist dictatorships.

    Absolutely. Although I have the feeling I have different lessons in mind that Bernie.

  22. Also note that on Bernie’s trip to Israel in the early ’60s, he chose to reside at a kibbutz known for being Stalinist.

    1. How can that be? I thought that Israel, America’s Bestest Friend Ever, was the only True Democracy in the Middle East?

      1. And, yes, I know that a real democracy is going to have some decidedly undemocratic members who are trying to vote democracy away.

        1. Israel had a lot of very left-wing founders in the early days. That was also back when the USSR was promoting Zionism as a way to screw with the British. Bernie’s kibbutz was known for mourning the death of Stalin and had supposedly calmed down a bit by the time he got there, but supposedly they still sang The Internationale.

  23. At least it’s now obvious why he keeps pushing for the supposed politics of Denmark.

    The Danish parliament is full of the same caricatures, claiming to be democratic socialists; old baby boomers (and their mindless followers of subsequent generations), who claim the Soviet Union just got a bad rep because of the corporate Americanized news machine.

    They’ll tell you straight up, even today, that it wasn’t so bad over in the good old USSR, and that the East German political machine was something to be admired.

    1. Of course, all this admiration for Soviet style communism, didn’t keep this party from making a deal where they sold part of the Danish government’s controlling interest in Denmark’s largest energy company to a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs.

      I guess if you scratch a Democratic Socialist, you’ll find a real socialist – and if you keep scratching, you’ll probably find a corporatist.

  24. Where’s Gojira?

  25. After reading all of these stories about Sanders’s past, I definitely came to the conclusion that he’s lying about how radical he actually is. I think he really is, in his heart of hearts, a full-blown “collectivize the means of production and abolish private property” socialist, but he doesn’t admit it because he knows he could never get elected. I don’t think this is true of the average Democrat (or European for that matter), but it is for some, and Sanders definitely appears to be one of them.

    1. Yes, his “We have too many shoes/deodorants” spiel is pretty clear evidence that he supports some sort of command economy.

      1. We have too many flavors of Ben and Jerries and oh, by the way, those rich SOBs support Bernie. Brilliant.

      2. We have too many flavors of Ben and Jerries, and oh by the way, those rich SOBs support Bernie. Brilliant.

        1. Hmm, a new B&J flavor: squirrels and nuts…

  26. Don’t worry, he won’t be like that when he is President!

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