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Did America Misjudge Bernie Sanders? Or Did He Misjudge America? - The New York Times
"Fueling their anxieties was an apparently bottomless trove of provocative videos. Sanders in Moscow during the Cold War, praising the Soviet Union’s mass-transit system. Sanders proposing a cap on individual wealth. Sanders expressing admiration for the literacy program introduced by Fidel Castro. When we talked in February, he pointed out to me that most if not all of these statements dated to before he was elected to Congress, back when he was “a reasonably young man.” (In the case of Castro’s literacy program, however, Sanders doubled down on the compliment last month, telling “60 Minutes”: “He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”) I asked if it was fair to say that he had undergone a philosophical evolution since then. “Of course I have,” he said. “Look, what human being doesn’t undergo changes?” He added, “If you’re not a moron, you learn.”

Sanders spoke as if this were a given. At the same time, the man so often described by his campaign ads and senior staff members as “authentic” and “consistent” seemed content to live and die by his reputation for being as immutable as gravity. Nearly all his current and former aides have perfected an impersonation of his thudding Brooklynese. He is understood to be a loner, a constant if not deep thinker with a resting glower and restless hair and an incapacity for niceties. He is an avid non­presence on the Washington social circuit, has little time for the Beltway media (with its frequent comparisons of Sanders and Trump) and has even less time for the Vermont media (which has offended him by raising questions about his family’s activities, including Jane Sanders’s troubled tenure as president of Burlington College, when her decision to buy waterfront land for the campus sent the institution into financial insolvency).

Sanders the socialist does indeed have three houses: a Washington apartment that one former aide called “ratty”; a Burlington home so modest that in 2015 his presidential campaign advisers wanted to hold an open house so reporters could see for themselves what a skinflint Sanders was; and, yes, a lake house in North Hero, Vt., that Sanders bought with royalties from his memoir but seldom visits because he is not fond of vacationing. Nor is he a fan of sharing personal details. After considerable urging from his staff, Sanders now tells audiences that he is the son of a Polish émigré who arrived in Brooklyn penniless and unable to speak English. But while a Barack Obama or a Marco Rubio might draw from such material an uplifting only-in-America parable, the narrative Sanders quickly shifts to is how America has abjectly failed those of his working-class pedigree.

Never mind his biography, he seems to be saying. “You want to know how Bernie Sanders will govern?” Sanders asked me in Bakersfield. “He was elected mayor in 1981. Check out his record. He was elected to Congress in 1990. Check out his record. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. Check out his record. Now people want to go back and look at something I said or did in the 1970s — fine, it’s there. If you really want to know what I’d do as president, you might want to check on what I did as an elected official.”

It’s indeed a curious fact that those who despise Sanders and those who worship him all tend to base their appraisals almost entirely on his words, past and present, rather than on his deeds — to see him as a bomb-throwing outsider even though he has held elected office for 39 years, about half his life. Then again, Sanders himself says little about his moments of governance, apart from his vote against the Iraq war in 2002.

The early chapters of Sanders’s political evolution are a familiar-enough story by now: the odyssey of the Brooklyn-bred lefty writer and documentary filmmaker who moved to the Vermont-Canada border during the Vietnam draft, ran for U.S. senator and Vermont governor in the 1970s on the socialist Liberty Union party ticket and made national headlines in 1981 as the socialist who beat the incumbent mayor of Burlington by 10 votes. Jane Sanders told me: “Somebody asked him, ‘What do you consider yourself?’ And he said, you know, ‘Democratic socialist.’ And of course then they make a big deal out of it. The New York Times, when he was elected mayor of Burlington, pushed it: ‘Socialist Elected Mayor in Burlington, Vt.’” (The actual headline was “Vermont Socialist Plans Mayoralty With Bias Toward Poor.”) She continued: “They did a bigger story on that than when he announced for president, which they put on A19.” Sanders characterizes his mayoral triumph as a victory for movement politics, noting to me the support he received from “people in the low-income housing projects, women, police unions and neighborhood organizations — a working-class coalition that was very dissatisfied with the status quo.”

But what’s more notable about Sanders’s eight-year tenure as mayor was how ably he governed from the center-left. Though the establishment-minded local paper, The Burlington Free Press, had initially opposed his candidacy, “by the third term, we were endorsing him,” recalled Jim Welch, who was the paper’s executive editor at the time. “And it was justified. It’s true that he talked a lot about Reagan’s policies toward Central America and nuclear arms. But mainly he was focused on things like keeping the streets plowed and supporting the arts scene. He worked closely with the business community to revitalize the waterfront and preserve the downtown pedestrian mall. I think by the end of it, the business leaders found themselves saying, ‘Boy, I think we made that work.”

In 1990, three years after U.S. News & World Report named Sanders one of America’s best mayors, he defeated the Republican incumbent for Vermont’s at-large congressional seat. He found no hero’s welcome in Washington, however. Referring to the centrist Democratic coalition, Jane Sanders recalled, “The Blue Dogs didn’t want Bernie in the caucus: ‘He’s an independent; let him go be an independent.”

Feeling snubbed, Sanders reverted to fringe leftist, a loner who vocally criticized Democrats and Republicans in more or less equal measure and was safely ignorable by both. “We didn’t have much contact with him, either on bills or on votes,” former Representative John Tanner, a Tennessee Democrat who led the Blue Dog caucus during Sanders’s House tenure, told me. A senior House Democrat (who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to be seen as stoking intraparty tensions) unfavorably compared Sanders’s 16-year legacy with that of one of his most vigorous supporters today, Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State: “She’s equally liberal, and she’s made a very big impression in her first three years in Congress. That was not Bernie.”

In 2005, Jim Jeffords, the Republican-turned-independent senator from Vermont, announced his retirement. Within days, Sanders declared his intention to run for the seat. Recognizing that Sanders was probably popular enough to beat any Democratic candidate, the party’s Senate leaders, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer (who attended the same Brooklyn high school as Sanders), opted instead to pre-emptively welcome him to their caucus with open arms. “It was night and day,” Jane Sanders recalled. “Harry asked Bernie, ‘What do you want?’ And he got five committee assignments.”

In return, Reid got the Burlington-mayor version of Bernie Sanders. As a senator, he worked to move whatever legislation was in front of him to the left: expanding Social Security benefits, restricting loopholes for pharmaceutical companies, demanding that the bank-reform bill include an audit of the Federal Reserve. But he also voted reliably with the Democratic caucus. He worked successfully with some Republicans, including John McCain, on a 2014 bill to improve medical access for military veterans. In 2018, he worked with Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, on a war-powers resolution seeking to end America’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (which Trump subsequently vetoed)."

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"“The only reason Bernie’s in this race,” Jane Sanders told me in early February, “is because we think he’s the best chance to defeat Trump.” Sanders himself acknowledged this foremost priority the day after his electoral firewall collapsed in Michigan — and then added, with a degree of candor that was remarkable even for him, that millions of Democratic voters across the nation happened to disagree that he represented the best chance of doing so.

Sanders concluded his brief remarks to the press that Wednesday afternoon by enumerating questions he intended to ask “my friend Joe Biden” at their first and only one-on-one debate four days later. It was a signal that Sanders intended for his legacy to be not a kamikaze mission but instead something more fruitful for the party that was never his. In 2016, Sanders proved he could energize a new generation of voters. During this cycle, he found a way to organize and communicate effectively with Latinos — evidenced not only in Nevada and California but also along the border in Texas, where his delegate share came to just nine shy of Biden’s. That accomplishment is no cheap trick. Should Biden, the probable nominee, combine his gains in the Dallas and Houston suburbs with his former rival’s organizational superiority near the Mexican border, Texas could flip to the Democrats for the first time since 1976.

In defeat, Sanders has prompted a reckoning within the Democratic Party. He has forced upon it an airing of ideological differences, compelling progressives and moderates to choose their leader and then make the case in public. Since the rise of the Tea Party, self-described “principled conservatives” like Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton have claimed that they, too, yearn for such a debate with the … [more]
berniesanders  2020  elections  politics  socialism  us  capitalism  robertdraper  vermont  authenticity  consistency  integrity 
20 days ago by robertogreco
The political journey of Bernie Sanders
"Bernie, I disagree with you on just about everything, but I vote for you every time. I know right where you stand. These other guys, I don't have a clue."
Bernie  Honesty  Integrity  Reliability 
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