Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Serious Candidate

I've written in this space before about my admiration for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders -- formerly, a mostly unknown quantity nationally, now, a serious challenger to Hillary the anointed one. Despite my deep differences with him on "abortion rights" and the meaning of marriage, his message of economic populism and his broadsides against the corrupting effects of big money on our political system resonate with me. Of all the candidates running for president he's the only one who gives voice to the frustration felt by struggling low and moderate-income families like mine. Others talk a good game, but Sanders is the only one with the credibility of a long track record to back it up and the independence that comes from refusing to take money from special interests and super PAC's. I'm happy to be one of the 1,000,000+ contributors who've given an average of $24.86 to his truly grass-roots campaign.

Another aspect of Bernie's appeal is that he's the anti-candidate candidate. He doesn't have one stump speech for one group and another for a different group. He is who he is. Witness his remarkable speech at Liberty University -- a rare example of civil discourse in an era of name-calling and polarization, where campaign appearances are carefully stage-managed. Speaking to several thousand Liberty students and faculty Sanders said:

I came here today because I believe that it is important for those with different views in our country to engage in civil discourse — not just to shout at each other or make fun of each other. It is very easy for those in politics to talk to those who agree with us. I do that every day. It is harder, but not less important, to try to communicate with those who do not agree with us and see where, if possible, we can find common ground and, in other words, to reach out of our zone of comfort.

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone about the condescending way the mainstream media is treating Sanders' campaign. It's a good read. Check it out. The media is obsessed with questions of style and strategy, but whether the rumpled leftist Grandpa from Vermont wins the nomination or not he's already proved it's possible to be a candidate, and run a campaign, that's refreshingly different than what we've rather cynically come to expect.

From the Rolling Stone article:

Sanders is a clear outlier in a generation that has forgotten what it means to be a public servant. The Times remarks upon his "grumpy demeanor." But Bernie is grumpy because he's thinking about vets who need surgeries, guest workers who've had their wages ripped off, kids without access to dentists or some other godforsaken problem that most of us normal people can care about for maybe a few minutes on a good day, but Bernie worries about more or less all the time.

I first met Bernie Sanders ten years ago, and I don't believe there's anything else he really thinks about. There's no other endgame for him. He's not looking for a book deal or a membership in a Martha's Vineyard golf club or a cameo in a Guy Ritchie movie. This election isn't a game to him; it's not the awesomely repulsive dark joke it is to me and many others.

And the only reason this attention-averse, sometimes socially uncomfortable person is subjecting himself to this asinine process is because he genuinely believes the system is not beyond repair.

Give 'em hell, Bernie!