Actually, he is the people's candidate (as opposed to the corporate candidate all the rest are) but he is the only one who speaks directly and repeatedly to the well being of old people.
Plus, at 73, he is one of us, born the same year I was, 1941. (With Senator Bernie Sanders now in the race, maybe opponents will leave Hillary Clinton alone about her age.)
Given the earthquake in Nepal, ongoing Baltimore events, the Kentucky Derby, a new royal baby and something about a big-deal boxing match (have I missed anything?) last week, most of the mainstream media was too distracted to notice Senator Bernie Sanders' announcement on Thursday that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
He is running as a Democrat for practical reasons of fund-raising rules but he is an Independent in Congress who caucuses with the Democrats and he describes himself as a democratic socialist.
Now don't go getting all in a snit over that word “socialist” because if you a receive a Social Security benefit (or are expecting to) and use Medicare (or expect to) you are participating in socialism.
One of my favorite reporters, Matt Taibbi, interviewed Sanders at great length some years ago and admits, having spent 10 years living and working in Russia, that he had such a negative experience with socialism he “didn't even like to say the word out loud.”
But, as he explained last week in Rolling Stone,
”...Bernie Sanders is not Bukharin or Trotsky. His concept of 'Democratic Socialism' as I've come to understand it over the years is that an elected government should occasionally step in and offer an objection or two toward our progress to undisguised oligarchy.
“Or, as in the case of not giving tax breaks to companies who move factories overseas, our government should at least not finance the disappearance of the middle class.”
Here's Bernie shortly after his announcement:
He doesn't look or sound like a senator let alone president, does he? Rumpled, serious, wonky, lacking quotable zinger lines, he's the antithesis of the polished, poll-tested, rehearsed candidates we've long been trained to expect.
In fact, I saw a pundit-type on television this weekend say that the first thing he would do if he were running Bernie Sanders' campaign is take him to Super Cuts. I doubt Sanders will bother. As Taibbi further explained:
“...Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he's motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can't protect themselves, I've never seen it.
“Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.
Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America's Future, concurred last week in his Huffington Post blog:
“Sanders is not easy, not blow dried and not scripted. But in a populist moment, he is the real deal - a full throated, unabashed, independent, uncorrupted, straight-talking populist. And that is a big deal...
“He campaigns for expanding, not cutting back basic security programs for America. He would lift the cap on Social Security payroll taxes to expand benefits to address the looming retirement crisis.
“He would move to a national health care plan - Medicare for all - that takes on the insurance and drug lobbies and makes health care a right.”
Further, environmentalist Bill McKibben who lives in Sanders' home state, Vermont, tells us in Huffiington Post that the senator
“...isn't really running against Hillary Clinton. He's running against the Koch Brothers, and all that they represent: taken together they're the richest man on earth.
“They've made their money in oil and gas (they're the largest leaseholders in the Alberta tar sands, on the far end of the Keystone Pipeline). They spend their money to break unions, to shut out solar power, to further concentrate America's wealth.
“They'll spend at least $900 million on the next election, and my guess is that if Bernie Sanders catches fire they'll spend far more than that - because he knows he's got their number.
"They know, in their heart of hearts, that there's two of them and hundreds of millions of us, and that's got to be a little scary.”
I can only hope.
As Andrew Prokop at Vox explains, Sanders isn't entirely out of the professional political mainstream which could make him more palatable to center-leaning Democrats who think he is too much a lefty:
”...while Sanders wants a single-payer health care system, a carbon tax, and much more government spending on infrastructure and benefits, he isn't an uber-liberal on everything.
“On social issues like abortion, gun rights, and gay rights, he is squarely within the mainstream of the Democratic Party — not to its left. And while he's suspicious of foreign wars, he voices sympathy with Israel's security concerns and warns of the dangers of ISIS.”
Vox has a good summary of Senator Sanders' views here.
Do I expect Bernie Sanders to be our next president. No. I don't even expect him to be the next Democratic nominee. But he WILL change the conversation which will change some minds and that is crucial to the future of elder (and other important) issues.
Maybe more than we think. There is this about his fundraising from The New York Times:
”The three Republican senators who are running for president — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — all boasted about raising $1 million in their first 24 hours as candidates. But they have nothing on Bernie Sanders.
“The independent senator from Vermont, who announced Thursday that he is running as a Democrat, said Friday that he had raised $1.5 million online in less than a full day as a candidate. The support came from 35,000 donors who contributed an average of $43.”
In the manner of Senator Elizabeth Warren, the least Bernie Sanders' will do with his campaign is force all the other candidates address his issues and I suspect it's going to be great fun to watch.
If you would like to donate to Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign, you can do that here.
You will find the official list of his positions on issues here.