Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution

The candidate on challenging Hillary, taking on the one percent, and why he believes his radical campaign will prevail

720x405-GettyImages-474873032__

“Our goal should be a society in which all people have a decent standard of living,” says Sanders. Win McNamee/Getty Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bernie-sanders-political-revolution-20151118#ixzz3u3PBEJaQ

vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – just plain “Bernie” to his backers – is the unlikeliest of political sensations. The self-styled “democratic socialist” has packed arenas and meeting halls from Seattle to L.A. to Atlanta, drawing nearly 400,000 supporters to his rallies. Decrying a “rigged” economy and a political system corrupted by billionaires, Sanders has refused Super PAC politics, instead drawing on 750,000 grassroots donors. On the strength of $30-average checks, he has built a campaign war chest to rival the Hillary Clinton juggernaut.

 

1035x1407-R1249_cover_BernieSanders has already altered the course of the 2016 campaign. His resonance with the Democratic Party’s activist base has forced Clinton to tack left, repeatedly. But don’t mistake this as Sanders’ endgame. “Bernie’s campaign is more than symbolic – it’s real, and it can succeed,” says senior adviser Tad Devine, a veteran of Al Gore’s 2000 bid. The Sanders machine is built to slingshot to an early lead, propelled by grassroots excitement in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then to fight, delegate by delegate, all the way to the convention. And recent polls counter the notion that Sanders is “unelectable.” An October NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey shows Sanders besting Donald Trump by nine points, Marco Rubio by five.

Sanders has a unique ability to drive turnout among “lower-income working whites,” Devine insists. But an October National Student Town Hall at George Mason University – a public school in leafy Fairfax, Virginia – suggests a far broader resonance. Sixteen hundred roaring students pack the volleyball stadium to the rafters. The audience is startlingly diverse: African-American and African immigrant, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, white, preppy, hipster, jock and dreadlocked. Kianoosh Asar, a 22-year-old Iranian immigrant, wears a homemade T-shirt that reads “CAUTION THE POLLS MAY CAUSE SERIOUS BERN.” For Asar, Sanders’ substance is the selling point: “I really care about all the issues,” he says. “And I care about a candidate who talks for my generation.” That Sanders would be 75 on Inauguration Day doesn’t even seem to register.

Rolling Stone spent three days on the campaign trail with Sanders in May.

The town hall is intimate in physical scale, but expansive in virtual reach: simulcast to watch-parties in all 50 states at campuses as unexpected as Mississippi State. Sanders’ stump speech is heavy on facts – about wealth inequality, marijuana arrest rates, young-voter turnout – and short on rhetorical lift. But amid the fierce statistical urgency of his pitch, a moment of raw emotional power emerges. A Sudanese-American student who wears a blue hijab, pinned with a Bernie 2016 button, asks Sanders how he can counter Trump and Ben Carson “bashing Muslims.” Sanders motions the student, Remaz Abdelgader, up to the stage, pulling her into a hug. “Let me be very personal,” he says. “My father’s family died in concentration camps.” The tableau of a bald white Jew from Vermont embracing a young black Muslim woman to denounce America’s “ugly stain of racism” has the audience fighting back tears. After the rally, Abdelgader, an aspiring human rights lawyer, is euphoric, declaring without a trace of irony, “I feel like he’s my Jewish dad.”

Rolling Stone met with Sanders over two afternoons in his Senate offices. His waiting room features a life-size cutout of a black-and-white cow. His personal office is stately, if cluttered. By the window hangs a plaque honoring Eugene V. Debs, the union leader and Socialist politician who ran for president in 1920 while serving time in prison for his opposition to World War I.

Sanders has no pretension to presidential pomp. Tossing off his suit jacket, leaving it rumpled on the couch beside him, he dons a sky-blue Burlington College fleece and kicks rubber-soled shoes up on his coffee table, next to a copy of Robert Reich’s new book, Saving Capitalism. Sanders engages like a college professor in a bull session. As he reaches deep for an idea, his eyes dart back and forth like a metronome behind bifocals. His demeanor is harried; the competing demands of his campaign and Senate schedule would be grueling for a politician half his age. But nothing clouds Sanders’ thinking or dulls his off-kilter wit. At the conclusion of our interview he’s due to meet with representatives of the Syrian opposition forces – who he jokes are “probably gonna break in here and shoot” if we don’t wrap on schedule.

What made you, personally, decide to run for president?
I am the longest-serving Independent in the history of the United States Congress. In 1990, I was the first democratic socialist elected in 40 years. So my path is a very unusual political path. I never believed that I would ever become a mayor, a congressman or a United States senator. And I can assure you from the depth of my heart that when I grew up in a three-and-a-half-room apartment in Brooklyn, New York – a rent-controlled apartment – that no one ever thought, or I ever thought, I would become president of the United States. I am not running to fulfill some long-held ambition. I am running for one simple reason: This country today is facing extraordinary crises in terms of climate change, income and wealth inequality; in terms of a political system which is now corrupt and is leading us toward oligarchy; in terms of the collapse of the American middle class; in terms of more people in jail than any other country on Earth; and in terms of an immigration policy which is clearly completely broken. I just do not believe that establishment politics are going to address these issues.

Does that get to the core of why you believe Democrats should vote for you instead of Hillary Clinton?
In this particular moment in American history, where a small number of extraordinarily wealthy people increasingly control our economic and political life, what Democrats have to determine is which candidate is best prepared to take on and defeat these powerful special interests and revitalize American democracy so that government works for all of us, not just the large campaign contributors.

I say with utmost sincerity: I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I knew her as first lady. We’re not best friends, ya know, but I know her. She is a very impressive woman, very intelligent and has a huge amount of experience. Nobody denies, Hillary Clinton least of all, that she is an establishment candidate. You can’t go around the country touting all the governors and senators and people who support you without acknowledging that you are the candidate of the establishment. Hillary Clinton has a Super PAC, which will raise money from a whole lot of wealthy individuals and corporate interests. That’s just the way it is.

I do not say, “Elect Bernie Sanders for president, I’m going to solve all of these problems.” We need millions of people to stand up and fight back, to demand that government represents all of us, not just the one percent. I’m trying to create a movement. That is what my campaign is about – that is not what Hillary Clinton’s establishment campaign is about.

1035x690-h_14720540

Sanders at a rally in Boston. Charlie Mahoney/The NY Times/Redux Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bernie-sanders-political-revolution-20151118#ixzz3u3Qnxut9

You have called the explosion of wealth and income inequality “the great moral, economic and political issue of our time.” What’s at stake if we don’t fix this?
The Koch brothers and their friends will be spending more money on this campaign than either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party – just one family. That is oligarchy, and that will only get worse.

To address America’s economic imbalance, you’re proposing a platform of democratic socialism – what does that mean to you?
Our goal should be a society in which all people have a decent standard of living, not a society in which a few people have incredible wealth while 47 million live in poverty. What it means to me in English is a national health care program that guarantees health care to all people. It means high-quality public education from preschool through graduate school – and one of the important points of the platform that we’re running on is to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Anybody in this country, regardless of their income, should be able to go get a higher education.

It means dealing with the fact that significant numbers of people in this country are paying a very large proportion of their incomes in housing. It means that if you’re gonna work 40 hours a week, you don’t live in poverty; that we raise the minimum wage to a living wage.

Look, nobody knows the magic formula to happiness. But if you have economic security, your life is a lot better than people who are struggling every single day. And I want to create that type of economic security in America.

You have a plaque of the Socialist political leader Eugene V. Debs on your wall. You have called him “one of the important heroes of American history.” In 1979, you even recorded a documentary of Debs…
And I would probably be doing videos like that today if I hadn’t become mayor of Burlington by 10 votes. I would have done a series, not just on Debs but other radicals that no one in America has heard of – I doubt that 10 percent of the American people know who Debs was, OK? And it’s important that people know what he stood for, and the struggles that were going on in the early part of the 20th century.

In the documentary, you voice the part of Debs – re-enacting his famous speeches. Some of the language is pretty hot by today’s standards. It’s jarring to hear his words in your voice, talking about wage earners as “slaves” oppressed by “some capitalist parasite,” calling on workers to fulfill their “great historic mission” to “overthrow the capitalist system.”
Those were Debs’ [words]. You’re not quoting me as saying those things.

But people can go on the Internet and hear you say those things.
Yeah.

Did that reflect your thinking in 1979, at the dawn of the Reagan era?
No. The essence of what he was talking about [was] trying to create a society where all people had a decent standard of living rather than the types of massive exploitation and inequality which he saw in his time, and which is here today. It looks different: Children are not working in factories and they’re not working in the fields, but you have millions of families today who do not know how they’re gonna feed their kids tonight. That’s a fact. So many of these problems remain, maybe not as severe. But his vision is a vision that I share.

Including an “overthrow of the capitalist system”?
No, no, no. Now you’re being provocative. If you follow my campaign, have you heard me talk about overthrowing the capitalist economic system?

No, I haven’t.
OK. What I do talk about is a political revolution. We had an election last November in which 63 percent of the people didn’t vote; 80 percent of young people didn’t vote. That’s, to me, not a democratic system. So what we have got to do is not only overturn Citizens United, but we have got to move, in my view, to public funding of elections. We have to pass universal legislation that makes everybody in this country who is 18 or older eligible to vote, so we do away with the Republican voter suppression around the country.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bernie-sanders-political-revolution-20151118#ixzz3u3RDyTUu
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook
1035x690-GettyImages-492554210_rt

You’ve had a front-row seat for the gridlock here in D.C. dogging President Obama. What chance do you see of getting your agenda through Congress?
If we win this election, it will have said that the political revolution is moving forward. In other words: I will not get elected unless there is a huge increase in voter turnout. That’s a simple fact. And I will not get elected unless there are a lot of working-class people, who have turned their backs on the political system, now getting engaged in the system. Young people now getting engaged. And I will not get elected unless there is a significant increase in public consciousness.

The Republicans get away with murder. They cast horrendous votes with the full expectation that most Americans don’t know what they’re doing. If I am elected president, the American people will know what [Republicans] are doing. And here’s the good news: The Republican agenda is a very unpopular agenda.

If people really understand what goes on here in Washington, and the power of big money and the power of corporate America and the power of Wall Street, then we will be able to get that agenda through.

How would you keep your supporters involved from the Oval Office?
Look, politicians respond. If the people are asleep and not involved, they respond to the lobbyists and donors. But when people speak up and fight, if you want to survive [as a politician], you have to respond. My job is to activate people to fight for their rights and to force Congress to respond to the needs of working families.

What the president can do is to say to the American people, “OK, if you think that it is important that public colleges and universities are tuition-free, and that that program be paid for based on a tax on Wall Street speculation, well, on March 15th there is going to be a vote in the House, and let’s see if we can bring large numbers of people here to Washington to say hello to members of Congress. Let us make every member of Congress aware that millions of people are involved in this issue. They know how you are going to vote.” Of course we’ll win that.

Sanders, speaking to Rolling Stone in May, discusses why he believes personality is not the most important factor in a campaign.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/see-bernie-sanders-rap-in-dj-steve-porters-bern-it-up-video-remix-20151103 – Watch video here

Bernie Sanders and his supporters are confident that the Senator from Vermont is well qualified to serve as Commander in Chief, but does he have what it takes to be a hip-hop star? Video-remix specialist DJ Steve Porter seems to think so, judging from his latest Rolling Stone exclusive supercut. Porter, who knows a little something about hip-hop – he recently helped us celebrate Eminem’s birthday with his “Shady Birthday” remix – cleverly stitched together snippets of Sanders speeches to create a surprisingly catchy rap track called “Bern It Up.”

Yet despite the style of the song, Porter thinks that Sanders embodies the spirit of a different musical genre altogether: “Bernie is an absolute heavy-metal rock star,” he enthuses, “and his middle-class message deserved an anthem. Hopefully ‘Bern It Up’ is it!” Check it out above.

You’ve had a front-row seat for the gridlock here in D.C. dogging President Obama. What chance do you see of getting your agenda through Congress?
If we win this election, it will have said that the political revolution is moving forward. In other words: I will not get elected unless there is a huge increase in voter turnout. That’s a simple fact. And I will not get elected unless there are a lot of working-class people, who have turned their backs on the political system, now getting engaged in the system. Young people now getting engaged. And I will not get elected unless there is a significant increase in public consciousness.

The Republicans get away with murder. They cast horrendous votes with the full expectation that most Americans don’t know what they’re doing. If I am elected president, the American people will know what [Republicans] are doing. And here’s the good news: The Republican agenda is a very unpopular agenda.

If people really understand what goes on here in Washington, and the power of big money and the power of corporate America and the power of Wall Street, then we will be able to get that agenda through.

How would you keep your supporters involved from the Oval Office?
Look, politicians respond. If the people are asleep and not involved, they respond to the lobbyists and donors. But when people speak up and fight, if you want to survive [as a politician], you have to respond. My job is to activate people to fight for their rights and to force Congress to respond to the needs of working families.

What the president can do is to say to the American people, “OK, if you think that it is important that public colleges and universities are tuition-free, and that that program be paid for based on a tax on Wall Street speculation, well, on March 15th there is going to be a vote in the House, and let’s see if we can bring large numbers of people here to Washington to say hello to members of Congress. Let us make every member of Congress aware that millions of people are involved in this issue. They know how you are going to vote.” Of course we’ll win that.

Sanders, speaking to Rolling Stone in May, discusses why he believes personality is not the most important factor in a campaign.

“FIRST DEMOCRATIC DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS: 2015” —- A Bad Lip Reading of the First Democratic Debate – Madame Clinton fakes being “happy”.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s