By Paul Harris (Guardian UK) | Reader Supported News
22 October 11
Vermont senator, for years a political exile, insists his left-wing beliefs chime with Americans far more than people think.
Bernie Sanders | Image via Wikipedia
Bernie Sanders sits in his Senate office and reflects on another unexpected twist in his already unusual political life. As the only self-proclaimed socialist to sit in the US Congress, Sanders is long used to surviving in the political wilderness. But Sanders is now having to get used to a different environment altogether: the mainstream.
His constant slamming of Wall Street, his critiques of big business and the excesses of money in politics, as well as his call for a defence of American jobs, have become hot issues in US politics. The senator from Vermont is now a regular on American TV screens and rapidly becoming a fixture of US politics and a hero to many on the left.
The white-haired and irascible Sanders, 70, who is famed for his blunt outspokenness, almost became bashful at the thought that his exile from the mainstream appears to be ending.
“It’s, you know, nice to know that positions you have been advocating for years are now getting out to Main Street, and that millions of people are beginning to say: enough is enough,” he told the Guardian.
Is this, at last, his political moment? “Yeah, it is,” he said, and then he details why, in a typically long, passionate, Sanders-style explosion of stream-of-consciousness explanation.
“If you were to speak to any audience in America and you say: there’s something wrong with our system when the crooks on Wall Street, through their recklessness and criminal behaviour, are able to cause a recession, which has resulted in so much suffering to people, and then they get bailed out by the American people and then three years later end up making more money than they ever have before: people go nuts!”
He pauses for breath to think about the situation. “The short answer to your question is: ‘Yes’,” he says.
Sanders is unique in American politics. In a country dominated by a two-party system, he is the lone independent in the Senate. In a political landscape where “socialist” is essentially a curse word, he has carved out a successful political career, with a solid base of support in his home state. Tall, with a shock of white hair and a slightly dishevelled appearance even when wearing a smart suit, he speaks with the thick Brooklyn accent of his working-class childhood, even while inhabiting the rarefied atmosphere of the Senate.
Sanders also pounds out the same message every day: the middle class is being destroyed, the government needs to create jobs, the banks are corrupt and big money has bought both political parties and made a mockery of American democracy. His Twitter feed features a constant repetition of economic facts. A few samples from recent days:
“Corporate tax revenue in 2010 was 27% lower than 2000, even though corporate profits are up 60% over the last decade.”