The Corner

Elections

Bernie Sanders’ Folk Album, and Other Less-Mentioned Moments in His Long Career

Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., December 19, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Bits and pieces of Bernie Sanders’ history that didn’t quite fit in my piece on the homepage . . .

  • A generation before Donald Trump started complaining about “fake news,” Sanders was talking about “social control and the tube.” In 1979, Sanders wrote: “Like heroin and alcohol, television serves the function of an escapist mechanism which allows people to ‘space out’ and avoid the pain and conflict of their lives and the causes of those problems . . . Television is the major vehicle by which the owners of this society propagate their political points of view (including lies and distortions) through the ‘news.’ . . . There is no question that television has an enormous impact on our society, and that the controllers of that medium have far more power than almost any politician. For those of us who are concerned about living in a democratic and healthy society, it is necessary to address the control of television as a political issue and organize to win.”
  • Sanders recorded a folk album in 1987. No, really.
  • As a congressional candidate in 1990, Sanders casually compared America’s low voter turnout to South Africa’s Apartheid regime: “All of us are dismayed that  in South Africa, for example, black people can’t vote — how many of us know that in this people, poor people don’t vote anymore?”
  • Sanders notes that he had never been inside the U.S. Capitol Building until he was elected to Congress.
  • Once in Congress, called for a 50 percent cut in the defense budget, while saying he was open to supporting funding for the V-22 Osprey because Vergennes, Vt.-based Simmonds Precision Products had a $125 million contract to develop the aircraft’s fuel management system. His chief of staff said in 1991, “Bernie’s position is that some defense contracts will remain” after his massive spending cut was enacted, and that “Vermont should get its share of them. Just because Vermont has a congressman who wants these kinds of cuts, that doesn’t mean Vermont should lose out.”
  • In 2016, Sanders inspired such fanatical loyalty that almost 6 percent of the voters in Vermont wrote him in; among the states that counted write-in votes, Sanders received 111,609 votes — all after formally conceding the nomination to Clinton and not running.

No doubt, during his long career, Bernie Sanders has often made controversial statements and generated plenty of news coverage for a willingness to say things that almost no one else in politics — certainly no one in the political establishment — is willing to say. But hey, it’s not like the American electorate would ever elect a guy like that, right?

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