What is it about worn-out socialist “worker paradises” like the old Soviet Union and Cuba that bring out the romantic in American radical politicians?
After Vermont senator Bernie Sanders announced his run for president, Britain’s Guardian newspaper pawed through old archives in his home town of Burlington, Vermont where he served as mayor in the 1980s. They discovered that Sanders really did practice the socialist solidarity he preached about rhetorically.
During Bernie’s mayoral tenure, Burlington formed an alliance with the Soviet city of Yaroslavl, 160 miles northeast of Moscow. When in 1988 he married his wife, Jane, the mayor decided it would be a perfect place for his honeymoon. In a tape of his interview with Yaroslavl’s mayor, Alexander Riabkov, Sanders acknowledges that housing and health care appear to be “significantly better” in the U.S. than in the socialist paradise. “However,” he added, “the cost of both services is much, much, higher in the United States.”
Sanders made further globe-trotting expeditions to socialist countries. He visited Cuba, scoring a meeting with Havana’s mayor. In 1985 he attended the celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. “In a letter addressed to the people of Nicaragua, penned in conjunction with that trip, Sanders denounced the activities of the Reagan administration, which he said was under the influence of large corporations,” the Guardian notes. “In the long run, I am certain that you will win,” Sanders wrote, “and that your heroic revolution against the Somoza dictatorship will be maintained and strengthened.” (The Sandinistas were ousted by Nicaragua’s voters in 1990).
Sanders isn’t the only radical U.S. politician to have a weakness for Communist dictatorships. In 2013, Bill de Blasio was caught off guard during his campaign for New York mayor when a Cuban-American radio host challenged him about Castro’s regime.
Ino Gómez, who fled Cuba in 1970, asked de Blasio in an interview about what he was thinking when he chose to violate U.S. law and spend his honeymoon in Cuba in 1991.
“What did you see in Cuba? What is your impression going on a honeymoon in a country that hasn’t had free elections in the last 50 years? What did you get from that trip?” Gómez asked.
A defensive de Blasio sputtered: “I didn’t go on a trip to study the country. I don’t pretend to have full perspective of the country.” He then acknowledged Cuba is undemocratic but praised “some good things that happened — for example, in health care.”
Gomez was having none of it. “I just had to send my aunt in Cuba some, you know, the thread to have stitches, because they don’t have in Cuba the thread,” he told the future mayor of Gotham.
De Blasio chose not to reply and the host moved on to other topics, giving him a pass on his 1988 trip to Nicaragua in support of the Sandinistas.
Bernie Sanders is now running only ten points behind Hillary Clinton among New Hampshire Democrats. No one believes he will beat her for the Democratic nomination, but here’s hoping his growing strength encourages reporters to quiz him about his Soviet honeymoon and other loony-Left trips to countries that were sworn enemies of the U.S.