US economy

President Bernie Sanders

As Adam Jentleson, a former aide to Senator Harry Reid, tweeted yesterday, referring to Sanders’s backers posting snake emojis to refer to Elizabeth Warren:

Bernie’s snake posters are a tiny, unrepresentative fraction of his wonderful supporters. He is ill-served by them because they pollute his powerful message and push people away. This has been an issue for years and he’s never made any real effort to address it. That’s a mistake.

And yet I have also always believed that Sanders has big, admirable strengths. He delivers a clear message with consistency and discipline. That message is more right than it is wrong: America’s economy is unfair to the middle class, working class and poor.

Vox has started a series in which different writers make the case for each top Democratic presidential candidate, and I recommend Matthew Yglesias’s piece on Sanders. Yglesias writes:

The Vermont senator is unique in combining an authentic, values-driven political philosophy with a surprisingly pragmatic, veteran-legislator approach to getting things done. This pairing makes him the enthusiastic favorite of non-Republicans who don’t necessarily love the Democratic Party, without genuinely threatening what’s important to partisan Democrats. If he can pull the party together, it would set him up to be the strongest of the frontrunners to challenge President Donald Trump.

One of the promises of a potential Sanders presidency is that it would offer a true correction to the laissez-faire era that Ronald Reagan began. Bill Clinton took one step away from that era, and Barack Obama took a few more. Sanders wants to go further and, while he would probably fail to accomplish his grandest goals (again, like Medicare for all), he would also move the country in a positive direction. He might even move it to closer to a center-left ideal than a more moderate candidate like Biden would, as I argue on the podcast.

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The case for Warren is similar, by the way, and she too could certainly end up being the nominee. I find her to be more thoughtful and rigorous about policy, but I understand the appeal of Sanders.

For more …

  • Alexander Burns’s recent story in The Times about Sanders’s tenure as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and the related episode of “The Daily” are also helpful for anyone trying to learn more. If Sanders wins the nomination, he is going to need to learn to be less defensive than he was when Michael Barbaro asked about his past support for the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.

A personal aside: I’ve been visiting relatives in and around Burlington for decades, and I still remember my Republican grandparents laughing in the 1980s about an American city electing an avowed socialist as mayor. Sanders has been surprising people for almost four decades.

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