Dear Friends, here’s a short field guide to Bernie Sanders:
- When he says the same five things over and over again and you find yourself wishing he’d show some complexity for once, here’s the thing: he’s not talking to you and me. He’s trying to punch through a hostile/indifferent media to reach folks who’ve never heard much of this before, in ways they can understand and get behind. And as you may have noticed, it works.
- His talking points are very carefully crafted. Like the thing about Denmark: it has a highly flexible economy because the strong social safety net is used to make it easy to fire employees. That’s why he doesn’t point to, say, France, whose welfare state makes for a much more rigid economy. His is a very 21st century vision of social democracy.
- He’s fully aware that a single payer healthcare system isn’t going to pass any time soon. But it might be possible to, say, gradually lower the eligibility age for medicare until it covers everybody, over a decade or so. And given that it’s now looking like both Houses might be in play, that could turn out to be a fairly modest goal. So why doesn’t he explain that on the stump? See #1 above.
- The reason he harps so much on economic inequality is in part because he has long believed that if you’re going to make progress on other issues — foreign policy, racial equality, etc. — you’re going to need most folks behind you, and to get them there, you need to deliver things that are immediately relevant to the majority, ergo income inequality, health care, and access to higher ed.