Bernie Sanders: The most delusional campaign in America?

On the road in the most dogged, unrelenting and constant campaign in America

Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd of thousands who attended his A Future to Believe In Baltimore Rally at the Royal Farm Arena in Baltimore, Maryland on April 23, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd of thousands who attended his A Future to Believe In Baltimore Rally at the Royal Farm Arena in Baltimore, Maryland on April 23, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Early last Monday morning in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., Andy Billotti brought his 15-year-old silver Dodge Ram pickup to a halt in the parking lot of an abandoned podiatrist’s office at the corner of Maple and King.

The bearded, blue-collar white man who got out of the truck was the Donald Trump demographic personified: a fourth-generation Italian-American construction worker with four kids, two of them in community college. He was wearing steel-toed boots, carpenter pants, a grey hoodie from a youth baseball team he coaches, and a cap bearing the logo of Dietz & Watson, which is a brand of luncheon meats.

Then the working man patted his pickup and said, approvingly, “Made in the U.S.A.”

But appearances were decidedly deceiving. On the passenger seat of the venerable rig was a carton of Bernie Sanders yard signs. Billotti had come to the vacant doctor’s office—one of the old examining rooms was serving as Sen. Sanders’s campaign headquarters for the panhandle of the Mountain State —to pick up more. Then he was going to motor up and down the hills and knobs and hollows of Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, W.Va., encouraging as many voters as he could to support the socialist senator from distant, but no less vertical, Vermont in the West Virginia primary on Tuesday, May 10.

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“I am the only blue vote in my family,” Billotti said. (For reasons that no one fully understands, the colour blue has come in past decades to represent the Democratic Party. Republicans are red.) “That’s part of my charm,” he smiled.

As the presidential primary calendar convulses toward a mid-June conclusion, with the promise of bitterly contested—and possibly riotous—national conventions looming on both sides, and as spite and personal enmity among the candidates overwhelm their philosophical differences, the campaign of Bernard Sanders for the White House remains remarkable for its choleric consistency. Truth be told, Sen. Sanders has been growling the same speech and defending the same dialectic every day for more than 35 years—and there is no sign he plans to stop. While far behind Hillary Clinton in the race to become the Democratic nominee, Sanders said last week that he is in the race “until the last vote is cast.” His campaign announced this week it raised US$25.8 million in April, compared to a monthly average of US$17 million.

His constancy is part of his charm, the construction worker said in Martinsburg. “That shows me integrity,” Billotti vouched. “That shows me that the man is true to himself, and if he is true to himself, he will be true to the people.”

Billotti has been a Democrat all his life but has never canvassed for anyone before. In this, he shares much with the millions of voters—many of them young, first-time electors—who have coalesced around Sanders and his promises of tuition-free universities and jails full of Wall Street crooks.

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“Me and the wife were discussing our options and we didn’t have much enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton,” Billotti recalled. (That placed them squarely in the mainstream of American public opinion; even most Democrats disapprove of Clinton’s ethics and dispute her “inevitable” suzerainty.) “Then I heard that there was this senator from Vermont who called himself an independent and who was moving over to the Democrats. I watched him announce his candidacy and that’s when I knew I had to do everything I could to support him. Before that, I had no idea who he was.”

Everything that Sanders was espousing seemed to rock Billotti to his core. He had seen true poverty up close in the nation’s cities, he said, when he worked in Washington and elsewhere, digging out subway tunnels so that the suburban elites might glide to their towers downtown. “Bernie says that the system is rigged, and it is,” Billotti stated. “I’ve seen people who didn’t start out with an advantage, and they’re never going to catch up. It’s not equal. The opportunity’s not equal. There is enough in the world for everyone if it is spread out fairly. Why shouldn’t everyone have enough to survive?

“As a species, we should be here for each other,” he went on, “and that’s what Bernie believes, too.”

A correspondent recalled a Sanders rally in New Hampshire last summer, and a woman who stood up and shouted, “This is Denmark stuff! This is Sweden stuff!”

“If we could be like Norway,” echoed Billotti, “even if the taxes were much higher, if it’s across the board, and we see the fairness, and we see the justice for everyone, then I don’t mind, and that’s a strong belief in my heart.

“I have four kids and I don’t want them going to war,” Billotti said. “Bernie won’t send them.”

Then he opened the door of his old Ram 1500 and studied the little white label on the inside of the driver’s-side panel.

“‘Made in Mexico’,” he read. “Well, oh my.”

Sanders stood at a podium in Washington last Sunday and when someone asked him what lessons might endure from his quixotic run for the White House, he snapped, “I’m not into legacy.”

He was, at this event for a small gathering of reporters, all about numbers, and especially incensed about the hundreds of so-called “superdelegates”—senators, congressmen, party panjandrums—who had declared for Clinton even before he, Sanders, threw his hat into the ring. (It was the day after Barack Obama, at the final White House Correspondents Dinner of his presidency, taunted Sanders by jibing, “Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot. And it’s anyone’s guess who she will be.”)

“They are going to have to go into their hearts,” Sanders said, predicting a tumultuous convention in Philadelphia and the mass abnegation by superdelegates of their premature embrace of his opponent. Indeed, the numbers that Sanders used to support his case were convincing: in the state of Washington, for example, the Vermonter had won 72.7 per cent of the popular vote but all 10 of the state’s superdelegates remained pledged to Clinton. It was the same in Colorado and Kansas and New Hampshire, and so on.

What was clear was that every delegate—be he mortal or super—in the dozen states that have to vote will be as vital on the blue side as on the red. So Clinton was motoring up and down the hills and knobs and hollows of Appalachia in what she called her “Scooby van,” and her husband, the 42nd president, was down in Logan County, W. Va., being booed and heckled by unemployed coal miners with cries of “We want jobs!”

“Obviously, we are taking on virtually the entire Democratic establishment,” Sanders said in Washington, D.C. Then he switched gears and, almost smiling, he said, “I hope that my legacy will be that I was a very good president of the United States.”

Late last Sunday afternoon in an uptown park in Washington, D.C., right beside the statue of Joan of Arc that was given by the women of France to the women of the United States in 1922, a bearded, sixtysomething Turkish immigrant who gave his name as Avni pulled his racing bike to a halt.

It was May Day, and some left-wing activists had placed some placards against the base of the effigy of the Maid of Orleans. There were exhortations to boycott Mexican strawberries until the people who pick them are allowed to form a trade union, and posters that said “Honor labor” and others that shouted “Venceremos We Will Win” and displayed that famous image of Che Guevara, who—God does have a sense of humour— shares a birthday with Donald J. Trump.

Avni was the Hillary Clinton demographic personified: over 65, well-educated, urbane. Yet he, too, was an avid supporter of Sanders, and his vote, like millions of West Virginians, Californians, Kentuckians, New Jerseyites, South Dakotans, New Mexicans, Oregonians, and others, has yet to be counted. The Democrats of the District of Columbia will stage their primary, the last of the 2016 cycle, on June 14 (which happens to be Guevara-Trump Day in Havana and Manhattan).

“Bernie Sanders has already won,” Avni was saying. “He has broken the great taboo of this country. ‘Socialism’ was a dirty word, and now it isn’t. Now it is possible to be a socialist and to be mainstream. It doesn’t mean you’re a weird person.”

He predicted that “the current system cannot last long. When you have a technological society based on information, then capitalism doesn’t work. The Internet is the true expression of socialism: information flows from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

“Will you vote for Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination?” a reporter interjected.

“I don’t know,” said Avni. “All I know is that I am very happy now. Bernie Sanders has made me feel that, as a socialist, I belong in this country. After 45 years in America, I finally feel at home.”


Bernie Sanders: The most delusional campaign in America?

  1. Sanders has no chance – and it’s a damn shame that he (most likely) won’t be able to campaign next time around. He’s broken some fantastic ground and I really hope someone else picks up the mantle.

    • I find it so sad that the incredibly immoral positions held by Sanders are becoming increasingly viewed as acceptable.

        • Legalizing theft is moral? You are a very sick person if that is what you believe.

          • Legalizing theft?? Ok, I’ll bite…can you clarify?

          • In response to Eddy V: that’s exactly what his tax policy proposes to do. Take from the so called “1%” and give to the so called “poor”. In truth, his policy extends beyond 1% of the population, but the very idea that because someone has more that the state is somehow entitled to take more of what you have earned is immoral. This isn’t a new concept of course. Exchanging morality for populism has been common practice for a long time, but the graduated tax system is wrong. A flat tax rate is the moral choice and those who feel that they would like to contribute more are free to do so.

  2. Perhaps the most delusional article I have read this election cycle. It says nothing and simply takes the reader down some rabbit hole that only the author seems to understand. We in the South have heard the same old tripe by Republicans and Democrats selling the same message promising us a seat at the table but never coming through because the vast majority us will never be able to afford a spot. The only “capitalists” are those who are making money off of the work of others. Most of us are too busy spending what little we earn to feed our families to save and invest it in betting on how hard people work. People are just getting smart to the idea that this “socialist” boogeyman they keep parading around never existed. It’s simply the idea that government which must exist should exist to protect the people from those with great wealth and great power. Not give those with great wealth and power even more of it. This protection of the least of us is in fact very Christian. Jesus wasn’t throwing the poor out of the temple. He was throwing out the money changers.

  3. I wish I could vote for him from Canada! He’s one of the most inspiring politicians I have ever seen!

    Bernie, if you loose this election, please move 50 miles north to my province of Québec, we’ll create a new political party that you could lead and and we’ll vote for you even if you don’t speak a word of French!


  4. We are luck to have Bernie. Last chance to get your democracy back. Only an idiot doesn’t know that. Win or lose he’s the man. We want real democrates, not the republican flavor of Hilary’s leadership.

    That is leadership when he stands strong even if it is difficult. Hillary will not survive Trump and Beanie has been kind to her and her record. This will not be the case with Trump. When he turns his guns on Hillary, she will crumble into defense and deflection. Bernie has no baggage or it would have surfaced now, because the media is gunning for him to shut him down. I say Fu*k the media and cancel all subscriptions and hasten the demise and release from their greasy fingers around our necks. No one will forgive or forget how Trump was shoved down our throats while Bernie was blacked out. The US is so screwed, by the politicians, the media and corporations. Your so used to it – you don’t see that your house is on fire.

  5. I don’t understand the headline to this story; he has given the political establishment a run for it’s money, and has energized a new generation of youth. If only we had that in Canada to take on the Liberal and Conservative establishment here.

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