Lost in all the focus on Virginia, Tennessee, and all the other hotly contested Senate races is the fact that Vermont is about to elect the first Socialist ever to the United States Senate. The Washington Post has a heartwarming profile of Bernie Sanders. It’s got some nice grafs.
The 65-year-old known to voters simply as “Bernie” is Vermont’s lone congressman, a six-term independent with a photo of Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party presidential candidate in 1912, on his congressional wall. He’s perhaps the most popular pol in the state and there’s nothing northern New England about him. Sanders was born in Brooklyn, raised by Jewish parents from Poland. His father’s family perished in the Holocaust. He chews on each syllable in an accent as Flatbush-inflected as the day he wandered north four decades ago.
“Look,” Sanders says, “you can’t be afraid of the people [pronounced: pee-PULL]. A lot of progressives sit around their homes and worry about being labeled or how to talk to people. I go out, I knock on doors, and I talk about economic justice and the oligarchy and what’s fair, and more people than you might guess listen to me.
“I find that absolutely encouraging.”
Call him a red, he calls you a red-baiter. Tell him to pipe down and he pipes up. Accuse him, as Tarrant does, of wanting to soak the rich and he’ll detail how the Republicans cut taxes for the rich and multinational corporations for two decades even as median family income declined. “The major untold story of our time,” he calls it.
He has never run a negative TV commercial. But verbal fisticuffs? That ‘s democracy.
“If I kick you in the [crotch] and you push me back, a reporter would write, ‘Gee, there’s tension in the room and both sides are pushing,’ ” he explains. “The Republicans lie a lot and the corporate media is very weak and completely biased and has a hard time calling someone a liar.”
You nose up the rutted dirt roads north of Lyndonville and brake by a log cabin with three cords of fresh-split wood under the porch. Two political signs are in the grass — for Jim Douglas, the Republican governor, and for “Bernie,” the socialist.
Frankie Paquette, 63, asks you to sit in his kitchen while his wife, Millie, knits. He’s a wiry millworker whose mill moved south of the border three years ago. He subsists on odd jobs and no health insurance, hoping to limp to 65 and Medicare. He’s talked with Sanders twice and the congressman’s office helped him obtain college loans for his sons.
“Bernie’s got really crazy ideas,” Paquette says. “But he’s for the little guy who ain’t got three dollars for gasoline in February. That’s me and I’m for him.”
He’ll only be one of a hundred. But it’ll be refreshing to see an unapolgetic unreconstructed leftist giving long-winded speeches in the Senate. We may be, hopefully, celebrating other more significant things on Tuesday, but we shouldn’t overlook our new Senator from Vermont.