|Bernie Sanders Has a Secret |
Vermont, his son and the hungry early years that made him the surging socialist he is today.
By MICHAEL KRUSE
July 09, 2015
Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer for Politico.
One morning last month in Burlington, Vermont, at the law office of John Franco, one of Bernie Sanders’ best friends since the 1970s, Franco talked to me at length about Sanders’ commitment and his consistency and his charisma. Even at the beginning of Sanders’ career, he said, four decades before he started packing arenas in college towns and liberal havens as a renegade 73-year-old, self-described socialist taking on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment, “People didn’t want him to stop talking.” He talked about how Sanders “completely changed the political culture” in Vermont. He talked about how Sanders’ surprising current surge in national polls is “validation.”
“I’m proud of Bernard,” he said.
All of that was interesting. But I wanted to know not just about what Sanders has done. I wanted to know more about who he has been. So I asked what I thought was an innocuous question about Sanders’ son. How did Sanders juggle aspirations as an eager political activist with his role as a divorced young father?
“That’s out of bounds,” Franco said.
Out of bounds?
“It’s none of your f—-ing business,” he said. He smiled, but he wasn’t joking.
It’s always been that way with Sanders. The issues. The issues. Stick to the issues. The rich are too rich. Those with power have too much. The middle class is withering. Inequality is a crisis, and the system is rigged. With Sanders, what you see is what you get, insist the people who know him best — and that’s almost all you get.
But if his positions are well known, the person, it turns out, is less known. Before Sanders was a U.S. senator, before he was a congressman, before he was mayor of Burlington — before he won one shocking election, then 13 more — he was a radical and an agitator in the ferment of 1960s and '70s Vermont, a tireless campaigner and champion of laborers who didn’t collect his first steady paycheck until he was an elected official pushing 40 years old.
continues at politico.com