Bernie Sanders is Unapologetically Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders took to the stage in a CNN town hall in true Bernie Sanders fashion, ready to talk about income inequality with pointer fingers flying in every direction, consistently articulating the same message he has since he ran for senate for Vermont the first time in 1972. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and everyone is worse off because our economy allows this to happen and gives the people who benefit from it the power to make it worse. Bernie Sanders is consistent, he’s been saying the same things for decades, and his first CNN town hall of the 2020 race was no different.
In substance Bernie might not be much different, but he almost seems to be a different politician entirely. Far more comfortable with his ideas and his position within the political world. When Bernie talks about issues from Medicare-for-All to tuition free college, he does so knowing he’s not alone this time. Millions of people turned out in support of his vision in 2016 and over a million have shown willing to do so again. So when Bernie Sanders is pressed on the details of his plans, or what position he supports on any given issue, he responds with more confidence, even going as far as cracking jokes at Wolf Blitzer. Bernie’s always been good on a stage, but this time around he seems a lot more comfortable in the spotlight as well.
Probably because Bernie’s polished, the same Bernie, but slicker somehow. Whether it was the new pinstripe suit or his cooler demeanor when questioned or pushed and prodded, Bernie is ready. Blitzer started the debate with audience questions focusing on some of Bernie’s biggest potential sticking points. Bernie was asked how he intended to represent a racially diverse Democratic party with women ascendent in the party. To which Bernie responded he worked hard to ensure the 2018 freshman class is as diverse as it is today, something he is very proud of. A question about whether or not he tried hard enough to elect Hillary Clinton, to which Bernie responded he traveled to over 40 states and held dozens of rallies for her, rejecting the premise out of hand. Bernie fielded questions about sexual harassment on the campaign trail and his tax returns, both of which he promised he has systems in place to remedy and a plan to release as quickly as possible.
In 2016 Bernie was on message to a fault. When forced to speak on issues outside his comfort zone, he was perceived as unprepared or out of touch. This time Bernie Sanders has ready made responses for most lines of attack, whether it’s issues of a perceived lack of diversity, sexual harassment on the campaign, why Democrats should support him if he doesn’t choose to join the party, or a litany of other potential sticking points for would be voters, it’s clear Bernie has grappled with the issue and is ready to speak on it.
Bernie Sanders Shows Foreign Policy Experience and Shifts Position on Venezuela
Bernie Sanders also showed another reason he stands above many other politicians, he’s willing to change his position when he’s been wrong. When pressed on his lack of strong support for the Trump backed opposition leader in Venezuela, Bernie backtracked on a tweet many felt was out of character given previous foreign policy stances. Specifically, he urged Venezuelan President Maduro to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country, despite there being ample evidence the president is doing just that, minus politicized aid from the United States. It was viewed by many as a retreat from leftist principles from an otherwise steadfast ally.
Bernie changed course and instead called for free and fair elections in the country that needed to be approved by international poll watchers in an attempt to combat the concerns of the Democratic legitimacy of the Maduro regime. This is a better position than the Democratic Party line that seeks to ramp up the conflict in Venezuela and in some instances outright advocates for U.S. presence in the country. Instead Bernie recalls the long history of U.S. regime change, from Vietnam, to Chile, to Iraq, and how in each instance the policy proved disastrous. This position is more in line with the longer trajectory of Bernie’s foreign policy and speaks to the consistency people appreciate about Bernie when it comes to his principled stands on domestic policy.
It’s also more in line with the broader foreign policy vision he outlined, which focuses heavily on cutting military spending to fund domestic programs at home.
Finally in the realm of foreign policy, Bernie also wanted to remind voters that back in 2016 he called climate change one of the biggest foreign policy challenges facing any would be president. Something Bernie is doubling down on today, which partners well with his broader commitment to fighting climate change. Because frankly, truly reversing the trend will take both a Green New Deal and a Green Marshall Plan, so integrating climate change as a part of Bernie’s foreign policy shows it’s something he’s been thinking about and has evolved on. It’s going to take massive effort on the world stage and admitting that is the first step toward pursuing policy goals that actually take the enormity of the problem seriously.
Overall: Bernie is Bernie and People Like Bernie
Whether foreign policy or domestic policy, people like Bernie Sanders. Both his policy positions but the way in which he has personally championed them over the years. In a political world full of wishy-washy all things to all people sort of politicians, driven by focus groups and internal polling, Bernie Sanders has always been a breath of fresh air. To see that consistent authenticity remain as he reaches a new peak in his political career is a promising sign if you think consistency and principled leadership is what it will take to get us out of this mess. And personally I do, so seeing Bernie being Bernie was exactly what I needed after so much time lost in the woods, so to speak.
I don’t think I’m alone in that regard and if the CNN town hall is any indication of what is to come, I for one am glad Bernie is back.