I become interested on Bernie Sanders after the first presidential democratic debate and since I didn’t know much about him, I bought this book to learn a few things about his political background and views.
Verso, first published this book in 1997. Outsider in the White House is, in a way, Sanders’ political autobiography. It gives an overview to who Bernie Sanders is, discusses the state of the American progressive politics and tells the story of the then – congressman’s successful 1996 re-election campaign. The updated (2015) edition also includes an afterword by John Nichols.
Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history and a self-described “Democratic Socialist.” He is an unconventional politician. Despite breaking almost all the rules, in the 2012 elections, “the senator took 71 percent of the vote versus just 25 percent for his closest rival, Republican John MacGovern, a businessman and four-term Massachusetts state legislator who promised to replace “the only admitted socialist in the US Senate.” Sanders won among women and men, across income and education categories, and in every region in Vermont —even carrying the corners of the state that backed Romney.”
What is the secret of his success?
“Bernie Sanders had not run attack ads. In fact, he hadn’t run any TV commercials”, says Nichols.
“From the beginning of his congressional tenure, Sanders held single-issue town hall meetings in some of the smallest communities in the state, where he brought in experts on international affairs, military spending and national priorities, poverty, children’s health, pay equity for women, education and veteran’s affairs for discussions that often run deep into the evening.”
“…… The crowds were always big, often packing the halls. People were invited to probe, to challenge, to complain, to disagree with the experts and with Sanders – and they often did, pressing him from the right and the left. But people also got something else – alternative views on how a fair economy and a civil society might be organised to favour their interests. Their long-term, intensive education process really is the closest thing to the “secret” of Sanders’s success. Vermonters came over time to associate their congressmen, and now their senator, with serious discussions about complicated issues. They recognised where he was coming from- and that allowed Sanders to go places where most politicians fear to tread.”
As he prepared to seek the presidency in 2016, Sanders made the decision to run as a Democrat, arguing that barriers to an independent or third-party run were simply too great. The focus of his presidential campaign is income inequality. He wants the US to adopt a single-payer healthcare system.
“The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system”, he said recently.
Quite correctly, he links climate change to national security. During the presidential debate last November he said that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. …. if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you’re going to see countries all over the world — this is what the CIA says — they’re going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict.”
I do not agree on everything he says, but I admire his tenacity and I appreciate his ability to build coalitions. He is a principled man. He has a 50-year history of standing up for civil and minority rights.
Reading the book, I couldn’t help but notice Sanders’ similarities with Jeremy Corbyn. Both have formed progressive beliefs as young men, and then spent their lives making a case for them. Their views on inequality, low wages, giant corporations, military overspending, to name a few, are remarkably similar. Bernie Sanders is considered a long shot, an outsider to the presidential race. But sometimes the outsiders win.