Thank You Vermont!

by | Jan 21, 2007

“To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same.” -Patterson Hood

Last night, while considering the meaning of Drive-By Truckers’ song, “The Southern Thing,” I was struck by a self-evident but often overlooked fact of American history–that only rich Southerns held slaves. America is now, and has always been a culture defined by class distinctions.

This morning, while reading “The Socialist Senator,” a piece on Bernie Sanders in The New York Times Magazine, I was struck by the noble path this uncommon common man has chosen. It’s not easy to buck societal, nor political norms and win. But win he has, ever since 1980 when the people of Burlington first made him mayor.

Mark Liebovich, the Times writer on the story looks at the reasons behind the new Senator’s success. They are more personal, than political, which works well in a state of 620,000.

Sanders has made himself known in a state small enough — physically and in terms of population — for someone, particularly a tireless someone, to insinuate himself into neighborly dialogues and build a following that skirts ideological pigeonholes. Indeed, there are no shortages of war veterans or struggling farmers in Vermont who would seemingly have no use for a humorless aging hippie peacenik Socialist from Brooklyn, except that Sanders has dealt with many of them personally, and it’s a good bet his office has helped them procure some government benefit.

On what drives the man to espouse Socialist values:

Sanders’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland. His father, Eli, a struggling paint salesman who saw his family wiped out in the Holocaust, worried constantly about supporting his wife and two sons. His mother, Dorothy, dreamed of living in a “private home,” but they never made it beyond their three-and-a-half-room apartment on East 26th and Kings Highway. She died at age 46, when Bernie was 19. “Sensitivity to class was imbedded in me then quite deeply,” Sanders told me.

According to the article, Sanders has a poster of Eugene Debs on his office wall. It’s a telltale sign. Debs was a founder of The Industrial Workers of the World, a.k.a. The Wobblies.

Socialism isn’t some freak show in American politics. Rather it’s one of the most important voices for labor the nation has ever seen. Given the present day corporate takeover the White House, the courts and Congress, I’d say Sanders is exactly what the doctor ordered.