Roger L. Simon

Democratic Debate Recap: Uncle Bernie, the Mini-Schnauzer

When one of the moderators asked Bernie Sanders in Thursday night’s debate whether he felt any qualms about disrupting the election of America’s First Woman President, the Vermont senator avoided the most obvious response:  he would be the first Jewish president.

Of course, that’s nothing anyone wants to hear — particularly in Bernie’s world.  Although the likes of, say, Benjamin Netanyahu would likely obliterate both Sanders and Clinton in a debate, the likelihood of Bibi being the nominee of today’s Democratic Party is equivalent to that of, well, Donald Trump.  In fact, Trump might have a better chance with the Democrats than Netanyahu.

Needless to say, however, Sanders is no Netanyahu Jew.  He’s the opposite kind — everybody’s Uncle Bernie from Brooklyn, the kind who would regale you ad infinitum  with tales of the IWW and the philosophy of  “revolutionary industrial unionism” circa 1917 until your head fell in exhaustion on the dining room table.  Actually, Bernie himself, being 74, is stuck more closely (and permanently) in 1962, the year the Students for a Democratic Society published the Port Huron Statement, Tom Hayden’s manifesto resurrecting socialism as something “democratic” after the embarrassment of Stalin. How’s that looking?

But that is the secret of Bernie’s success, both in the debates and in the election, to the extent he has and will have it.  Bernie Sanders, unlike much of the human race, never finds himself in a position of doubting a word he is saying.  He has never questioned himself, not even once, since he was twenty and probably younger.  He has what my wife Sheryl calls an “animal brain,” likening him to our dog Henry who never, ever varies from his DNA-dictated assignment as a “guardian of the barn.”  That, according to canine manuals, is what mini-schnauzers were bred to do.  And I can assure you, they continue in their mission in modern day Los Angeles where there hasn’t been a barn in sight for decades.

That is Bernie to a T.  He’s singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” to a new generation that has never heard it before.  For now, many are enthralled. We will see how long it lasts.

But also for now it has Hillary flummoxed. At least half her brain consumed by dread of the FBI investigation, she has to negotiate between attacking Bernie because, obviously, his numbers can’t possibly add up and assuring her audience that she too hates Wall Street, the banks, hedge funds, CEOs, Republicans, Donald Trump, racists, sexists (not Madeleine Albright), etc., etc.  Not an easy task, especially if you have a one hundred million dollar foundation yourself and give speeches for 500K a pop.  This gave Thursday’s debate slightly comic overtones, if you looked at it in a certain way, but it also made the discussion completely divorced from reality.  Everything was “as if” — Bernie talking as if he were haranguing the crowds at Berkeley’s Sproul Hall during the Free Speech Movement and Hillary trying to play catch-up until the questions turned to foreign policy.  Then Bernie had this annoyed expression as if to say: ISIS-shimisis — why are you asking about something so stupid and far away when America doesn’t have single-payer health insurance like the rest of the modern world?

Speaking of which, the discussion of healthcare has been asinine from both parties throughout the campaign.  No one dares, particularly in an election year, to state the obvious: there is no perfect healthcare solution, even remotely. A free market approach might be better on margin because costs might lower and more qualified people might go into medicine, but only by so much and people will always be standing in line for services.  They will be standing in line under socialized medicine too, probably more so. Just ask people in Canada seeking treatment for cancer.  But don’t tell Tom Hayden — or Bernie Sanders.