In a Democratic presidential race in which one little-known candidate came on strong, a book about his views should find a market. Jonathan Tasini edited The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America, a volume principally of Sanders’ own writings, speeches, hearing testimony and interviews. Tasini will appear at a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 10, at Sundance Books. Tasini’s website is WorkingLife.org.
How did you get interested in Bernie Sanders?
I’ve known Bernie for probably at least 20-plus years. Most of that time I knew him very superficially. I ran the Writer’s Union for many years, and in that capacity I did a lot of lobbying on labor issues in Washington. And because I was based in the northeast—Bernie’s from Vermont—I would see him. … Of course, he was always a hundred percent behind labor issues. And about two and a half years ago, I then—wearing my writer’s hat—I interviewed him for Playboy magazine. … So at that point I spent many hours with him both in Burlington and in Washington and got to know him quite well and was even more impressed with the authenticity and the deeply principled man that he is. In that interview in Playboy magazine I asked him—there was a portion of it that didn’t run—we had a fairly lengthy conversation about his running for president. I sort of said, you know, this is your time, what you’ve been saying for all these years about banks, about inequality, about the rich. And he at that time said he was 99 percent sure he was not going to run for president. So when he—obviously, I’m now fast-forward—when he jumped into the race, I thought that my contribution to the discussion would be a book that brought his views to as many people as possible.
Given how corporate the Democratic Party has become, is he really swimming upstream?
Well, there’s a tactical, strategic upstream swim, which has to do with putting together a national campaign in 50 states in under five months, which is how long he’s been in. But it’ll be a very short time. That’s kind of a different issue. But not in terms of where a majority of the population, I believe, a majority of Democrats are. You’re right that the elite—like [Democratic National Chair] Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who’s trying to block debates and doesn’t want to have an open discussion—the elites are trying to stop this, if you will, surge and the takeover of the party, because the elites are the lobbyists, the money people, all the people in power who want to continue to have power. And Bernie Sanders and his movement is affecting that. I would think if you just look at the polling … Do you believe that banks should be broken up, that they’re too powerful? We should expand Social Security? That we should not have these terrible trade agreements? Just go down the list. Bernie’s where the majority of the American people are and certainly where the majority of Democrats are. …
You mentioned Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I noticed that Clinton is also using Sen. [Claire] McCaskill, another woman senator, to attack Sanders instead of going after him herself. What do you think of that tactic?
There’s no question that there have been unfortunate attacks on Bernie by a variety of surrogates, and I think that is just the tip of the iceberg. The stronger he gets, the more his support grows in New Hampshire, Iowa and across the country, the more those attacks are going to come. And look at the flip side of that, which is he’s pretty much taken on this and wants to debate the issues. But I’m not surprised that that’s going to be the tactic. It’s a well thought out and time tested tactic of the people who run the party and the elites that you mentioned before. That’s the way they play the game.
A longer version of this interview is posted on our Newsview blog.