When Robert Stafford, a Rockefeller Republican, first won election to the U.S. Senate from Vermont in 1972, he didn’t have to worry too much about his Democratic challenger. Stafford defeated Democrat Randolph T. Major Jr. by 31 points. Coming in a far, distant, non-factoring third was the Liberty Union Party candidate, a quirky socialist named Bernie Sanders.
After getting just two percent of the vote in the 1972 special election to the senate, Sanders went on to run for governor just a few months later, grabbing only 1 percent of the vote. Sanders would run for office again in 1974, 1976 and nearly every election cycle until now for a grand total of 22 times.
Sanders now, of course, is running second to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in one of the weakest primary fields in recent memory, a field now too small to even assemble a basketball team. Because of the weak field, it allows Sanders to have a larger microphone than he might have otherwise had, and allows him to say things like this:
“Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism,” Sanders said in a nationally televised debate, though hidden by the DNC on a Saturday night. “If we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re gonna 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.”
The PolitiFarce Truth-O-Meter marked this as “mostly false.”
There are plenty of complex factors that can be linked to the rise of ISIS: the blunder of the Iraq War and subsequent troop withdrawal, blowback of U.S. foreign policy, the overall instability of the region. But attributing climate change as the main factor – or any factor, really – borders on foolish to moronic. Having a commander-in-chief that blames radical Islamic terrorism on climate change is a frightening prospect, and while it’s doubtful Sanders will ever be president of anything, it’s important to pay attention to the fact that roughly 30 percent of Democrats hope he will be. And it’s equally important to understand the perspectives Sanders developed that are appealing to those voters.
There is a term comedian and Barack Obama campaign bundler Bill Maher invented called “the bubble.” Maher used it to describe conservatives who watch so much Fox News they become grossly misinformed and have a skewed worldview. They “live in a bubble I can’t even describe to you – facts never get in,” he has said on multiple occasions.
And there is truth to that. There are conservatives who wake up every morning and immediately check Drudge Report, listen to Rush Limbaugh midday, watch Hannity in the evening and drift asleep to Mark Levin’s screeching, ranting voice. You can live in a bubble on the right or the left. And the problem with doing so is not that you necessarily only hear misinformation, but that you become tone-deaf to other perspectives and concerns and end up having your own facts and conclusions.
In Sanders bubble – formed by a worldview of having done little but run for office – climate change is the root of all evil, the Koch brothers are running the world and everything can be free if you imagine it to be. That’s OK for him, and he’s not 100 percent wrong in addressing certain issues. But for anyone thinking of entering the bubble, it’s important to know the value of not being tone-deaf.
If you’re conservative, sometimes its good to join the 15 other people across the country and watch an episode of “All In with Chris Hayes.” If you’re liberal, sometimes it’s good to read Breitbart or National Review or this website, and try to understand how your political opposition reached its conclusion.
People on both the right and the left can be tone-deaf, and too many are. But it was never more clear than Saturday night at the Democratic debate that Sanders’ bubble is pretty tone-deaf to a lot of opposing perspectives and concerns, leading him to reach terrible foreign policy conclusions about climate change creating ISIS and questionable math on entitlements.
It’s easier to realize that when you understand Sanders’ perspective developed from a career in politics, activism on college campuses, honeymooning in the Soviet Union and praising Fidel Castro.
And yet, Sanders’ bubble is bringing many disenfranchised voters in, including a lot of young people and people with allergic reactions to economic textbooks. It’s important to really listen to and understand him to know how and why that’s happening. For conservatives and libertarians, it’s useful to listen to Sanders and try to understand his rhetoric, how he reached his conclusions and formulated his worldview. The right then needs to figure out how to communicate to his budding base that free markets and a free society are more attractive options than “democratic” socialism and statism.
It’s critical for independents to listen, too. It’s good to listen to everybody – Sanders and Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton, Fox News and MSNBC. It’s the only way truly independent voters and thinkers will navigate through partisan talking points to fully grasp competing viewpoints. It’s not subscribing or committing to an ideology, it’s just listening.
But unless you’re a far-left, progressive ideologue who religiously reads Salon.com, believes in campus speech codes and checks under your bed every night for Charles Koch – know that Sanders has likely never listened to you. He’s in his own bubble.