Briahna Joy Gray: [00:00:00] Four years ago, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took a break from his legislative duties, stepped out on a congressional lawn, and with little fanfare, announced his candidacy for president.
[00:00:10] Bernie Sanders: [00:00:10] Okay. Thank you all very, very much for being out here today. Let me just make a brief comment, and I’d be happy to take a few questions. We don’t have an endless amount of time. We’ve got to get back.
[00:00:21] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:00:21] His pitch was this. Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. Adjusted for inflation, salaries haven’t increased since the 1960s. The top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. Bernie argued that that type of economics is both immoral and unsustainable. He criticized the ethics of being comfortable with childhood poverty, while the number of millionaires goes up and up. He drew attention to how the Citizens United decision means that millionaires and billionaires can more easily buy and sell elections, making the problem worse.
[00:00:59] The pitch might feel familiar to you, in the best way. Bernie decided to run in 2016 because he felt that the issues, concerns faced by everyday Americans all over this country, weren’t getting a fair hearing. By entering the race, he hoped to bring attention to those issues, but then the unexpected happened.
[00:01:20] Cut to News: [00:01:20] CNN projects that Bernie Sanders will be the winner of the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire. There you see the winner …
[00:01:27] Cut to News: [00:01:27] Now for the stunning results for the Democrats overnight, Bernie Sanders with a big upset victory over Hillary Clinton in Michigan.
[00:01:33] Cut to News: [00:01:33] Nearly 10,000 people coming out in Wisconsin to support presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Look at this. Look at the crowd.
[00:01:38] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:01:38] It became clear that Bernie’s ideas weren’t just influencing the race. They were helping Americans to reimagine the kind of world that was even possible. Now, he’s running again to help make that possibility a reality.
[00:02:03] This is Hear the Bern, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ new podcast, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at how campaigns work, how political movements grow, and what motivates the man who has reintroduced big, transformational ideas into politics. My name is Briahna Gray, national press secretary for Bernie’s 2020 campaign, and I hope you’ll join me as we explore the ideas that are driving this movement.
[00:02:31] On Hear the Bern, we’re not only going to hear from Bernie Sanders. We’re going to talk to all the people who are helping to build this movement behind the scenes, from campaign staffers to surrogates to union leaders, teachers, nurses, and you, everyday Americans. We want this to be a space to talk about the difficult issues that everyday Americans deal with from student debt and social security to immigration and criminal justice issues.
[00:02:57] Coming up, we’ve got an interview with Bernie Sanders in which, among other things, he explains why political half-measures, particularly with respect to healthcare reform, are failing the American people. Ultimately though, this podcast isn’t just about Bernie Sanders. It’s about all of us. That’s why at the end of the podcast, we talk to Claire Sandberg, our organizing director, about the campaign’s efforts to help mobilize and expand the ranks of the one million people who’ve already signed up to volunteer for the Sanders campaign.
[00:03:26] Before I joined the Bernie 2020 campaign, I was a senior politics editor at The Intercept. Before that, I was a lawyer, which means that, unlike most people here at Bernie HQ, this is my first campaign. It’s been fun to talk to folks who were around in 2016 to see what’s changed.
[00:03:43] Kyle Machado: [00:03:43] Then two weeks later, they hit us up and were like, “Hey, you want to work for the campaign?” We all got in a car and drove to Vermont from California.
[00:03:51] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:03:51] You drove to Vermont from California?
[00:03:53] Kyle Machado: [00:03:53] Yeah.
[00:03:53] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:03:53] That was Kyle Machado on our organizing team, who worked on the 2016 campaign as deputy director of the national calling program.
[00:04:01] So you drive to Vermont.
[00:04:03] Kyle Machado: [00:04:03] We drive to Vermont.
[00:04:04] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:04:04] You get to Vermont. What are headquarters like?
[00:04:06] Kyle Machado: [00:04:06] We arrive at this old bank. You sort of enter this foyer, and there’s an elevator. But in front of the elevator facing the door, the first thing you see is a giant bank-vault door, right?
[00:04:23] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:04:23] Wait. Could you go in?
[00:04:23] Kyle Machado: [00:04:23] No, you couldn’t go in. It was almost like a framed bank-vault door, so it was like this-
[00:04:28] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:04:28] Okay, it’s just for the look.
[00:04:29] Kyle Machado: [00:04:29] It’s a different, totally different feel now. We have a beautiful office and real office furniture, nice restroom facilities.
[00:04:41] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:04:41] Key.
[00:04:41] Kyle Machado: [00:04:41] There’s a refrigerator in the office.
[00:04:43] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:04:43] Two refrigerators.
[00:04:45] Kyle Machado: [00:04:45] Two refrigerators in the office, which wasn’t the case before.
[00:04:48] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:04:48] As the campaign’s national press secretary, I sit with other members of the communications team. Belén Sisa, a 25-year-old Arizona DACA recipient, who was brought to the States at age six, is our Latino department press secretary and a veteran of the Bernie 2016 campaign. Bill Neidhardt, our Midwest press secretary, previously worked in Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin’s office. Belén is a bubbly extrovert who’s as down to talk essential oils as she is electoral politics. Bill, age 28, is the taskmaster of the table, constantly shaming me with his ability to get through pages and pages of to-do items, neatly written on graph paper. It’s a fun dynamic.
[00:05:28] Belén Sisa: I feel like we’re ready. We are so much more prepared and excited. We were excited last time, but I think that it’s nostalgia almost of actually being able to complete our mission this time that makes people really excited.
[00:05:45] Bill Neidhardt: [00:05:45] I’ve been on winning campaigns. I’ve been on losing campaigns, too. The attitude, the culture here, the absolute collaboration that you see, just level upon level, is just breathtaking. We’re in this to win.
[00:06:02] Belén Sisa: We actually believe in the mission. I think that’s what’s important. I think that’s what makes the campaign so real, to be honest with you, is that we actually believe in what we’re fighting for. We don’t just do this as a career.
[00:06:18] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:06:18] Belén’s feeling is one that permeates this office, and it’s a feeling common among Sanders supporters throughout the country. Last week, I sat down with Senator Sanders to talk about the campaign, why he’s running, and what makes him unique among a crowded field.
[00:06:34] Hello, Senator Sanders, and thank you so much for joining us for this inaugural episode of Hear the Bern.
[00:06:39] Bernie Sanders: [00:06:39] Good to be with you, Briahna.
[00:06:41] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:06:41] But this isn’t your first time in a recording studio.
[00:06:44]Bernie Sanders: [00:06:44] Probably my two-millionth time, but yeah, ever since I was mayor of Burlington, I thought it was important to communicate directly with the people because I think the corporate media often does not allow us to focus on the most important issues facing the working families in this country. From way back when, I did appreciate the importance of trying to, in one way or another, talk directly with people. That’s obviously what we’re going to do in this campaign as well.
[00:07:11] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:07:11] What is it, do you think, that people don’t know about you? At this point, after having run a campaign in 2016 and gotten a lot more exposure to your political ideas, ideas which, at this point, have become mainstream, what do they still need to know?
[00:07:24] Bernie Sanders: [00:07:24] All my advisors tell me, my millions of advisors tell me that I don’t talk enough about myself, which is probably true. I happen to think that what is most important are the issues that people believe in. You have some really nice, good, honest folks out there who are good fathers, good mothers, good husbands, good wives. But they want to end social security. They want to end Medicare. They want to end Medicaid, and they want to give huge tax breaks to the rich.
[00:07:52] I think what we need to do … Sure, focus on character. That’s who people are. But you also have to focus on what people stand for and what they’re doing, so I think it’s a combination of both. I probably have not been as forthright and open. I’m running for president of the United States, and people want to know, “Who is this guy? Where’d he come from?”
[00:08:10] I think the two distinguishing factors that have shaped who I am as a political person have to do that I was born in a working-class family in Brooklyn, New York. My father came to this country at the age of 17 without a nickel in pocket. I’ll tell you something. A couple of years ago, my brother and I went to Poland to the small, rural town that he was born in, and it really did just shake me to think that a 17-year-old kid, couldn’t speak a word of English who had no money, came from a poor family, came all across this country to start a new life. That is something.
[00:08:44] He never made any money, and we lived in a rent-controlled three-and-a-half-room apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The struggles that my family had with money … not that we were poor, not that we were ever hungry. My father always had a job … just never made any money. My mother’s dream in life was to get out of that apartment and own what was called in Brooklyn a private house. Do you ever hear that expression?
[00:09:04] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:09:04] I haven’t.
[00:09:04] Bernie Sanders: [00:09:04] Private house. All that that meant, when you grow up in Brooklyn in an apartment, some people on the block had a private home. It’s a home. We lived in an apartment, so she wanted that. She died young. She never had that.
[00:09:15] The second part of my life that impacted me was being Jewish and growing up with the understanding that some of my father’s family were killed by Hitler and reading that and never understanding fully why it would be that you would have people who would murder millions of people because of their religion.
[00:09:36] I think those two factors helped develop the politics that I have today.
[00:09:42] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:09:42] You’ve spoken more recently about how your politics emerged, how those influences emerged once you went to college and found yourself exposed to, perhaps, different kinds of prejudice than you had been exposed to previously. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:09:57] Bernie Sanders: [00:09:57] Yeah, that’s right. I went to … So, one year at Brooklyn College, my mother had died. I just wanted to get out of Brooklyn and where I grew up. I wanted to get away, and I ended up at the University of Chicago for my second year of college. University of Chicago was and is a very good school, but I ended up learning more off campus than I did in the classrooms.
[00:10:19] What I was exposed to for the first time in my life was the Civil Rights Movement. I became involved in that in a little way. Exposed to the labor movement, got involved in that in a little way. Exposed to the peace movement, I got involved in that in a little way. Met some great people, just some great people, in the city of Chicago, and spent a whole lot of time down in the basement in the stacks. I don’t know if they use that expression anymore.
[00:10:45] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:10:45] They do.
[00:10:46] Bernie Sanders: [00:10:46] Do they?
[00:10:46] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:10:46] I don’t know how many people go to the stacks, but that’s what they call them.
[00:10:50] Bernie Sanders: [00:10:50] So buried 18 miles down in the University of Chicago Harper Library, where I was reading everything except the books that I was supposed to be reading. Didn’t do particularly well in school, but learned a whole lot about history and sociology and psychology and politics and so forth and so on.
[00:11:04] We got involved in the issue of the university owning segregated housing and fighting that, segregated schools in Chicago. Got arrested in a demonstration there and met some just very, very wonderful people who influenced my life.
[00:11:20] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:11:20] I think a lot of people might be surprised by that, that a northern institution with a relatively liberal reputation would, at that point in American history, still have segregated housing. I think a lot of why there’s some dispute or controversy in this country about why certain groups are still victims of … whether it’s a racial wealth gap or a gender pay gap … is that they perceive events as very historical that are actually in very recent history. Can you talk a little bit more about your realization that the university had segregated housing and what you did?
[00:11:57] Bernie Sanders: [00:11:57] Well, the point that you made is a good point, is that it’s one thing for people to talk a liberal game. The University of Chicago was and is a good academic school, but the truth is that, at that point, they ran indisputably segregated housing. They owned a lot of housing in the area. I remember like it was kind of yesterday. I was involved in a group, which is now long defunct. It was called CORE, Congress of Racial Equality. Are you familiar with that?
[00:12:22] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:12:22] I am.
[00:12:23] Bernie Sanders: [00:12:23] What we did is we sent a black couple in to look at housing. It was, “Oh, I’m sorry. We just have no housing available. Sorry.” An hour later, we sent a white couple in. It’s, “Oh, well, we have three apartments over here. Which one would you like?” We took that evidence to the university. We ended up having a sit-in demonstration, one of the very first in the north. But I think it exposed to me not only the reality of segregated housing, but the hypocrisy of a liberal institution. The hypocrisy exists to today, as you indicated.
[00:12:54] We have a nation with massive amounts of income and wealth inequality, and within that income and wealth inequality, you have incredible disparities between blacks and whites. You have today a wealth gap of 10 to 1 between white families and black families. Infant mortality rates in the black community are atrocious, two and a half times higher than the white community. Black kids are getting out of school much more deeply in debt, if they get out of school at all. Schools are not getting the funding that they need in African-American communities, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:13:23] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:13:23] Yeah. It might surprise you to learn, when I was in law school, actually, we still are sending people to do those same housing tests. We would recruit black students and white students and students of other races to go and pretend to be couples or roommates looking for housing. We still get bad results in Boston.
[00:13:41] Bernie Sanders: [00:13:41] 50 years later.
[00:13:41] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:13:41] Right, right, right. I think what a lot of people are curious about is how your personal history and how your engagement with these kinds of civil rights issues translated into your legislative career and your political career.
[00:13:56] Bernie Sanders: [00:13:56] If you grow up in a family that struggled economically, you kind of know that you’re not the only family in America, then or now, that is in that boat. My criticism of the media … I get very angry at this … is they don’t deal with that reality. You know why Donald Trump was elected president? One of the reasons he was elected president is people turn on the TV, and nobody is talking about the lives of working-class people, black and white and Latino, who are struggling to put food on the table, to pay their rent. You got I don’t know how many millions of people paying 40, 50, 60% of their limited incomes in housing. Who’s talking about that?
[00:14:32] Well, I know a little bit about that. My background shapes what I do politically. I look around this country, and I see … starting with the little kids. You tell me. This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We’re seeing a proliferation of billionaires. Why do we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major county on earth? Do we talk about it? More and more billionaires, and yet you’ve got approximately 20% of the kids in this country living in poverty.
[00:15:02] If you live in poverty, the odds are you’re not going to do well. If you live in poverty, your parents are not going to give you decent childcare, right? We have a dysfunctional childcare system. Our public school system is failing. Not in all communities. In some communities, they’re doing great. But in many communities, often minority communities, inexperienced teachers, underpaid teachers, families that are dysfunctional, kids who are not doing well … Kids can’t go to college because they can’t afford it. You’ve got 40 million people leaving school deeply in debt. Are you one of those?
[00:15:31] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:15:31] I absolutely am. I am. In fact, statistically, black women graduate with more debt than any other group. Part of that has to do with the racial wealth gap and the ability or lack thereof of families to pay people’s loans. I am very lucky to have gone to a great institution, but I compare myself to some of my peers who are buying brownstones in Brooklyn and living a great life.
[00:15:58] Bernie Sanders: [00:15:58] And you are working for me and starvation wages. How grossly unfair.
[00:16:03] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:16:03] I’m doing all right. It’s okay. But yeah, no. It’s a stunning contrast. You asked the question. Why is it that we are so different from so many other similarly wealthy, similarly situated countries? What happened to us along the way to make it so that we’re one of the few, perhaps only country of this status in the world that’s still using employer-based healthcare?
[00:16:24] Bernie Sanders: [00:16:24] We’re the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We’re seeing a proliferation of billionaires. We’re seeing a massive transfer of wealth over the last 40 years from the middle class to the top 1%. Out of all of the major countries on earth, there is one country that does not guarantee healthcare for all people as a right. I live in Burlington, Vermont. 50 miles north of us in Canada … A lot of people still don’t know this. I was up in Toronto last year, went to a hospital. You go into a hospital, and you’re dealing with cancer, you’re dealing with serious heart disease, you have major surgery … Do you know what your bill is when you get out of the hospital?
[00:16:59] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:16:59] Zero.
[00:16:59] Bernie Sanders: [00:16:59] It’s zero. I think they have … They charge you for parking. I talk to the patients, and I talk to the doctors. I’ll never forget this. The patients will say, “Look, I am struggling now, dealing with cancer. I’ve got enough on my mind not to have to worry about how my family is going to pay for this or whether we’re going to go bankrupt, so it’s an incredible relief.” The doctors, what they say is, “I treat all of my patients the same. I don’t have to worry whether they’re insured or whether they’re partially insured.”
[00:17:26] So we are the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee healthcare to all. By the way, just in passing, we end up spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other nation. If I sold you a car for $80,000, and he got a car for $40,000, and his car worked better than yours, something is not quite going right.
[00:17:48] Bottom line here is we are not talking, in my view, about a healthcare debate. We are talking about a political debate. We’re talking about the power of the insurance companies and the drug companies who are making huge profits, whose CEOs … The guy who’s head of United Healthcare, take a wild and crazy guess as to how much he made last year as head of the insurance company. Answer is $83 million. How’s that?
[00:18:11] You got executives in the industry making huge amounts of money. They have unlimited amounts of money to spend on lobbying and campaign contributions. They’re going to lie like crazy about Medicare for All. Why? Because they got a good thing going. They’re making a whole lot of money. So what if 30 million people have no health insurance and even more under-insured? So what if people can’t afford the prescription drugs they desperately need? They got a good system.
[00:18:32] But we’re going to take them on. Very simple proposition. Number one, is healthcare a right, or is it not? Yes, it is for all Americans. Number two, how do you provide healthcare to 320 million people in a cost-effective way? Answer, expanding Medicare, Medicare for every man, woman, and child in this country.
[00:18:52] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:18:52] What do you say then to the proliferation of alternative healthcare improvement ideas, like Medicare for America and some other options that fall short of doing the full single-payer healthcare?
[00:19:03] Bernie Sanders: [00:19:03] Well, it dodges the question of whether healthcare is a right or not. But more importantly, it doesn’t get to the root of why our healthcare system is dysfunctional. If you’ve got a leaky bucket, you can keep pouring water into it and keep it half full. If you have a dysfunctional healthcare system, you can come up with a program that adds more people to healthcare. That’s okay. But you got to get to the root of the problem. What’s the root of the problem? The current healthcare system is not designed to provide healthcare for all.
[00:19:29] It’s designed to make profits and huge compensation packages for the people who run the system, and it is incredibly wasteful. It’s an administrative nightmare. We waste hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars every single year on administering over a thousand private healthcare programs in this country. So, we need a simple system where we put money into doctors and nurses and disease prevention, rather than making the insurance industry richer.
[00:19:55] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:19:55] A lot of what gets kind of lost in this conversation is this extent to which the savings come from cutting out that middleman, cutting out the insurance industry. I think a lot of these compromise plans or plans that don’t go quite as far, they miss out on the $2 trillion worth of savings that was estimated by the right-wing think tank, that they were-
[00:20:15] Bernie Sanders: [00:20:15] We think that that’s… Sure. But the answer is, when you have a system … By the way, let’s repeat this. We are the only nation on earth that allows private insurance companies to profit off of people’s illness. It distorts what healthcare is about.
[00:20:31] Look, healthcare’s complicated stuff. Technology changes every day. New drugs come on the market. The goal has got to be, “How do I provide healthcare to you in the most cost-effective way?” Truly, it means that investing in disease prevention, trying to keep you healthy, right, making sure that you go to a doctor whenever you are sick, rather than ending up in an emergency room or in a hospital, making sure that you can afford prescription drugs … One out of five Americans don’t get the drugs their doctors prescribe.
[00:21:00] But unless you get at the root of why the system is dysfunctional and wasteful … the administrative nightmare. You talk to doctors and nurses. They say, “I spend half my life arguing with insurance companies as to whether or not I can use this prescription drug or this therapy.” If you make a simple system, which gives people, by the way, freedom of choice to the doctor they want to go to or the hospital they want to go to …
[00:21:27] My Republican friends say, “People love their insurance companies.” No one loves their insurance companies. They love their doctors. They love their nurses. They love their hospitals, perhaps. We give people far more choice than they have right now.
[00:21:41] Every year, every year, people lose their insurance because they change their jobs, right? They got to start all over again. What we are doing is guaranteeing healthcare. You lose your job? You want … not only lose your job. How many young people do you know who want to move to a different profession but are afraid to leave their job because they’ll lose their healthcare?
[00:22:02] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:22:02] That was me. That was absolutely me. I was an attorney and a rather unhappy one at that. My transition to journalism was enabled by the fact that I was freelancing on the side, and a job happened to come my way. But if I had not the time to devote that time to writing on the side, who knows what would have happened because I wouldn’t have been willing to take the risk of leaving a job and not having insurance in the interim.
[00:22:23] Bernie Sanders: [00:22:23] Right. A lot of people are staying at jobs where they’re unhappy right now. They’re not starting businesses, doing the work that they love because of that. This is really not a radical idea. I want to just reiterate. When you have a system that is dysfunctional …
[00:22:37] We are seeing a decline in life expectancy in the United States, okay, unlike the rest of the world. We spend twice as much per person. It’s impossible to defend this system, but the argument is that these guys clearly have huge amounts of money, and they’re going to lie and do everything they can. Mark my words, friends. You’re going to see 30-second ads on television telling you that Bernie Sanders is terrible or awful, wants to do horrible things. Understand where that money is coming from.
[00:23:05] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:23:05] What do you say to people who see an intrinsic value to doing things little by little, piecemeal, who see doing a big change, pursuing a big change as somehow politically risky?
[00:23:16] Bernie Sanders: [00:23:16] Look, again, this gets away from healthcare to how we bring about change in this country. It’s nothing new here. If you look at the history of this country and think about what are the real changes, that’s … boy, that’s … Maybe next podcast, we’ll do that one. That’ll be about five-hour podcast. But it has to do with mobilizing people at the grassroots level to fight for justice. You think about workers in this country in the 1920s who worked 60, 70 hours a week, the children working in factories. Finally, people said, “Enough is enough. Workers deserve unions. We’re going to negotiate for decent wages.”
[00:23:50] Civil Rights Movement, the same thing what with the racism and segregation that existed. People stood up and said, “Enough is enough.” Women’s movement, people organized at the grassroots, or the gay rights movement. We are now, I think, at a moment where … It’s not just healthcare. It’s raising the minimum wage to a living wage.
[00:24:09] Well, we’ve had some progress over the last few years. It is making sure that everybody … Think about your life or millions of other people’s life if public colleges, good public colleges, universities were tuition free, all right? We’ve got to deal with this issue of student debt.
[00:24:24] Sitting at the top of this whole thing, perhaps, is the issue of climate change. I mean, if, in fact, the scientists are right … I have no reason to doubt that they are … you’re talking about irreparable harm to this planet. I’ve got seven beautiful grandchildren, and I want them to live in a healthy, inhabitable world, so we have to take bold action, have the guts to take on the fossil fuel industry.
[00:24:44] All of these things are related, and they get back to the fact that we cannot allow a handful of billionaires to control the economic and political life of this country. People are all, “Well, it’s just Bernie’s rhetoric.” It’s not rhetoric. Check out who makes the campaign contributions. Check out why in the United States Senate today under Republican leadership, all these guys can talk about are more tax breaks for the rich, more cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, social security, and so forth and so on.
[00:25:09] We need, and what this campaign is about … It is developing that strong grassroots movement where millions of people ultimately come together, and they say, “You know what? We’re going to create a government and an economy that works for all of us, that works for our children, our grandchildren, and not just make billionaires richer.” It really is not all that much more complicated.
[00:25:30] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:25:30] I think that, in some ways, climate change is the issue that forces people to reject presumptions about how quickly political processes are supposed to happen. I think the recent climate report that gives us 12 years to make substantive changes … To be clear, those 12 years are to ameliorate what’s already kind of a disaster, right? Already, that’s saying, “We had a bucket of harm that could be this large, and we’re shrinking it to half that size by doing it in 12 years.” That’s not to say we got off scot-free, right? It’s an important point to make because the exigency is way higher even than we are arguing for.
[00:26:09] But I’m hopeful that, because people are thinking differently, because the climate change has changed the perspective in their lens, they realize that the same way that the climate is vulnerable, that there are people who have been living lives that are lacking in dignity, that are lacking in freedom and the ability to really self-exercise because they don’t have access to healthcare, because they don’t have the freedom to change their job, because they don’t have the ability to earn a wage that would enable them to afford a one-bedroom apartment. In no state in this country, as you well know, can a person earning the federal minimum wage afford the average price of a one-bedroom apartment.
[00:26:45] Bernie Sanders: [00:26:45] Briahna, I was in San Francisco in the airport and dropped in and talked to some airport workers there. Guys are making $18 an hour, and he was paying over $20,000 a year for rent. California rent is off the charts, but that’s the point, right?
[00:27:01] All that I ask, and what this campaign is about, is everybody take a deep breath and look around you and ask what’s going on in this country. Can we have healthcare as a right like every other country? I think so. Can you raise the minimum wage to a living wage so that nobody who works 40 hours a week lives in poverty? Yeah. Is it a radical idea to say that young people should be able to go to college regardless of their income? This whole thing about making public colleges and universities tuition free … Do you know how much the University of California cost 50, 60 years ago?
[00:27:35] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:27:35] How much?
[00:27:36] Bernie Sanders: [00:27:36] Well, it was free.
[00:27:37] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:27:37] Oh, well, right.
[00:27:38] Bernie Sanders: [00:27:38] That was the answer. Brooklyn College, City College in New York, Brooklyn College … These were great schools. These were not third-rate schools. These were some of the best colleges in America. They were virtually tuition free. Now 50 years later, people are going deeply into debt. Does that make sense?
[00:27:54] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:27:54] It does not.
[00:27:54] Bernie Sanders: [00:27:54] All right. Just think big. These are not radical ideas. You can create an economy that works for everybody. We can do what every other country on earth does. Healthcare is a human right. We have got to, as Briahna just said, address this looming existential, if you like, crisis of climate change. Do we really want to leave a planet to our kids and grandchildren, great-grandchildren, that is going to be uninhabitable?
[00:28:19] But all of these things … I think what makes this campaign a little bit different than others is we understand that to accomplish those goals, which are unto themselves not radical … They’re common sense, really, supported by a majority of the American people … you’re going to have to struggle. You’re going to have to struggle because there are very powerful forces in the fossil fuel industry and the big money interests who really are going to do everything that they can to maintain the status quo.
[00:28:44] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:28:44] Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today in the midst of your busy campaign schedule. I look forward to having a lot more of these conversations over the coming weeks and months.
[00:28:54] Bernie Sanders: [00:28:54] Okay, you got it. Thank you.
[00:28:56] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:28:56] Thank you.
[00:29:03] Before I worked on a political campaign, before I was a journalist, before I was a Sanders supporter, even, I was just a 30-year-old attorney who, like a lot of Americans, felt disaffected by politics. I felt burdened by my law school debt, trapped in a job that didn’t really accord with my interests, talents, or politics. I was confused about what to do next.
[00:29:26] Now that it’s my job to communicate why Sanders is the best choice to the broader public, I’ve been thinking a lot about what drew me personally to the campaign and also what turned me off about business-as-usual, so-called establishment politicians. I realized that perhaps the thing about Bernie that I like best is his choice to make the moral case for action first, the way he points to suffering under the status quo and says clearly and without equivocation, “The status quo isn’t good enough.”
[00:30:00] Now, I’ve heard friends argue that it’s an exercise in privilege to ask more from our politicians. They cite the risk that, by asking for too much, we might lose elections to more conservative politicians who would make things even worse. But what about those who don’t have the privilege of waiting a generation or five for things to get better? A recent NBC Wall Street Journal poll revealed that more Democratic Primary voters preferred a candidate who proposes larger-scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law but could bring major change on these issues, than someone who proposes smaller-scale policies that would bring less change.
[00:30:41] History has shown that campaigns which aim to merely uphold the status quo or do incrementally better often fail to generate sufficient enthusiasm. To me, this poll speaks to the reality that, for millions of Americans, trying to bridge the gap between the status quo and a life with dignity with anything less than bold action is an insult.
[00:31:05] It’s a privilege of sorts to ignore families which have been suffering in poverty or near-poverty for generations, who know all too well that a zip code is a better predictor of life outcomes than merit, gumption, or talent. It’s not enough to kick the can down the road to a generation 50 years from now. We have to respect those living today and do everything we can to help them. In the richest country in the world where 40 million Americans live in poverty, a hundred million live near-poverty, and millions more struggle to make ends meet, all while 85% of post-recession income growth goes to the 1%, to do anything less is unconscionable.
[00:31:50] As Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it when I interviewed her last month, incrementalism is just not good enough.
[00:31:58] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: [00:31:58] It feels like moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude toward life of like … We’ve become so cynical that we view “meh” or “eh” … We view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete, when we think about the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of vision. The meh is worshiped now for what, like for what?
[00:32:43] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:32:43] Given the immediate threat of climate change, the stakes have never been higher.
[00:32:49] Cut to News: [00:32:49] It’s a difference of urgency. For someone who’s seven years old … We just sat here talking about the Clinton impeachment like it was yesterday. At that time, 20 years from now in the future, we will have all coral reefs gone in this country. This is an emergency in this country. It’s an emergency on this planet.
[00:33:06] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:33:06] I support Bernie Sanders because he understands that better than any politician I’ve ever known.
[00:33:14] When I was in law school, one of the things that bothered me most was being told we should always put the moral argument last on exams or legal briefs. First, we were supposed to make arguments based on legal precedent on the logic that previous courts agreed with us. Policy arguments or the ethical, often human-centered reasons that we should want a certain outcome, we were supposed to leave those to the very end. Too many politicians, many of them lawyers themselves, have a similar approach. I think it’s okay to say Americans deserve better. In fact, I think we must say it.
[00:34:04] At the end of each episode, we want to take a moment to connect ideas to practice. This week, I want to draw attention to the huge volunteer effort that the campaign is launching this month. Claire Sandberg is the campaign’s national organizing director, and she dropped by the studio to tell us a little bit more about what’s going on.
[00:34:29] Tell us, Claire, as national organizing director, what do we need to know about?
[00:34:34] Claire Sandberg: [00:34:34] It’s a very exciting moment in the campaign. We have 1.1 million people who said that they’re in. They want to be a part of the political revolution, and they want to carry the torch and take the next step to be involved.
[00:34:48] We are formally kicking things off on Saturday, April 27th, with our organizing kickoff. It’s going to be the moment that we ask volunteers from around the country, wherever they are, to host an event, attend an event, and get started talking to voters, talking to their friends about Bernie and about why he’s the best candidate to defeat Trump.
[00:35:10] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:35:10] What kind of events do people usually have?
[00:35:13] Claire Sandberg: [00:35:13] They have big events, small events. Sometimes, it’s just a few people. Last time around … We actually did this in 2015 as the first big organizing moment of that campaign, so we’re kind of going back to that point and doing it over again. Last time, we had some events that were huge where people would rent out an entire movie theater and have a band play beforehand. Then we also had sometimes small gatherings with just people and their neighbors.
[00:35:40] Kyle Machado: [00:35:40] A barnstorm … It’s not a rally. It’s smaller than a rally, but it’s not a town hall. It’s sort of in between. It’s not like a conversational thing, but it’s like a small rally, like a small, little more personal rally.
[00:35:55] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:35:55] Is the barn required, or is it kind of a linguistic quirk?
[00:35:59] Kyle Machado: [00:35:59] No, the barn is not required, but I think the idea … yeah.
[00:36:02] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:36:02] For listeners wanting to host their own barnstorms.
[00:36:04] Kyle Machado: [00:36:04] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:36:04] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:36:04] If hypothetically I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter who hypothetically lives in a studio apartment in Washington, D.C., I could have people over for a meal and talk to them about the campaign and talk to them about volunteering or donating and things like that?
[00:36:21] Claire Sandberg: [00:36:21] Yeah, absolutely. Anyone can host an event. It’s really easy, and if you’ve never done it before, we will tell you everything that you need to know. If you go to berniesanders.com/host, you can sign up to create an event. Our volunteers will be in touch with you and make sure that you have everything that you need to host a successful event on April 27th. Last time in the campaign, we had 80,000 volunteer events over the course of the campaign. Most of those people had never done something like this before. Wherever you are in the event-hosting process, we can get you going.
[00:36:55] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:36:55] Okay, thank you, Claire. I look forward to it, and I look forward to you coming back to talk to us when things ramp up even further.
[00:37:01] Claire Sandberg: [00:37:01] Yeah, I can’t wait. Thanks so much. [00:37:10] Briahna Joy Gray: [00:37:10] Thanks for listening to this week’s show. We’ll be putting out new episodes every week. In the meantime, let us know what you think. Send us questions, comments, and suggestions at [email protected], and we may share your thoughts in future episodes. Please rate and review us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. It makes a big difference and helps other people to discover the show. As always, you can donate to the campaign or sign up to volunteer at berniesanders.com. Till next week.