By Roger L. Simon
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) addresses a campaign rally at Grant Park Petrillo Music Shell in Chicago, Ill., on March 7, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)
Bernie Sanders has been running for president at one level or another nonstop since somewhere around 2006 or, as the late, great Laker announcer Chick Hearn used to say, “since Hector was a pup.”
That’s virtually all that Bernie does—run. He’s very good at shuttling around the country (often on private planes) to campaign opportunities where he regales crowds on income inequality, the coming climate armageddon, healthcare as a human right, free college, free this, that, and the other plus the greater glories of “democratic” socialism in general.
But does he actually want to be president?
It would seem obvious that he does, but I think he is at best ambivalent.
He certainly has little appetite for going for the throat in the manner of such successful politicians as Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, George W. Bush or, for that matter, Donald J. Trump, although Bernie will wag his finger at anyone who is a billionaire or dares to consort with one.
But back when he was battling Hillary Clinton, he refrained from getting embroiled in her email scandal or other clear Clinton malfeasances, such as the Benghazi affair, controversies that might well have won the election for him (and consequently his beloved ideas).
In fact, despite the urgings of supporters, he faded at the end of the campaign and became a good little puppy for Hillary’s benighted attempt to break the glass ceiling. So much for the proud independent.
Now he is engaged in a competition with Joe Biden—a man mired in obvious corruption with his substance-abusing son in both Ukraine and China and who also seems to have a growing problem with mental competence. And Bernie, for reasons known only to him, mentions none of this. So far he doesn’t even allude to it.
Is this good manners? He would say this is “sticking to the issues,” but that’s not the way revolutionaries normally behave, especially if they really want to make change, to take over and bring socialism. The original Bolsheviks, a very small group, didn’t hesitate to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses. And they won (until they started shooting each other).
Speaking of which, Sanders displayed a notable disinterest in winning by admitting aloud in the midst of the current campaign his admiration for Fidel Castro. Of course, there was plenty of this in Bernie’s past, but he didn’t have to call attention to it now.
Perhaps it was a form of showing off, while at the same time shooting himself unconsciously in the foot.
This also helps explain the curious phenomenon that fewer than predicted of Sanders’ youthful adherents, the Bernie Bros., showed up for the election on Super Tuesday. Perhaps they too, like Sanders himself, are in this as a kind of performance rather than for the reality of governing.
They, and Bernie, want to be right (not politically, argumentatively) and therefore for you—the dreaded bourgeois or, worse, deplorable—to be wrong. This unremitting need to be right is often the first thing psychotherapists point out to clients as one of the roots of their neurosis.
In that case, losing is better than winning. You can be more “right,” maintain your “rightness” if you lose because, well, we’ll never know if your ideas would have worked. We can only dream of what might have been.
Bernie has all but folded the tent by telling Rachel Maddow he would drop out if Biden leads him in delegates before the convention. Does this sound like a fighter? Does this sound like a man who really wants to win?
Freud has written extensively of the death wish. It could be that Bernie has the loser wish, losing so he can come back again to do his thing (speechify) without the messy inconvenience of actually doing the job.
So why not? Bernie in 2024! So what if he’ll be well into his eighties. Don’t be an ageist!
Roger L. Simon is The Epoch Times senior political columnist. A prize-winning author and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, his latest book is “The GOAT.”