Last week while American culture was absorbed by the Kim Davis scandal, you may have missed the most important interview of the political season. Andrea Mitchel of MSNBC interviewed presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. You may disagree with his policies, but this interview reveals why Bernie Sanders is the political leader that we need.
Andrea Mitchel began the interview by framing Sanders in opposition to Hillary Clinton. Mitchel asked if Sanders’ ability to close the gap between himself and Clinton in the polls was “due to the email controversy and the trust factor.” As she continued to bait Sanders into attacking Clinton, he stated,
Let me reiterate, this campaign is not against Hillary Clinton or anybody else. It is for an American people who are sick and tired of seeing the middle class disappear and huge numbers of people living in poverty. And as a candidate, what I am going to do is focus on the real issues facing the American people: Why we are the only major country on earth not providing family and medical leave, the only major country not guaranteeing health care to all people, the need to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour over the next several years.
But Mitchel wasn’t done luring Sanders into attacking his Democratic rival. Instead of asking him about those issues, she immediately referred to a Quinnipiac University Poll that stated the first word that came to mind for voters about Hillary Clinton was “liar.” She asked, “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?” Sanders’ reply symbolizes everything that we need in our next political leader:
I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years and I know her to be a very hard working, intelligent person. Somebody I worked with in the Senate. So I am sorry. I’m not going to get into the media game, Andrea, of making personal attacks against Hillary Clinton … I don’t think that’s what the American people want and I think we have got to focus on the real issues. Why is the middle class disappearing and almost all new income and wealth going to the top one percent? Why don’t we have a trade policy that works for the American worker and not the CEOs of large corporations? Why do we have a system where families cannot afford to send their kids to college? A lot of issues to be talked about. You’ll forgive me, but I’m not going to get into attacking Hillary Clinton personally.
Bernie Sanders is the political leader that we need. On the left and the right, presidential campaigns, interviews, and debates we are served a toxic helping of candidates blaming others for the problems that we face. The political blame game is a classic example of scapegoating. It’s an unfortunate fact that in American politics, the most “successful” politicians is the one who can attack others most effectively. For example, we love the drama of presidential debates, not so much because we want to hear a debate about the issues, but because we want to see who will score more points by making the other look like a fool.
Bernie Sanders is refreshing to me because political campaigns are usually established over and against other politicians. It creates a spirit of hostility within political campaigns that spreads throughout our culture.
There is only one way to stop the spirit of hostility from spreading, and Bernie is showing us the way. It is to remain focused on political policies, not on demonizing our political opponents.
We can disagree with Sanders about his policies, but he’s currently the most important political leader that we have because he’s naming the social disease that infects American culture. That disease is the imitative aspect of scapegoating an enemy. Sanders refuses to play that game and instead is focused on policy.
I hope he’s right. I hope that the American people don’t want politicians who make personal attacks against others. I fear that we are easily seduced by political attacks. But frankly, it doesn’t really matter what the American people want. What we need are political leader who refuses to get sidetracked by personal attacks. We need political leaders who stay focused on the issues. We need political leaders who will model for us how to have debates without demonizing the other side.
In other words, we need political leaders like Bernie Sanders.
Photo: Bernie Sanders Interview with Andrea Mitchel (Screenshot from YouTube)
Stay in the loop! Like the Raven Foundation on Facebook!