Being an independent in Washington’s tight-knit two-party system can be isolating. But Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and self-described socialist, has found his people.
On Comedy Central’s Colbert Report late Monday night, Sanders drew loud cheers and applause for his talking points on universal health care and income equality, and for taking on “the billionaire class.”
“Hopefully, hopefully, we frighten the billionaire class,” Sanders said, to whoops from the audience. “Hopefully, we frighten the insurance companies, because we are the only major country on earth that doesn’t have a health care system guaranteeing health care to all people.”
Despite the Democrats’ massive loss in the midterm elections, Stephen Colbert, the show’s host, pointed out that there’s a silver lining for Sanders, who looked more jovial and at ease than he usually does on news shows. “Socialists actually did better,” Colbert said. “You guys didn’t lose any seats.” But wasn’t the Republican sweep a rejection of “liberal philosophy”?
“I will tell you, Stephen, what I think really happened is about 64 percent of the American people rejected the two-party system,” Sanders said. “They rejected Washington as it now functions. They rejected a political system and a Congress which spends more time representing the wealthy and the powerful than ordinary Americans.”
In a typically Colbert way, the host asked Sanders, who has been openly eyeing a presidential bid for months, whether he wanted to declare his candidacy on his show. Sanders demurred, telling Colbert he was “thinking about” joining the race.
Colbert pressed him. “Sir, you have a campaign manager,” he said. “Is he doing nothing? Is that just socialist handouts?”
Sanders didn’t take the bait, but he basked in the audience’s adoration. “We haven’t put anybody on the campaign staff yet,” he told Colbert. An outspoken proponent of campaign finance reform, Sanders said he needed to evaluate whether he had the grassroots resources to mount a real bid. Sanders recently brought Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic consultant, on board, who told National Journal last week that if Sanders ran, he’d go for the win.
“When you’re running against people who have unlimited sums of money,” Sanders told Colbert, “the question is how you raise the $20 and $40 contributions, the money you need to run a serious campaign.”
If the chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” from the studio audience are any indication, Sanders will have no problem building a grassroots effort—as long as he campaigns on Comedy Central’s late-night block.