Politics

Bernie Sanders Has Found His Grassroots Support Base: The Fake News Audience

Nov. 18, 2014, 3:19 a.m.

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.

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