Book Review: Why Bernie Sanders Matters, By Dennis Moore

Bernie Sanders

*Radical, hippy, revolutionary, self-proclaimed democratic socialist. Hot from the campaign trail, a vivid new biography goes inside Bernie Sanders’ contradictions, his unusual life, and his electrifying quest to make the American dream a reality for all. This unauthorized biography by Harry Jaffe gives us insight into this man running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic candidacy for President of the United States.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders may be the least political person in politics – a brusque, unpolished, Jewish  socialist from Brooklyn with deep-seated convictions and distaste for small talk. Donald Trump mockingly and repeatedly refers to this “Socialist” as a “Communist” in his Republican campaign speeches for president.

Harry Jaffe, Author
Harry Jaffe, Author

Harry Jaffe, the author of this book, is a leading journalist covering Washington, DC – its crime, its heroes and villains. Beyond Washington, Jaffe’s work has been published in Yahoo News, Men’s Health, Harper’s, Esquire, and newspapers from the San Francisco Examiner to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He’s appeared in documentary films and on television and radio across the country and throughout Europe. It is this type of journalistic background that enables us to fully appreciate his latest book about this enigma of a man, Bernie Sanders, in Why Bernie Sanders Matters.

While reporting from inside the campaign, personal relationships with Sanders’ friends and colleagues, and meticulous research, Jaffe offers an engaging, insightful portrait of the ultimate insider candidate, charting Sanders’ course from Brooklyn to Burlington, and now to Des Moines and beyond. Within the untold narrative of Sanders’ origins and political developments – including the Occupy movement, the Great Recession, and the rise of the millennial generation – that have shifted Sanders’ views from fringe to focal point.

Why Bernie Sanders Matters reveals:

  • How Sanders’ parents came to America, Sanders’ troubled relationship with his father, and how Sanders’ brother Larry helped spark his interest in politics
  • His working class roots in Brooklyn, surrounded by neighbors with socialist and communist views
  • How the racial unrest of the late 50s and early 60s fueled his passion for equality
  • The deaths of his parents, and how Sanders managed to support himself through college on his own
  • Sanders’ surprising roots in the “free love” movement – which influenced some of his own idiosyncratic romantic relationships
  • His passionate political awakening in Chicago, working with CORE – a radical offshoot of the NAACP – on racial and economic justice, and why the recent disrupting of a Sanders campaign event by “Black Lives Matter” activists was particularly jarring
  • The fascinating story of how he avoided serving in the Vietnam War
  • Bernie's black appeal
  • His shocking win in the 1980 mayoral election in Burlington VT, against an entrenched political machine that tried to run him out of office
  • Why he briefly – and counter-intuitively – became the darling of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the 90s
  • Exactly what kind of socialist is Sanders?
  • Why the issues of income inequality, the bloated billionaire class, and the need for universal healthcare – which Sanders has been raising since the 1970s – became the driving topics in the 2016 campaign
  • How Sanders has constructed a presidential campaign built to go the distance
  • Madison High School “Wall of Fame” includes Bernie Sanders, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, singer Carole King, New York Senator Charles Schumer, actor Martin Landau, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, baseball great Frank Torre, comedian Chris Rock (although Rock did not graduate)
  • Jaffe describes Sanders as an “unapologetic socialist”, who champions the working class. Jaffe also said that the black vote is not monolithic and that southern African Americans – largely rural, more religious and conservative – are quite different from their northern counterparts, who are urban and prioritize good jobs and making a living. The contention has been that while Clinton runs exceptionally well with African Americans in the southern states, she might not do as well among northern blacks in the Ohio and Illinois primaries. Sanders lost the black vote recently in Mississippi to Hillary Clinton 86% to 14%! However in Illinois, Sanders took 29% of the black vote, though not enough to beat Clinton, who won 52-48%. Similarly he took 30% of the black vote in Ohio, a key factor in his loss to Clinton who got 56% overall.

***Reprinted by permission from Dennis Moore***

Read more of Dennis Moore’s review at East County

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