In a Politico piece today ominously headlined “What We Found in the Archives of Bernie Sanders’s Long-Lost TV show,” the website examined—and digitized, for the first time—episodes of “Bernie Speaks with the Community,” a cable-access show Sanders made between 1986 and 1988, back when he was mayor of Burlington, VT.
What they found was a chill as hell dad (he remains dad, to me, but he was 45 at the time) who was already talking about a national healthcare system and income inequality, along with the political news of the moment, like speaking against U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. The videos also contain the same stuff that makes people like Bernie, like him interviewing punks at the local mall with a straight but accepting face, and talking sternly but kindly to very small children about drugs.
Let’s start with that segment about punks (they appear about 15 mins in):
Sanders starts out with the obvious: “It’s an interesting hairdo,” the future senator tells a woman named Michelle, who’s wearing all black, dark makeup, and has spiky hair. “So let me ask you the obvious question, all right? What does your dress mean? What does it say?”
She replies: “It’s just basically saying to heck with society, to heck with law and order.”
Sanders jokingly replies: “You’re saying to heck with law and order to the mayor?” Charming as hell!!
My other personal favorite is the then-socialist mayor, who won his first mayoral race by a 10-vote margin, chatting with small kids about drugs. Even though it was the height of Nancy Reagan’s useless “Just Say No” initiative, Sanders handles the issue lightly but respectfully:
The segment, which covers everything from the importance of literacy to a local construction project to whatever these kids are doing in day camp, also contains this incredible portion:
“Do any of the older kids you know have some problems with drugs?” Sanders starts out asking. “Who wants to talk to me about that? What about drugs? Is that a problem?”
A young boy exclaims: “I like coke!”
The unflappable mayor asks for clarification, to which the boy says: “I like Coca-Cola!”
He continues, per Politico:
“Oh, Coca-Cola. Alright, but who knows about cocaine?” Sanders asks. “Anyone ever seen cocaine?” Do any of the kids know people who use drugs like that? “You don’t have to tell me who,” he says, “but I bet you do.”
After a few children tell him they’ve maybe gotten a look at cocaine, Sanders warns them, abruptly, “Hold it!” before adding in a warmer tone that it “screws up your mind.” They nod along. Sanders changes the subject to cigarettes. “Who here smokes?” he asks. “Come on, raise your hand.” A child, sitting in an adult’s lap, responds: “I don’t smoke because I’m a little kid. I’m only 5 years old.” At another point, a kid asks Sanders, “Did you know you look like somebody on Back to the Future?’”
Absolutely incredible stuff. Bring back this show—and let the party leadership mess this up—and Bernie wins three terms in a landslide.