Before another day goes by that might signal the end of Democratic party politics as we know it and are stuck with Jim Carrey, his sister Mariah Carey and baby brother Cashen Carry as our presidential triumvirate of candidates, I’d like to offer my two-cents worth of whatever I might have two-cents worth of. (I can hear the snickering and I think it’s rude.)
The first thing is that the triumvirate idea of governing ended as a dismal failure in Rome some 60 years before the birth of Christ, or so I’ve been told by many reliable sources who might actually have been there. What I’d like to know is how did the Romans know to count backwards? And how did they know when to start?
Anyway, the history of ancient Rome can only be accessed now on Amazon Prime, which many of us refuse to buy into for religious reasons. But the slate itself is what will lead to our chanting “We Want Hillary” as we learn that the Carreys have the political acumen of an escargatoire of garden snails and are from Canada.
I like Bernie Sanders. A lot. And if we should ever colonize Mars, aka the Red Planet, he’s the man to lead the masses to establish an egalitarian utopia with a climate that has neither air nor water. (At least there won’t be any bankers or insurance agents.)
I like Andrew Yang as well, but that’s only because he wants to give me $1,000 a month, which I could really use.
Actually I do like Bernie, who is currently in second place in the polls. He reminds me of me, back when I was 18-to-22 and could fly anywhere in the world on standby for half price but still get the Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes that was served on every flight on every airline, unless you were a vegetarian, in which case you got turkey. Not to wax too nostalgic, but back then cocktails were free and you could smoke.
I was a product of my time and because my political aspirations were pretty much limited to specific acts of arson and promoting the use of the word “liberate” rather than “steal,” I didn’t care about grooming myself for a political future, or, come to think of it, for any future at all. Doris Day explained everything—in song, no less—about my generation to our parents’ greater generation with a simple, “Que será, será,” to which my father would always answer “Là que la gare,” which means “where is the train station?”
Dad either had trouble with French or was delivering a subliminal message that nobody got.
And speaking of girl singers from the 1950s, his answer to Patti Page asking, “How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?” was, “Who cares? I don’t want a dog.”
Bernie, who is currently leading in the polls, did everything he needed to do to bring himself to the verge of the Presidency. Born in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, his family enjoyed the basics that his working-class father could provide—food, clothing, soft vinyl slipcovers for the sofa—but never such luxuries as yoga mats, Venetian blinds or matching prayer shawls. He spent his early life worrying about the fate of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the Jewish Bonnie and Clyde who dealt in state secrets rather than bank notes. (You might have missed the movie version, The Spies Who Left Us, that starred Sir Laurence Olivier and Charo, with Michael J. Pollard as the Lindbergh baby and Soupy Sales as the dour executioner, Smiley; it led Roger Ebert to briefly give up film criticism for a life as an organic farmer in Wisconsin.)
He also worried about inadvertently eating pork somewhere other than in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas, and about his bar mitzvah because he couldn’t find the Hebrew translation for “single-payer healthcare” to use in the ritual address about becoming a man.
“What is a man, I ask you,” the 13-year-old Sanders intoned in that distinctive voice he still uses, his arms flailing at thin air, his glasses slipping down his nose, “if he has to pay for his own college education because the one percent wants him to fail in a free-market economy that isn’t even free-market because it’s run by the ruling oligarchy of Wall Street, banks, insurance companies and Big Pharm?”
The congregation, led by Rabbi Seamus O’Rourke (now, there’s a story), pelted the bar mitzvah boy with the candies that were supposed to be saved until the end of the ceremony to be tossed gently at his feet to wish him a sweet life.
“Faith and begorrah,” said the Rabbi.
“Oy,” answered the congregants.
“Revolution now!” shouted Bernie as the authorities put him in shackles.
Bernie, who is now third in the polls, was a political activist from the beginning. He toiled endlessly to rid interior paints of lead, which ultimately cost his father his job as a paint salesman and led the young Sanders to flee to Chicago in a Flower Power Volkswagen bus decorated by LeRoy Nieman. It was in the Windy City where his far-left-of-right-but-not-too-far-right-of-far-left political activism would help set the stage for many, many things to come. Just ask him.
In 1968 he fled to Vermont, where he became the first Jew to lead over-night wilderness treks. His wilderness business, called Oy! Vich Vay?, failed after reports of Republican hikers falling to their deaths in the Green Mountains. Bernie then threw his yarmulke into the ring of every political office in Vermont that became open—thirty-seven in all—until finally winning the mayor’s office in Burlington with the campaign slogan, “A vote for Bernie is a vote for nobody else.” To this day, pundits have no idea what in the hell that meant but agree that it wasn’t even catchy.
After his stint in Burlington, a town named for a famous coat factory, Bernie, who is currently leading in the polls, continued his political career by keeping his constituents guessing about his political affiliations while insisting his supporters call him Comrade. In the early going he was a Whig. He abruptly switched to the Labour Party during a trip to England. Then he became a Democrat before becoming an Independent who sat in on Democratic caucuses. Briefly, he sponsored the resurgence of the Merry Pranksters.
The people of Vermont then sent Bernie to Washington as a senator. While it was Bernie’s lifelong dream to be a senator, it was actually Vermont’s wanting Bernie, who is frequently described as “pushy,” just to leave the state. At the behest of his spiritual guru, Wavy Gravy, he abruptly changed parties and became a member of the Socialist Labor Party, then the Communist Party, and finally the Modern American Whig party whose mascot is Mr. Magoo and whose active members regularly host pancake breakfasts for homeless lobbyists on Washington’s K Street.
Along the way, he decided that he liked shellfish too much to remain Jewish, so he joined the Unitarian Church whose symbol of faith is a helium-filled Mylar balloon in the shape of a question mark. While most Unitarians would prefer you were a vegan, they really don’t care what you eat as long as you chew with your mouth shut.
Most of us who couldn’t find a barber in the turbulent ‘60s can identify with Bernie, who is currently fourth in the polls. His hair, like ours, has turned white. Most of us own a comb, however. His clothes come from Good Will and don’t fit too well, and his ties have color only because he spills a lot of food on them.
But Bernie is nothing if not sincere. He truly wants the ninety-nine percent to have everything the one-percent has, short of yachts, private jets, Swiss bank accounts and summer homes on Cape Cod, and he’s willing to let us pay for it.
Bernie, who is currently second in the polls, is in an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination against Joe Biden, who has forgotten why he’s running, and Elizabeth Warren, who never forgets to remind us why she’s running. There are several other candidates as well, though most of them are really just grandstanding to secure a Cabinet post and a furnished townhouse in Georgetown.
I really don’t know why, but I just don’t think that Bernie, who is currently leading the polls, has much of a chance.
My money’s on Wavy Gravy. On the other hand, I sure could use that $1,000 every month.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska