Bernie Sanders is still campaigning for the political revolution. He’s protesting with Native Americans against the Dakota Access pipeline, championing the Working Families Party, and hitting the trail for antimonopoly congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout. Sanders continues to draw big crowds and media attention after a presidential run that won more than 13 million votes and injected genuine economic populism into the debate.
But he isn’t satisfied. We sat down with Sanders in mid-September, just as he was putting the finishing touches on a book about his campaign that will be published after the election. The Vermont senator was in rare form, ripping into the media for its role in diminishing the political discourse, calling for the reform of the Democratic Party, and celebrating the fact that a new generation considers democratic socialism a viable political option. Hillary Clinton? They’ve got differences, but he’s for her. Donald Trump? Don’t get him started…
The Nation: Do you have anything you’d like to say up front?
Bernie Sanders: Very truthfully, I ended the campaign much more optimistic about the future of this country than when I began it. We met so many fantastic people who are prepared to think outside of the box; who understand that the establishment imposes limitations on what we think we can or cannot accomplish, and that we can do far, far more.
The Nation: When we sat here, more than two years ago, you were preparing to run for president. But you also said, “I’ve got to go out and talk to people for about a year and figure out whether they’re ready.” When you announced, had you determined that people really were ready? Or did you still worry that you were taking a big risk, at a point when you were polling at 3 percent?
Sanders: The first concern that I had, on a personal as well as political level, was that I did not want to run a campaign that would be counterproductive to the progressive vision that so many people in this country share, including readers of The Nation. If I ran a bad campaign—if I came out for Medicare for all and free tuition to public colleges and universities and progressive taxation, and then two months later I withdrew because the campaign wasn’t going anyplace—then what would the establishment say? “Bernie Sanders came up with all these progressive ideas, nobody listened to him, that’s not what America is about. These ideas are not the ideas of the United States.”
A failed campaign would reflect very badly on the vision that many of us share. That’s why I was motivated and determined to run a serious and strong campaign.