The year was 1972. Bernie Sanders was running for governor of Vermont, as the candidate of the Liberty Union Party. Reporter David Haldane was there to interview Sanders for the Vermont People’s Voice. At some point, Haldane writes, Sanders caught a first glance of himself on television. He glared and shook a fist at the unkempt activist on the screen:
“He looks like the village idiot...I would never vote for a bum like that!”
Haldane recounts the scene in a new piece for a reconstituted online version of the old Los Angeles Free Press alternative newspaper. Haldane wrote for the original Freep and for the Los Angeles Times for a couple of decades. More recently, he is the author of a memoir, "Nazis & Nudists." Previously on LA Observed.
From his piece on first meeting Sanders in 1972:
Back then, Sanders’ self-assessment and accomplishments were considerably less than they are today. In fact, he was just another long-haired radical freak with political aspirations.
It was those aspirations that had landed me in Bernie’s cramped Burlington, Vermont, apartment. I was a brand new reporter for the leftist Vermont People’s Voice. He was an unknown protest candidate for the Liberty Union Party, which he had helped found. So, while everyone knew that his chance of winning was virtually zero, there we sat, watching the pre-taped candidates’ debate.
Both of us were at the beginning of our careers; he giving his first newspaper interview in his first political campaign; me enthusiastically writing down someone else’s words in what would become my life’s work.
Bernie did lose that race, one of four he ran before becoming Burlington’s mayor, eight-term Vermont pick for the U.S. House of Representatives, two-term U.S. Senator and, finally, a serious contender for the American presidency.
Re-reading that interview today, I am struck by how much of it could have been written, well, earlier this week. Under a headline asking whether this was “A New Kind of Candidate?”, Sanders declares, among other things, that “The main problem with this state and with this country is that too much power resides with too few people…You can’t talk about politics and… power without talking about the concentration of wealth…The first thing that has to happen is that the power and wealth has to be taken away from the relatively few people who possess it and redistributed.”
Haldane reports that Art Kunkin, the founder in 1964 of the alternative LA Free Press, is now living in Joshua Tree. He is 88 years old, per the website.