MOTHER JONES: Not long after graduating from the University of Chicago, and fresh from a stint on an Israeli kibbutz, Sanders arrived in Vermont in the late 1960s on the crest of a wave. The state’s population jumped 31 percent in the 1960s and ’70s, due largely to an infusion of over 30,000 hippies who had come to the state seeking peace, freedom, and cheap land. Sanders and his then-wife bought 85 acres in rural Vermont for $2,500. The only building on the property was an old maple-sugar house without electricity or running water, which Sanders converted into a cabin.
Free-range hair and sandals notwithstanding, Sanders never quite fit the mold of the back-to-the-landers he joined. “I don’t think Bernie was particularly into growing vegetables,” one friend put it. Nor was he much into smoking them. “He described himself once in my hearing as ‘the only person who did not get high in the ’60s,'” recalls Greg Guma, a writer and activist who traveled in the same circles as Sanders in Burlington. “He didn’t even like rock music—he likes country music.” (Sanders did say in a 1972 interview that he had tried marijuana.) “He’s not a hippie, never was a hippie,” Sugarman says. “But he was always a little bit on the suburbs of society.” […]
In those early years, Sanders, a member of the Young People’s Socialist League at the University of Chicago, was a true believer in what might be called small-s socialism, and had little patience for lukewarm allies. He believed in the need for a united front of anti-capitalist activists marching in step against the corrupt establishment. […] “I once asked him what he meant by calling himself a ‘socialist,’ and he referred to an article that was already a touchstone of mine, which was Albert Einstein’s ‘Why Socialism?‘” says Sanders’ friend Jim Rader. “I think that Bernie’s basic idea of socialism was just about as simple as Einstein’s formulation.” (In short, according to the physicist, capitalism is a soul-sucking construct that corrodes society.) MORE
SALON: Most news articles about Bernie Sanders in the mainstream media include the phrase “avowed socialist” or “avowed democratic socialist.” The phrase has become hackneyed to the point that one struggles to remember when “avowed” was used to describe anything other than Bernie Sanders’ left-wing politics. If nothing else, Sanders’ campaign for president, which he (re)announced in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday, will forever link the word “avowed” with the words “democratic) socialist Bernie Sanders” in the minds of political junkies, much like fans of “The Simpsons” can no longer hear the words “dental plan” without immediately thinking “Lisa needs braces!”
The use of “avowed” connotes a taboo. That Sanders would avow his belief in socialism, or democratic socialism, or anything containing the term “socialism,” is a sly way for reporters to imply that he has zero chance of appealing to red-blooded Americans. It is equal to, if not worse than, being an avowed worshipper of Satan or the New York Yankees. Labels are fun. But what things does Bernie Sanders believe? Are they things that some other Americans might believe? And where do they fit within the confines of the Democratic Party, of which Sanders is not a member but will be competing for its presidential nomination?
Ahead of his campaign launch, Sanders gave an interview with the underground left-wing pamphlet CNBC, outlining one of the basic premises of his campaign: that he’ll advocate for the very things that mainstream Democrats for decades have been insisting they don’t believe, like so-called redistribution of wealth.
SANDERS: What is my dream? My dream is, do we live in a country where 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent of the people vote? Where we have serious discourse on media rather than political gossip, by the way? Where we’re debating trade policy, we’re debating foreign policy, we’re debating economic policy, where the American people actually know what’s going on in Congress? Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated today goes to the top 1 percent. Top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much as wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Does anybody think that that is the kind of economy this country should have? Do we think it’s moral? So to my mind, if you have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, you know what, we’ve got to transfer that back if we’re going to have a vibrant middle class. And you do that in a lot of ways. Certainly one way is tax policy. MORE