New York Times Podcasts
Why Bernie Sanders is newly optimistic
My experience of interviewing Senator Bernie Sanders is that you’re usually talking to someone who recognizes that he’s rowing against the tides of American politics. You’re typically talking about what he believes the president should be doing, but isn’t, or what the Democratic Party should be supporting, but isn’t.
But the American Rescue Plan was different. It’s President Biden’s bill, of course, but it’s the kind of thing that Mr. Sanders has been fighting to pass for years. So, too, with the full-employment-through-investment package coming next. And so I wanted to hear what Mr. Sanders makes of this moment, where it seems that he lost the election, but won many of the arguments.
So I asked him on my podcast, and what I got was a much more optimistic Mr. Sanders than I’ve ever spoken to before. “Congress does not pass perfect bills,” he told me. “But for working-class people, this is the most significant piece of legislation passed since the 1960s.”
We also talked about the filibuster, where he’s moved from supporting it even during the 2020 campaign, to opposing it now; and about the fights over speech and culture, where he clearly has some concerns with where liberals are moving, and how hard that makes it to talk to voters who might otherwise agree with them on economics.
“These cultural issues,” he said, “I don’t know how you bridge the gap.” But “somehow or another, the intellectual elite does have, in some cases, a contempt for the people who live in rural America,” he said, and he argued that the first step to winning those voters back is proving that you respect them.
It’s an interesting, reflective conversation with a politician who finally finds himself rowing with the tide, and is clearly eager to see how far he can go. I hope you’ll listen by following “The Ezra Klein Show” wherever you get your podcasts, or reading the transcript here.