How Wide Is Bernie Sanders’ Appeal? This Cheering Fox News Audience Provides A Clue

Bernie drew cheers from the audience when he spoke about healthcare, revealing just how popular his policies are.

The Guardian (4/16/19)

Bernie Sanders was supposed to be deep behind enemy lines on Monday night. He was in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for a live town hall, hosted by Fox News, a network “not everyone thought [he] should come on”. It was a resounding success, and a reminder that Bernie, not Trump, can actually rally together a majority of Americans.

The Fox News moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum didn’t figure that out at first. Early on Baier asked those in the audience with employer-sponsored health insurance to raise their hands. Then he asked those among them who would be willing to switch to government-run health insurance to raise their hands. The hands stayed up, the crowd cheered.

Bernie Sanders didn’t shift his rhetoric to the right to accommodate his hosts, or what many would assume to be the preconceptions of his audience. Instead, he was simply Bernie. Straightforward, honest and pivoting brilliantly to his strongest talking points.

Though he often attacked Trump, he did more than that, offering dreams, ambitions, and real policy for a working class that has seen its wages and living standards stagnant for decades to aspire to.

When faced right off the bat with questions about his tax returns, which showed that he had earned a healthy sum off book royalties, he joked that he couldn’t apologize for that and that it was a “pretty good book” that the Fox News hosts “might want to read”.

A government for all not just 1%

When an audience member asked him about why he calls himself a democratic socialist, he didn’t shy away from the term: “Democratic socialism to me is creating a government, and an economy, and a society that works for all rather than just the top 1%.” He denounced “absurd inequalities” and said that human beings were entitled to basic rights to health and education, things that shouldn’t be privileges, the result of accidents of birth. An audience that we’ve been told hated socialism, and feared government, applauded.

Failing to tar him as a millionaire hypocrite, Baier shifted gears and tried to depict him as a bad socialist: wasn’t making money off a bestselling book the definition of capitalism, a sign that the system was rewarding good effort? Sanders had a ready reply: “What we are fighting for is a society where not just a few people can make a whole lot of money but a society where everybody can have the ability to live in security and dignity.”

Majoritarian commonsense

Sanders fended off hard questions, about his age, and about whether his ideas were too radical, with appeals to a majoritarian commonsense that the United States should not wage foreign wars, that everyone deserves a living wage, healthcare, and protection in old age. While other candidates fumble with word salads calling for things like “affordable access” to social goods, Sanders speaks about social rights and the obligations that a state has to its citizens, and why we need to tax the income of the wealthy to pay for it.

Compare it with the message millions have been getting from elites over the years: struggling with addiction to opioids? You must be morally weak. Your plant closed down? Stop whining and take a coding class. Can’t afford to see a doctor? Why don’t you eat better and try some yoga. In other words, it’s your fault. And those working harder or with better habits are the ones getting ahead. …

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(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2019. Ope source and free for non-derivative use withlink to )