Outsider in the White House is an autobiography of Bernie Sander’s career as a politician. Yes, another Bernie Sanders book. I think I’m halfway looking for confirmation that this guy is the real deal, but halfway looking for reasons not to get my hopes up. I didn’t find any, but I did find some fairly clear things we disagree on (he once sought to cut funding to the space program to save money for social programs). Frankly that makes me feel better about how strongly I support him, even if my disagreements are more than two decades old. There’s suspicion in perfection.
This is a book about how Bernie Sanders has fought for the the American people. With a rigorous commitment to the principles of democracy and a belief that when given the option, the American people would prefer we talk about the real issues that matter to their day to day lives.
In the 70’s, Bernie Sanders was an activist for political, economic, racial and gender-based rights, among other things. As part of the Liberty Union Party, he ran for governor of Vermont and lost in 1972. He also ran for a position in the senate twice, losing both times, and finally resigning from the party in 1979. Then in 1981, he was elected mayor of Burlington Vermont by only 10 votes after a vigorous grassroots campaign ousted the incumbent mayor. He served four terms in that position before choosing not to run for reelection. In 1988 he was elected to the House of Representatives and served in that role until 2006 when he he became a member of the Senate. And that’s where he is today as he’s running for the presidential nomination (and still actually doing his job in the Senate, by the way).
Outsider in the White House was originally published in 1997 under the title Outsider in the House. It was about how he landed in the House of Representatives as an independent and how he’s faired since. The updated version leaves most of that story in-tact, but brings us up to speed as to how he ended up in the presidential race and why.
Bernie is quoted saying:
“I don’t wake up every morning, as some people here in Washington do, and say, ‘You know, I really have to be president of the United States. I was born to be president of the United States.’ What I do wake up every morning feeling is that this country faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression, and there is a horrendous lack of serious political discourse or ideas out there that can address these crises, and that somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country in standing up to the big-money interests who have so much power over the economic and political life of this country. So I am prepared to run for president of the United States. I don’t believe that I am the only person out there who can fight this fight, but I am certainly prepared to look seriously at that race.”
Bernie Sanders, whether you agree with the nuance of his policies, is the kind of politician we like to imagine we should have. Principled people, trying to do the right thing on behalf of regular people; people who serve and do their best because they feel like it’s the right thing to do, and don’t compromise their integrity to pander endlessly to a brain dead constituency. Like some kind of real life Leslie Knope.
One of the things I found especially interesting was his apparent perspective on the partisan relationships our politics create. As neither a democrat or a republican, Bernie was unfettered in his willingness to do battle against anything with a regressive impact on the lives of average people. He read what he was signing or refusing to sign, and spoke loudly when politicians attempted to squeeze through long-winded legislation on short notice. It didn’t matter that a democrat wrote this, or a republican wrote that, what mattered was what the legislation meant for the ordinary American. But in spite of this, he still managed to work with democrats and republicans on some really important issues.
This book gives some excellent insight into our real presidential frontrunner–the only one whose not steeped in propaganda. And the only one whose demonstrated integrity throughout his entire career, and demonstrated a commitment to ordinary working people.
I suspect open minded voters will gain a lot of insight from this book. In fact, I think almost all voters would gain a lot of insight from this book, even if it didn’t lead them to support Bernie’s campaign. The the ugly parts of how our government work are put on display in a way that would make most people critical of their affiliation. If you want to believe our democracy has a chance of coming back, read this book and get involved in the political process one way or another. Even if its not for Bernie. The most important thing is that our electorate is active for something, not just against something.
So, read this book. Or don’t. But get active in politics with something that’s important to your real life.