Reformer's October 1972 Bernie Sanders interview
The Reformer's 1972 interview with Bernie Sanders caught the attention of right-wing media outlets who seized upon his comments about then-Gov. George Wallace. Here's the original article that appeared in the Saturday, Oct. 28, 1972, edition of the Brattleboro Reformer.
On the Political Trail: Sanders Enlivens Campaign
By William Poole
“Politicians put people to sleep,” said Bernard Sanders, Liberty Union candidate for governor, in a lively interview Friday.
Sanders is dead serious about what he considers a sense of boredom and hopelessness among Americans.
Even though he has been labeled a “leftist radical” by some persons, Sanders had some praise for Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
“He advocates some outrageous approaches to our problems, but at least he is sensitive to what people feel they need,” Sanders said.
He traced “ageneral sense of hopelessness” and lack of public confidence in elected officials to the politicians’ lack of sensitivity and “the fact that the government is not only indebted to special interests, but also is indentured to them.”
As a political campaigner, Sanders is both a relaxed and intensely involved individual.
Tieless and casually attired in a corduroy sports jacket, the 31-year-old candidate was relaxed as he introduced himself at The Reformer newsroom.
His intense concern came through after the introductions were completed and he sat down for an interview.
He laid two sheets of ruled yellow paper on the table in front of him.
“Those are the major issues typed on those sheets of paper. They’re typed single space,” he laughed.
But the papers were scarcely glanced at as the interview progressed.
Sanders didn’t need notes.
He said that most politicians thrive on apathy and boredom.
“What we need are more active politicians working for the people,” he emphasized.
The smile was gone and Sanders continued: “If I’m governor, I’d like to lead people in protest at public hearings on requests for telephone and electricity rate increases.”
The recurring theme throughout the interview was that working people simply don’t care about politics because they feel it’s “all in the bag” for the special interests anyway.
He said it troubled him that only 30 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the September primary, but he said he could understand why.
As an example, he said: “People know they have been lied to for seven years about the Vietnam War, and now just before the election an announcement is made that the war will be ended.”
“What are people supposed to think?” he asked rhetorically.
Number of Issues
Before rattling off a number of the issues which he said are important, Sanders cautioned that the Liberty Union — an independent party with “radical” or “liberal” views depending upon the viewpoint of each individual viewer — “doesn’t promise a utopian good life, but instead a good standard of living.”
“The country is too rich,” he said. “We don’t need persons making only $1.60 an hour. We dont need people living in broken down mobile homes. There is enough money around to provide good housing for people.
“And we don’t need people fearful of getting sick because of $70-to-$80-a-day hospital bills. We have enough money for a national health service,” he added.
Although he said he had specific recommendations for changes in laws, he said the Liberty Union approach was basically “a whole orientation” directed against the elimination of the dominance of special interest groups in government.
One target of the Liberty Unionists, he said, is the “unrepresentative nature of the state legislature.”
“In terms of the economic backgrounds of legislators, in terms of their ages and in terms of sex, the legislature is unbalanced,” he said.
He added that insurance companies, banks, corporations and lawyers have too much influence in the law-making process.
“There are very few working people in the legislature, because not many working people can take three months off to serve as legislators,” said Sanders, a native of New York, who now lives in Burlington.
Leaning back into his chair, he added, “Only when you get more working people in the legislature will you get a change in the tax structure.”
For the first time in the interview, Sanders turned to his notes.
The average age of state legislators is 60 years, he said.
“Twenty-five percent of them are retired; 25 percent of the state senators are 70 or older and only three people are 30 years or younger.”
He said the minimum age for legislators should be the same as the voting age, 18 years old.
A proponent of abortion on demand, Sanders said it is hard for the legislature to discuss the issue when only 15 percent of its members are women and only one of them is a woman under 35 years of age.
Continuing with his recitation of statistics, he added that one percent of companies in the United States makes more than 70 percent of all profits and less than 2 percent of adults own 80 percent of all publicly owned stocks.
“Relatively few people determine the direction of a vast number of issues," he emphasized.
He urged a “radical revision” of the tax structure “because the bulk of taxes are falling on working people.”
He said he favors repeal of the regressive sales tax and the poll tax and would make changes in the income tax.
He favors such legislation as the bottle bill but stressed the need for more comprehensive environmental protection that would hit at the “waste of natural resources.”
The use of natural resources should be for human needs, he said.
Laws could be designed which would penalize industries which do not adhere “to quality standards designed to preserve natural resources by insuring that items last longer.”
He said he saw a threat to civil liberties, particularly under the Nixon Administration, and he urged that the government stop interfering with “personal morality issues” such as private views on abortion and the use of marijuana.
Asked how his campaign was going, Sanders smiled and said he didn’t expect to win but, he added, “We’re doing extraordinarily well.”
He said if videotapes had been taken of reactions of persons attending debates among Democratic candidate Thomas P. Salmon, Republican candidate Luther F. Hackett, and himself, the results would be something like this: “Forty-eight percent for Salmon, 46 percent for Sanders, and only 6 percent for Hackett.”
His campaign problem, he opined, was getting to meet enough voters while operating on a limited campaign budget with a small staff.
But he added: “It feels good though when a factory worker pats you on the back and thanks you for saying what needs to be said.”
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.