BERNIE WANTS TO BE LABOR SECRETARY
I have interviewed Bernie Sanders many times. Those opportunities mostly came when he was a member of Congress but when he became a Senator, he moved uptown and except for a few opportunities, he didn’t need me and the public radio audience. He had the national media begging for interviews.
I may have been the first one he told on air that he was going to run for president. I was pretty startled when he said that, but I do remember the moment and he was certainly true to his word.
Since that time, he has been a very serious candidate for president, a sort of Lochinvar coming out of the west, providing heroic leadership to the liberal left. We all know that the man is not a Democrat but a self-announced Socialist. Even with his New York accent, he is nothing short of a hero to Vermont voters who adore him. There are some Democrats who will never forgive him for, in their minds, ruining Hillary Clinton’s chance to become president. Whether it was Bernie himself or his followers, it certainly didn’t help. Too many Bernie-ites sat out the election that gave us Donald Trump, the most evil and morally corrupt president in history.
But Bernie was getting up there and in 2020, he gave it his last shot. At 79 years of age, Sanders brought his political passion and his squad into play. For the most part, he gave it his all in the competitive debates and the primaries. He worked so hard at it that he had a heart attack, but he didn’t let that stop him. He jumped back into the fray with his usual enthusiasm.
But alas for Bernie, he fell short. This time, however, he did not wreck the chances of the leading Democrat, Joe Biden. We all know that much of what he said made a great deal of sense, whether it was his brand of health care for all or a national minimum wage of $15 per hour. Despite the fact that there is very little difference in what “moderate” Joe Biden was espousing and the Bernie program, Bernie was painted as the radical. This time, however, Bernie said that he was all in for Joe. He really worked for him and there is very little indication that his followers stayed out of the fray. Maybe Bernie felt that he was owed.
That brings us to the current moment. Bernie has let it be known that he’d like to be Secretary of Labor in the Biden cabinet. Now, it looks like the Republicans may very well continue to run the Senate. If you were Joe Biden and you were evaluating how to run your presidency and how to be a healer, would you choose Bernie, a man who is known for challenging the enemy? Maybe not.
When you become a cabinet member, you have to accept the fact that you have a boss. The only boss a Senator has is the electorate of his or her state. Why in the world would either Sanders or Biden want to change that equation?
No, better Bernie stays in the Senate and works his magic there. We know that Vermont has a Republican governor who would make an interim appointment and that would be a perfect excuse for Biden not to appoint him. One has to wonder what the psychological reasoning is here. Maybe it sets up a future fight between so-called “progressive” Bernie and moderate Biden. Let’s face it — Bernie could not have won the presidency and on some level, even Bernie has to know that. With Donald Trump’s people already indicating that Trump will be a candidate in 2024, the last thing Biden needs is a food fight within his administration. Biden should find every way possible to honor Bernie and to move on.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]