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Playboy Interview: Bernie Sanders
  • October 17, 2013 : 07:10
  • comments

PLAYBOY: What is the importance of manufacturing jobs? What’s the matter with service-sector jobs?

SANDERS: That’s a good question. First, we know that historically, in terms of wages, service-industry jobs—McDonald’s, Walmart—pay significantly less than manufacturing. Often in the past those were unionized jobs.

PLAYBOY: And McDonald’s is not unionized. That’s the fundamental difference, isn’t it?

SANDERS: So you’re arguing if McDonald’s workers were organized tomorrow and were paid $20 an hour, what’s the difference? The answer is, I’d like to see that. There is something psychologically important about being able to say, “I created this product,” whether it’s an automobile or a table. Do I want to see McDonald’s workers make a living wage? Absolutely. Is that important? It’s enormously important. Should we organize them, unionize them? Absolutely. But I think it says something about a society if it is capable of producing the goods it consumes rather than just importing them.

PLAYBOY: Where do you stand on immigration?

SANDERS: Look, my dad came to this country as an immigrant.

PLAYBOY: He was only 17 when he came, correct?

SANDERS: From Poland, without a nickel in his pocket. It was difficult. I mean, he came here, as many immigrants do, without any money and didn’t know how to speak the language. He had maybe one or two relatives here. He started from the bottom. He never made much money, but he was a proud American who appreciated the opportunities this country gave him and never forgot that. The ultraconservative or libertarian types say we shouldn’t have any rules. If capital needs labor, bring them in. Let them get the cheapest possible labor. I think we need a sane immigration policy, and the lifeblood of this country is immigration. But that doesn’t mean open the doors and say to a black kid who can’t find a job, “Hey, we’re going to bring in people to work for lower wages than you would.”

PLAYBOY: When you talk about America, you don’t often talk about American exceptionalism, saying we have the greatest workers in the world. That’s different from most politicians.

SANDERS: We are largely a nation of immigrants, with people from all over the world coming to this country. We have from our earliest days held democratic values. We rejected early on the class nature of Europe, believed in social mobility regardless of where you were born. Those are all extraordinary virtues of this country that we should be very proud of. I think we have a lot to be proud of. Do I think we were born superior to the folks in Mexico or Canada, that God somehow stopped at the border? No, I don’t think that.

PLAYBOY: The country has moved rapidly to a different view on gay marriage. In 10 years will the country look back and wonder what all the fuss was about?

SANDERS: Absolutely. There has been a huge societal transformation on this issue. Today, state legislatures all over the country are passing gay marriage bills—and hardly anybody cares. For younger people it is totally a nonissue.

PLAYBOY: Vermont has quite a few gun owners. How do you position yourself on the debates regarding gun ownership and restrictions?

SANDERS: Vermont does have many gun owners who enjoy hunting, target shooting and other gun-related activities. But most people in Vermont understand that as a nation we must do everything we can to end the horror of mass killings we have seen in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Blacksburg, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona and other American communities. Clearly, there is no single or simple solution to this crisis. While the legislation [to expand background checks] recently brought forth in the Senate would by no means have solved all our gun-violence problems, it would have been a step forward, and that’s why I voted for that legislation.

PLAYBOY: Does the public care all that much about the issues you’re passionate about?

SANDERS: If you go out and talk to people and say, “Hey, the Celtics beat the Knicks last night. Let’s talk about that, or let’s talk about the football game,” that’s part of the vernacular. If you say to somebody, “What are you doing to try to improve life for the middle class?” they’ll look at you as if you’re crazy. “What are you talking about? What am I supposed to do? I’ve got a job, I’m working 50 hours a week.” Or “I don’t have a job. I’m unemployed. I’m knocking my brains out trying to find work, taking care of my kids.” The idea that collective action can improve our quality of life and make gains for working families—I don’t think that’s part of people’s worldview.

Let me tell you a story outside of school. I go to the Democratic caucuses every week, and every week there is a report about fund-raising—Republicans have raised thus and thus; this is what we have done. In the six years I’ve been going to those meetings, I have never heard five minutes of discussion about organizing. It’s about raising money. Not five minutes to say, “Look, West Virginia, we have rallies, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, we’re knocking on doors.” In six years, I have heard no discussion about that at all.

PLAYBOY: Why is the hatred of Obama so extreme from some quarters? Is that a function of race or ideology or both?

SANDERS: The hatred of Obama is extreme, and it is frightening. There is no question race is one of the factors behind that hatred, but it is not race alone. Today millions of Americans get all their political information from right-wing media outlets that have totally distorted the reality of who Obama is and what he stands for. That is one of the reasons so many right-wing Republicans were shocked at the election results. In their world it was impossible to believe anyone would support Obama.

PLAYBOY: People just seem to think the system doesn’t work for them, whether they’re in the Tea Party or on the left.

SANDERS: The system doesn’t work for them. I think they’re exhausted.

PLAYBOY: Are we stuck with the two-party system?

SANDERS: There’s no question there is a massive amount of cynicism and displeasure toward our current political system and Republicans and Democrats. Clearly most people vote for one or another party not because they strongly believe in the goals of that party but because they see it as the lesser of two evils. Having said that, no one should underestimate the enormous difficulty of creating a broad-based third party that speaks to the needs of working families. That party in all likelihood would have to be organized through the trade union movement and its millions of members.

PLAYBOY: Many of your hardcore supporters are urging you to run for president in 2016. Are you considering it?

SANDERS: Well, the answer is that to run a serious campaign, you need to raise hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s number one, and I don’t think——

PLAYBOY: Barack Obama proved candidates can raise money.

SANDERS: Obama went to his friends on Wall Street the first time around.

PLAYBOY: That’s true, but he still raised a fair amount of money in small donations.

SANDERS: Yeah, but I’m not Barack Obama. That’s the point. I do not take corporate money. I think people are hungering for a voice out there. It would be tempting to try to raise issues and demand discussion on issues that are not being talked about: inequality in wealth and trade policy, protecting the social safety net, moving aggressively on global warming. Those issues are not being talked about, and it would be tempting, but….

PLAYBOY: Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee. Does that offer an alternative to the country?

SANDERS: No, it does not.

PLAYBOY: Are you absolutely ruling out running for president, 100 percent?

SANDERS: Absolutely? 100 percent? Cross my heart? Is there a stack of Bibles somewhere? Look, maybe it’s only 99 percent. I care a lot about working families. I care a lot about the collapse of the American middle class. I care a lot about the enormous wealth and income disparity in our country. I care a lot that poverty in America is near an all-time high but hardly anyone talks about it. I realize running for president would be a way to shine a spotlight on these issues that are too often in the shadows today. [pauses] But I am at least 99 percent sure I won’t.

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read more: News, politics, interview, playboy interview, issue november 2013


  • Jeff Healitt
    Jeff Healitt
    The United States needs Bernie Sanders. Great interview!
  • crewoldt
    Well, then I guess that entitles you to government benefits. I am a vet of the Gulf War, and everyone in my family are vets, Vietnam, WW II, and fighting currently. That is why I piss on the likes of the Teabaggers who hate out government, our Commander-in-Chief, and seek to destroy our way of life. Maybe you should consider it if you want to keep getting that check. Those are the facts. Too many died to defend this country for one of our own to be defending seditionists and seperatists.
  • bronxflash
    wow. you are a very simple minded person who lives in a world of hyperbole so as to make her world view correct. if i thought voting was important, i'd ask you not to vote.
  • Cissy
    And you were on the PLAYBOY site because..........?
  • Jason
    With all due respect, you sound like a complete twit. Playboy is the gateway to sex trafficking and torture? Playboy is a porn magazine? You sound like a delusional bible thumping old maid who thinks sex means missionary with the lights off and a nude body is regarded as pornographic and sinful. Playboy has done more for blacks, gays and sexual freedom rights than any other magazine publication in the world, so grow up.
  • Kalar Walters
    Kalar Walters
    It's time for Bernie to remind folks that closing loopholes equates to cutting spending. Tis true. It's a twofer. You cut spending and increase revenue at the same time.
  • brown7228
    Spoken like a true fascist. What ever happened to by the people for the people.
  • Roddick Bingham
    Roddick Bingham
    What a load of booby cue garbage. We all know he's as left wing as a plane with no right rudder. Smashed apples under the bonnet to anyone who thinks he's the real mountain ranger. U get me?
  • Trawg
    And this is what a useful idiot looks like, ladies and gentlemen. Let's give him a round of applause.He votes. Do you?
  • Roddick BIngham
    Roddick BIngham
    Chopped garlic should cure that post-coital bunny-eared political bias. Timber Chippers!
  • TommyD
    Keep up the fight Bernie. You are a wonderful man and a gift to the working families in America. You inspire me to be more active on the issue of inequality, I have become more active, and there is more to come.
  • Roddick Bingham
    Roddick Bingham
    It can't be bought it has to be earnt by cleanin' windows. As far as the strength of the rabbits claw goes I'd say congress is about as tough as a worker ant's jaw on sedative. Ain't gonna be no flow from those old croons when the finger of fate slides further beneath the door. All a game they say anyway to play and come what may it ain't gonna keep our trade smarts at bay. Tough call!
  • Sheldon Green
    Sheldon Green
    Excuse me, but Playboy is the gateway to free speech and consensual sexual relationships between adults. What you are suggesting is inappropriate and downright wrong.
  • Kellie Nicholson
    Kellie Nicholson
    I love me some Bernie! There are some like him coming up locally and on the state level. Let's look for them to carry the torch, but I so hope Bernie stays with us for a long time to come.
  • builder7
    Yeah, that's right, they ought to displace you with somebody from India that makes 5 cents an hour!
  • Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    And yes, I did see your photo. Playboy ain't what they were when you all were boys. Time to take the blinders off!
  • woostock
    Our problem is fascism.
  • Matt
    Bernie is a backstabbing tool of the political establishment. Vermonters who follow local politics know that he is a favorite of pro-military republicans in our state and the whole 'pro-middle class' thing is just to cover up his real agenda: putting money in the pockets of large VT businesses at the expense of new Americans and the low & middle income Vermonters.
  • dmo
    all of us middle class Americans simply have been pissed on from reaganomics trickle down bs
  • TommyTuna
    And the evidence for your postulation? Bernie cited statistics to back up his assertions. Where is the evidence to support your hypotheses?
  • TommyTuna
    As evidenced in the Gizzer's statement and the copious philosophic spooge espoused by fdfdf wtf, when people like Bernie Sanders put forth a reasoned argument supported by facts and statistics (and it happens to conflict with the worldview they hold), the only response is incoherent gobbledeegook.
  • AA Mobham
    AA Mobham
    Nah its the same you're just chonky
  • lex
    Actually, a plane with no right rudder would tend to bank left, that is, be more right winged...just sayin'
  • ABBAFan77
    Rimshot testicle miracle spray
  • bb
    You raise a good point, Diana. I'm guessing It's just a good idea to get the message out and to reach all kinds of people.
  • Rob Reese
    Rob Reese
    The mans got a sharper tongue than a polished diamond blade soaked in Venezualan artificially flavored tabasco sauce. But he's our teddy bear so let's not forget that! Vermont ahoy!!!
  • Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    It's too bad he thinks it's okay to hang out with Playboy. They are the gateway to sex trafficking, torture and destruction of families. How can anyone support a politician when he's in a PORN magazine??
  • John Aldridge
    John Aldridge
    We have the best Congress money can buy.
  • ridgewalker1
    What statistics do you "believe" are off?
  • crewoldt
    Spoken as a true retiree who has not had to live in this economy, but entered the work force before reagonomics pissed all over us. Enjoy just living off the fat of your retirement and social security at our expense. The "I got mine, screw you" generation will be remembered as one that lived off the 'dole' of the greatest generation.
  • Brandon Ross Fontaine
    Brandon Ross Fontaine
    T.T I want to meet Bernie and give him a hug. I feel like he's a tired old grandpa to the country. Trying and trying to help the whole country and he's only able to help one tiny little corner of it. Vermont you guys sure are lucky.
  • Jeremy
    Jeremy "The Gizz" Spooner
    Hopscotching for butterscotch, that's my motto. Bernie's flow is immaculate, much like the 66 chicago bears. If hives could fly, honey would rain down and smother his buttocks.
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