Deconstructed: The Bernie Sanders Interview

The Vermont senator discusses his 2020 campaign and his rivalry with Elizabeth Warren.

Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, AP

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With three months to go until the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders has found himself fighting to make headway against the other frontrunners in the Democratic primary. While he appears to have bounced back from his recent heart attack — putting in a convincing performance in the last debate and picking up a coveted endorsement from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the democratic socialist from Vermont has struggled to recapture the old 2016 magic in a more crowded 2020 field. Mehdi Hasan talks to Sanders about his campaign strategy, what separates him from his chief progressive rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and whether he’d be comfortable with an all-white — or all-male — ticket in 2020. Then, Intercept D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim stops by to discuss the Sanders campaign’s prospects.

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Bernie Sanders: Trump will accept the election results and when I defeat him, I will become the president of the United States. Ok?

[Music interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. On the show today, might we see a Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren joint ticket come November 2020?

BS: If I am fortunate enough to become president, I would look absolutely to Elizabeth Warren as somebody who would play a very, very important role in everything that we’re doing.

MH: That’s my guest Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is of course running for the Democratic presidential nomination for a second time. But is Bernie both fit enough, and popular enough, to win the nomination this time round? And perhaps more importantly: does he have what it takes to defeat Donald Trump next November?

Newscaster: Team Biden and Team Warren are taking shape.

Newscaster: I think I’m going to watch Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete.

Newscaster: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

Newscaster: Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Newscaster: Warren and Biden both rising.

Newscaster: Let’s focus on Buttigieg and Biden.

Newscaster: You’ve got a clear top five candidates here with Biden, Warren, tell me who I’m missing.

MH: Judging from the news coverage on network news, cable news, on the front pages of the main newspapers, you might think there were only three people in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination right now: former vice president Joe Biden, senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

There is of course, though, another pretty major candidate who consistently comes second or third in the polls nationally, and has even led in some of the early voting states. He’s also the same guy who came second in the Democratic presidential primaries in 2016, winning 13 million votes and 22 states, and becoming a household name in the process.

I’m talking of course about Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

And look I get it: so far, he isn’t doing as well as he did last time round, and there are real questions about his age, his health, whether he still has the same novelty, energy, grassroots support that he had three years ago. Plus, the corporate media doesn’t have great affection for, or affinity with, a self-declared socialist. I get that. That’s no surprise to me.

But still, I have to say I’ve been bemused, if not shocked, at the way in which media organizations and journalists seem to have bent over backwards in recent weeks to avoid informing their viewers or their readers that Bernie Sanders is not just a very serious and credible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination but that he’s actually doing much better in the polls than they might have us believe. I mean, he’s leading in New Hampshire, which he also won last time round. That hasn’t had much coverage. He’s in second place in the latest New York Times Iowa poll, just three points behind Warren, but that hasn’t really make any headlines either.

A recent deep dive into polling by Sienna College in the six key battleground swing states, by the New York Times this week, was headlined “One Year From Election, Trump Trails Biden but Leads Warren in Battlegrounds.” Who’s mentioned there? Trump, Biden, Warren. And what’s the narrative? Trump does better against Warren, worse against Biden. But no mention of Sanders even though Sienna College included him in their head-to-head polling against the president in those six states. And guess what? While Biden yes, beats Trump in four of those states, Sanders beats Trump in three of them. And guess which three? The big three: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. Don’t you think that should be news? Don’t you think that should have been a subject of conversation among reporters, pundits, Democratic strategists, and, yes, headline writers too?

In fact, my favorite headline of the past week comes not from a news organization but from – where else? The Onion. Its headline read: “MSNBC Poll Finds Support For Bernie Sanders Has Plummeted 2 Points Up.” Two points up! Which I thought was typically brilliant, hilarious and scathing all at the same time.

Look, if Sanders does win the nomination next year, or even comes a close second, a lot of readers of newspapers and viewers of cable news are going to be thoroughly confused – and are then going to start asking why the media failed them. Failed all of us. Again.

And look, I know, I know, his heart attack made a lot of people assume his candidacy was over. But here’s the irony: he’s come back from that heart attack better, stronger, more energetic than ever before, as even his critics acknowledged after the last Democratic presidential debate in Ohio last month.

News pundit: Bernie Sanders will have, I think, upped his poll numbers a little bit because he had a good night.

MH: Just listen to Sanders at that debate:

BS: Joe, you talked about working with Republicans and getting things done, but you know what you also got done — and I say this as a good friend — you got the disastrous war in Iraq done. You got a bankruptcy bill which is hurting middle class families all over this country. You got trade agreements like NAFTA and PNTR with China done which has cost us four million jobs.

MH: Some might say that the two stents that the doctors put inside him were more like rocket launchers. Here he is at his Queens rally with AOC, just a few days after that last debate, and issuing a progressive call to arms like nothing I’ve heard from any other American politician in recent years:

BS: I want you all to take a look around and find someone you dont know. Maybe somebody doesn’t look kinda like you, maybe somebody might be of a different religion than you, maybe they come from a different country. My question now to you is are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?

MH: So, what’s the deal with Bernie Sanders? Can the socialist senator from Vermont pull off the revolution he’s promised this time round? Or has Senator Elizabeth Warren stolen some of his progressive thunder and supporters too? Is Sanders the guy who can beat Warren and Biden and then Trump too? And how about that undeniable health issue of his? Can a 78-year-old who just had a heart attack really be considered a viable candidate for the highest office in the land? Who better to address these questions than the man himself?

Joining me from his campaign headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders.

[Music interlude.]

MH: Senator Sanders, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

BS: My pleasure.

MH: Good to have you back on the show. You’re doing very well in the polls right now. You’re leading in New Hampshire. I think you’re second in Iowa. You’re beating Trump in the key Rust Belt states in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. And yet the press, the media, they often forget to mention your name when they’re covering, kind of airbrush the fact that you’re doing so well.

BS: Is it that shocking?

MH: Why do you think that is? Seriously, why do you think that is?

BS: For two reasons. Number one, we are taking on the entire establishment and it is no secret that I am not much loved by the corporate establishment or the corporate media. That’s one factor. We are a threat to them. And they are nervous that we are going to put together the kind of grassroots working class movement that we need not only to defeat Trump to transform the country. And I’ll tell you what the second reason is, you know, a lot of the media folks who are you know, they are hardworking. They’re nice. They’re honest people. They are not, “enemies of the people” as Trump defines them, but they live in a certain world, an upper middle class world where they talk to each other. They don’t know many working class people who are supporting Bernie Sanders. They don’t know many young people who are supporting Bernie Sanders. And they talk to each other and they say, I can’t believe it. How does Sanders — We have not talked to anybody who supports Sanders. How come he’s doing so well in the polls? I think those are the two factors that we have.

MH: And you’ve attracted these big crowds of young people, of working people at your rallies, especially with Squad members who have endorsed you with Ilhan Omar in Minnesota recently, with Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, and of course, with AOC in Queens in New York. You’re going to be back with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa this coming weekend at a climate crisis summit, I believe. With Governor Jay Inslee out of the race, do you see yourself now, are you positioning yourself as the climate candidate?

BS: Well, first of all, we’re doing three events in Iowa with the Congresswoman. Two of them will be general rallies focusing on climate change. One will be at a conference including Naomi Klein, just to focus on the crisis of climate change. Look, the truth is, we have introduced by far the most comprehensive climate change proposal ever introduced, I believe, by any candidate running for federal office. And as you know, I have been criticized because of the expense involved. A $16 trillion proposal is very expensive. But my argument is when you’re fighting to save the planet, what is the alternative? How much is the future of this planet worth? So we are proud to be building on the Green New Deal. We’ll create up to 20 million new jobs. We will take on the irresponsibility and the greed of the fossil fuel industry. We will move as fast as humanly possible away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and lead the world in doing that.

MH: Is there anything you can do to make sure that at the next debate in Atlanta, they actually ask a question about climate change? There was not a single question on climate change at the last debate in Ohio. They had three hours and it didn’t come up once.

BS: You’re right. I tried to push it. I do try to push it forward. But you’re right. Look, there are so many terribly important issues that this country faces, whether it’s healthcare, education, criminal justice, immigration, whatever it may be, but I don’t know how you not talk about whether or not the planet we’re leaving to our kids and our grandchildren will be a healthy and habitable planet. I don’t know how you not talk about that.

MH: One of the issues that moderators have obsessed over in those debates is how are you and Senator Elizabeth Warren going to pay for Medicare for All. Unlike you, she’s unveiled a very detailed, lengthy, specific plan for how she wants to pay for it. She says she’ll target employers as part of it. You told ABC News last weekend that her proposal isn’t as progressive as you’d like it to be, and would even hurt jobs by hurting businesses. A lot of Warren supporters have said that your argument Senator is the kind of argument that Republicans have used for years to say any tax on employers will cost jobs. How do you respond to them?

BS: Well, let me respond in several ways. First of all, right now, we are spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other country while 87 million are uninsured and some 500,000 people go bankrupt every year because of medical bills that they can’t pay. Number two, I appreciate very much that Senator Warren is a strong supporter of Medicare for All and is supporting the legislation that I introduced which is the only way that we’re going to provide quality healthcare to all people in a cost effective way.

So, there are differences in terms of how you fund it. Now, for the last several years, we have put out options. You say, you could do this, you could do that. One of the aspects of our plan is a 4% income tax exempting the first $29,000 of income. So, if you are the typical American family and making 60,000, you would pay a 4% income tax on 31,000, which is about 1,200 dollars a year which by the way, is much, much, much lower than that what that family is paying right now. We also have put a payroll tax on employers, and I think the number is 7.5%, or maybe 10%.

MH: But what about the specific criticism of you from the Warren team that you sound like a Republican saying that a tax on employers will hurt jobs?

BS: No, no, what I’m saying is you tell me. The two concerns here, when you have a payroll tax, it will impact more significantly upper income companies where lawyers are making $100,000 or a million dollars a year, when you’re putting what amounts to a $9,500 head tax on a company that is hiring workers, for 40 or $50,000. That’s quite a hit. That’s quite a hit. So my point is, look, I was asked this question by ABC, and that’s the answer I gave and I think it’s the right answer. Senator Warren is trying to figure out a way to fund this. I am trying to figure out a way to fund it. Most importantly, what we both understand that Medicare for All will save the average American substantial sums of money in their healthcare costs.

MH: And you both agree on that, but isn’t the only winner of a spat between you and Elizabeth Warren over funding Medicare for All, isn’t the only winner of that Joe Biden?

BS: Well, what Joe has got to tell the American people, by the way, is how his plan is going to impact ordinary Americans right now. You have families that are paying 15-20% of their limited incomes on health care. You have families that have outrageous deductibles and co-payments. People don’t go to the doctor when they should. You have the healthcare costs soaring all over this country, drug companies making huge profits. Biden has got to explain to the American people how his plan impacts those folks.

MH: In the last debate, you actually did challenge Joe Biden I know he’s a friend of yours, old colleague of yours in the Senate. You challenged him over rightly, in my view over his support for the Iraq war, over his support for big finance, over his support for NAFTA. Watching that exchange, it reminded me of your very similar critique of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Do you feel when you’re debating Biden that he’s basically Hillary mark two, that you can criticize him in the same way you criticized Hillary Clinton in 2016?

BS: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton notwithstanding, this is the fact Joe Biden not only voted for the war in Iraq, something that I vigorously opposed. He was one of the leaders in terms of going to war. He was one of the leaders on this disastrous bankruptcy bill. He voted for these terrible trade agreements, NAFTA PNTR with China which costs us millions of good paying jobs. Joe was on the floor of the Senate talking about the need to cut back on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. So you know, I think what you’re seeing is somebody who raises a whole lot of money from the wealthy and the powerful, somebody who touts in many ways the corporate line. And you know, I think we will very clearly distinguish our record and our vision from Joe Biden’s.

MH: And for those of us who are on the left and are not fans of Joe Biden, is there a danger, a lot of us worry that there’s a danger that you and Elizabeth Warren, both being in the race and doing so well splits the progressive vote, splits the left and helps a Joe Biden or even a Pete Buttigieg come through the middle and win the nomination. Isn’t that a real danger?

BS: I don’t think so. I mean, you have a process which as crazy as it may seem, actually make some sense and that is the primary process. And what it is, is the goal here, obviously, is to defeat, and defeat badly, Donald Trump the most dangerous president in modern American history. And ultimately, you know, you can argue about who the best candidate is, and I can argue about it, but you know, it’s going to be the people who make that decision. So Senator Warren and I are going out. She’s making our case. I am making my case for a variety of reasons. I do believe I am the strongest candidate to defeat Trump. The people will decide. She’ll get delegates. I will get delegates and we’ll see what happens as this process goes down the line.

MH: But you’re competing for similar delegates is my point. You’re not competing necessarily for exactly the same people as Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg.

BS: Right, that’s right but I think we’re also competing for some different constituencies as well.

MH: Okay. And in the past, you’ve suggested that and I’m quoting you from Twitter that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party is “anybody but Bernie”. You’ve said that you’re the real threat to the billionaire class. I just want to check then, are you saying that Elizabeth Warren is not a threat to the billionaire class —

BS: Don’t try—don’t try to—no. Elizabeth Warren is a friend of mine. And what we’re trying to do it—

MH: But is she a threat to the billionaire class.

BS: —One second, one second, one second. What I said is that quote, paraphrasing, the corporate wing led by a group called Third Way said that Bernie Sanders is “an existential threat to the Democratic Party.” And I agree with him. We are moving this party in a very significant way away from their dependency on corporate money on billionaire money to the needs and the support of working people in this country. I am very proud, by the way, Mehdi, that we have received more individual contributions from more people than any candidate in the history of American politics at this point in a presidential —

MH: I understand that and that’s a major achievement. I’m just wondering if I were to ask you, which candidates in the race should billionaires be afraid of? Clearly you would say yourself, and I think everyone would agree with that.

BS: Yes.

MH: Clearly, we wouldn’t say Joe Biden.

BS: Yes.

MH: I’m just wondering is Elizabeth Warren someone you would say that billionaires should be afraid of.

BS: Yeah, I think they should be as well. But I think, given my record and what we are trying to do in this campaign, is we are trying to uniquely in an unprecedented way in modern American history — It’s not just win this election which obviously we’re trying to do. We are simultaneously trying to build an unprecedented grassroots movement of millions of working people, black and white and Latino, Native American and Asian American around an agenda that works for all of us and not just the 1%. So, we are building a movement because at the end of the day you know, we can’t bring about real change without that movement.

MH: And you said, Elizabeth Warren is a friend of yours. You say you have a similar approach on Medicare for All, would a presidential candidate Bernie Sanders be open to Elizabeth Warren as his running mate?

BS: Elizabeth Warren is somebody that I have worked with for many, many years. Worked with her before she was a United States senator. So obviously, if I am fortunate enough to become the Democratic nominee and president of the United States, I would look absolutely, to Elizabeth Warren as somebody who would play a very, very important role in everything that we’re doing.

MH: And other candidates have talked about the need to balance a ticket. You know, we live in this age of “identity politics,” especially with Trump’s racism, Trump’s misogyny that the Democrats should take a stand. Are you okay with an all-male or an all-white ticket in 2020 for the Democrats?

BS: It’s too early to talk about it, but I do believe let me just repeat what I’ve said many times is my administration and my cabinet will look like America. It will be the most diverse administration and the most diverse cabinet this country has ever seen. We are proud of our diversity. I am the son, proud son of an immigrant. And I think when people look at our cabinet and our administration, they will say, “Hey, that’s what America looks like.”

MH: I’m sure they will. I have absolute faith that your administration and cabinet will but I asked about the ticket. And the reason I asked about the ticket is Cornel West, who came on the show in March and endorsed your presidential bid in that interview. He said to me, and I quote:

Cornel West: When Bernie Sanders wins the presidency, you can rest assured it’s not going to be with another vanilla brother.

MH: Is he right about that?

BS: Well, Cornel is, I love Cornel. He’s doing a great job. He’s a longtime friend of mine, but we will make a decision about the vice presidency at the appropriate time. It’s a little bit early to do that now.

MH: But you wouldn’t rule out, all I’m saying is you wouldn’t rule out an all-white or an all-male ticket? You’re not saying there has to be any conditions.

BS: Look, we have months to go. We will take a look at the best potential candidates that are out there. We’re not ruling out anything —

MH That’s what I was just checking.

BS: — Strongest and best. But this is what I will say, which is most important, trust me that my vice presidential candidate will be a strong progressive.

MH: Just before we finish, Jimmy Carter said recently that he didn’t think, he doesn’t think he could have done the job of president aged 80. You’ve obviously had a heart attack. You’ve come back very strong, very energetic, but people look at you, a lot of people who love you, admire you, support you and they say 79 years old when elected, 87 years old, if you serve two full terms. What do you say to Jimmy Carter and your admirers who say are you up to the job at this age and with this health?

BS: Well, first of all, I’m a big fan of Jimmy Carter. He’s a friend and somebody I have enormous admiration and respect for. I would not be running for office right now if I did not believe a, that I was the strongest candidate to defeat Trump and b, that I was not healthy enough and strong enough to be the kind of president this country desperately needs.

MH: For eight years, not four, for eight?

BS: Mehdi, let me let me win first before we talk about reelection. I’ll talk to you about reelection in a year or two. How’s that?

MH: I’ll hold you to that. I’ll hold you to that definitely, Senator. One last question before I let you go. Let’s say November, you beat Donald Trump. You win the popular vote. You win the Electoral College. It’s clear. It’s decisive. And he says, “No, I don’t accept the result. It’s fake news. It was the deep state. It was a coup. It was illegal immigrants voting for the Democrats.”


MH: What do you do in that scenario?

BS: I share the paranoia of many people. Trump is a pathological liar and a very dangerous person. Trump will accept the election results and when I defeat him, I will become the president of the United States.

MH: Okay, I hope you’re right about that. Thank you so much, Senator Sanders for taking time out of the campaign and coming on Deconstructed.

BS: Thank you very much, bye-bye.

MH: Bye-bye.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaking to me from his campaign office in Vermont. I’m joined now here in the studio in Washington, DC by The Intercept’s DC bureau chief Ryan Grim. Ryan, welcome back to the show.

Ryan Grim: Always good to be here.

MH: Bernie Sanders there dealing with the health, the age question that I had to throw him at the end. That’s kind of always the elephant in the room, always has been now post a heart attack even more. It was interesting that he kind of joked there about you know, I’ll come back in four years and talk to you about a second term. But normally, when you vote for a president, you’re assuming if you’re a supporter of that person, they’re going to serve two terms, eight years. Eight years would make Bernie Sanders 87 years old when he left office.

RG: He did seem to be leaving open the possibility that he would serve one term and I mean, he explicitly said I will serve one term and then I’ll figure out a second term later, whereas the standard answer for that is no, I’m in it for two terms. No president, modern presidential candidate wants to cut themselves short. Though, pundits are always looking for somebody to say that.

MH: I wrote a piece last year saying maybe he should be the one term guy. And I got attacked by supporters of Bernie Sanders saying I’m ageist and yet Jimmy Carter himself, as I pointed out to the Senator said he doesn’t think he could have done the job at the age of 80.

RG: I’m clearly in the presence of a great pundit. But, you know, because there’s an idea, and I think there’s probably a little bit of merit to it that some set of voters would see as statesman-like, you know, a commitment that you’re in it for the American people four years.

MH: To kick of the revolution.

RG: You’re going to bring about the revolution. You’re going to give it everything you’ve got, and you’re going to put in place people who are going to carry forward the revolution for you.

MH: So let me jump in there and say what was also interesting in that interview was Elizabeth Warren’s name was mentioned obviously by me and by the senator. I asked him would he be open to having Warren on a presidential ticket? I know it’s part of the parlor games of DC. But actually, even when I talked to friends of mine who are not political and this comes up, there’s actually a lot of interest amongst the public at large, who a vice presidential candidate would be, who would be on the ticket with that top person. And I know people don’t like talking about it. It’s too soon. But if you’re someone who’s torn between a Bernie and a Warren if you’re a progressive, you kind of like the idea of, okay, whoever gets on the top of the ticket, I hope the other person’s on the bottom of it.

RG: You do and it’s always fraught to talk about it from a gender relations standpoint. If you’re talking about a woman as the vice president and Joe Biden stepped on a rake that hit him right in the face at the beginning of his campaign when he suggested Stacey Abrams would make a wonderful VP.

Mh: And apparently Biden did this in 2016, too. He reached out to Elizabeth Warren when he was thinking about jumping in the race to challenge Hillary Clinton. He wanted Warren as his running mate then too.

RG: Yeah, and it fits, you know, his view of the world. All that aside. I think you’re right and more to the point, somebody like Sanders and also Warren in a way too but somebody like Sanders doesn’t trust very many national politicians, you might be able to count all of them on one finger.

MH: That’s true. If he’s doing the kind of vice presidential search, which candidates do it’s a short list.

RG: It’s an extremely short list and the number of people who cross the threshold of national credibility who are on that list, very small.

MH: But what do you do about the “identity politics” about this? I put this point to the senator, he kind of after much dodging and ducking he did say, I’m not ruling anything out at this stage. Unlike some other candidates who said, other male candidates who said, ideally, it’d be a woman on the ticket with me. Because can you really in 2020, still, after Hillary Clinton, you know, cracking that glass ceiling, winning the popular vote, can you really have no women anywhere on the ticket? I just find that bizarre. People say I’m being naive or whatever it is, and that’s just the way politics is but I just find it odd that the Democrats would go into 2020 with an all-male ticket against Trump.

RG: It would be unlikely, not completely impossible, but I think close to impossible. I think an all-white ticket is a lot more likely. Bernie Sanders, Jewish, not going to erase that history.

MH: And he mentioned it in the interview, yes, and it’s true.

RG: But so I could see a Sanders/Warren. It’d be harder to see a Warren/Sanders because you know, Warren is younger than Sanders, and so can follow him. To have a 79-year-old vice president —

MH: I just don’t think he would accept. I don’t think Bernie Sanders is interested in being vice president of the United States.

RG: What’s the point finishing your 78 to 82—

MH: I think a Sanders first term and a Warren second term would make a lot of people happy. It would make a lot of people unhappy, but it might work.

RG: It would make the right people unhappy.

MH: That’s very true and talking of the right people being unhappy. I did also make the point to him about Joe Biden and he didn’t bite with the Hillary Clinton analogy. I personally think Joe — and I’ve written this piece as well pundit that I am that Biden is Hillary Clinton mark two, but he’s Hillary Clinton with all of Clinton’s cons, and very few of her pros. He’s worse than Clinton in many ways.

RG: Yeah, Hillary Clinton was a much more talented politician than Joe Biden, and she’s not a terribly a talented politician. Now, she weathered decades and millions of dollars worth of opposition spending by Republicans to paint her into what she became. She also fed into it in ways that she didn’t have to like nobody forced her to give Goldman Sachs speeches right before —

MH: Knowing she was going to run for president.

RG: Knowing she was going to run for president or appearing before fracking conferences. But yeah, so Joe Biden, you know, has the talent that he has and we saw it on display in 1988 when he ran. We saw it on display in ’08 when he ran. And we’re seeing it again. He’s never been a terrific politician.

MH: Just to be clear to people listening in who are not familiar with the ’08, ’88 races, Ryan is using the word talent in the loosest of senses. Joe Biden crashed and burned in both of those.

RG: Yes, and people who followed politics closely in ’88 and ’08 would be unlikely to be deeply familiar with the fact that he even ran those years.

MH: Yes, I think he got less than 1% in Iowa back in 2008 during the Obama/Clinton.

RG: Right, and both of those years were set up for him. And you know, he had his mental faculties humming at a higher level.

MH: He wasn’t sunsetting back then as you put it recently.

RG: His sun was still in the middle of the sky.

MH: Okay, one last question before I let you go. It’s a question I didn’t have time to ask the senator. Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker came out recently, a few days ago and said what are the left thinking? What works in San Francisco doesn’t work in Michigan. She poo-pooed the green New Deal. She poo-pooed Medicare for All. Isn’t the reality that a President Sanders or even a President Warren won’t just have to deal with the Republicans, won’t just have to deal with the Joe Manchins in the Senate, the conservative Senate Democrats. They’ll also have to deal with the “liberal House Speaker from San Francisco” who’s made it clear she’s not on board with this agenda.

RG: Yeah, and first of all, her point is probably factually incorrect. She was talking about a wealth tax. A wealth tax will play well in San Francisco but not Michigan.

MH: Hugely popular even with Republican voters.

RG: It’s got to be way more popular in Michigan than in San Francisco where all the billionaires actually live and would get taxed.

MH: Also, last time I checked Bernie Sanders won Michigan during the Democratic primaries.

RG: Yeah, and so Bernie Sanders has a plan for this. He calls it his political revolution. You know, he’s going to win and then he’s going to keep his movement going, and he’s going to pressure people back where they’re from.

MH: I get that. I hope he does that to Joe Manchin. Does it work with Nancy Pelosi?

RG: Well, Nancy Pelosi, you basically have to elect a new speaker. You would have to organize support for a challenge to Nancy Pelosi. Unless you can get some type of commitments from her that she’s not going to be the Nancy Pelosi that she’s been, you know, the last you know, four to six years or so, obsessed with deficit reduction and and nervous that whatever she does is, you know, anything she does liberal is going to alienate these swing voters in these districts that she needs. Now, his argument would be and there’s some kernel of truth to it, that if Bernie Sanders comes from behind in the Democratic nomination and then wins the White House, that that changes the political calculations that even people like Nancy Pelosi makes.

But at the same time, Sanders has got to get off the sidelines in some of these primaries. You know, there are more than 100 members of Congress being challenged right now. And Sanders has endorsed I think one of them. Just on Tuesday night, we had a couple of insurgent candidates running in Philadelphia. Elizabeth Warren backed one of two, rather than backing them both Bernie Sanders backed zero. And one of the two won, you know, neither Sanders nor Warren are really getting in a vigorous way into the primary debates. And that’s how you’re going to kind of reshape the Congress that he’s going to be dealing with. He’s trying to win first and then he’s gonna deal with Congress. And maybe all he can bite off right now is the White House, though. That’s a significant task to try to win the White House.

MH: He’s not planning for the post bit which is fair enough.

RG: He’s not doing it now.

MH: Although I think he should also, and all Democrat should plan for what happens the day after the election when Donald Trump says he won’t go. But maybe that’s just my thing. Maybe I’m being paranoid as Bernie put it. I don’t think I am, but it’s a conversation for another day. Ryan, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for coming on the show again.

RG: Thank you for having me.

MH: And a quick announcement before I let you all go. Deconstructed will be coming to Toronto, Canada this Friday evening. We’re recording a special live show with the Canadian immigration minister Ahmed Hussen and the Leader of the opposition NDP party, Jagmeet Singh. So please if you’re in Toronto, you want to come watch a live recording. You want to ask questions from the audience, please do come along on Friday evening to the Hot Docs festival in Toronto. Tickets are available via our website. You can go to the program page the episode page for this week’s Deconstructed to get details on how to buy those tickets.

And that’s our show. Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at Thanks so much!

See you next week.

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