In the late 1980s, while he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders hosted a cable access show called “Bernie Speaks with the Community.” And now, thanks to Politico and Channel 17, we can watch the entire archive! It’s weird as hell.
Here’s how Politico described “Bernie Speaks:”
For dozens of hours, Sanders interviews townspeople, and lets them interview him. He gives speeches, but he also does all the day-to-day things a mayor does: He talks with his police chief. He visits the local schools. He chats up elderly constituents. He even plants trees. Well before The Truman Show, or reality TV, and even longer before we grew accustomed to learning on Twitter and Facebook what our friends and our celebrities ate for breakfast, Sanders basically made a lo-fi, analog attempt at livestreaming his day job.
In this episode, Sanders is at a park, surrounded by young kids. “Do you know that you look like somebody on Back to the Future?” one of them asks him.
Sanders then brings the conversation to drugs.
“Do any of the older kids you know have some problems with drugs, occasionally?” Sanders asks. “Who wants to talk to me about that? What about drugs? Is that a problem?”
“I like coke!” a young boy replies.
“You tell me about that,” Sanders says.
“I like Coca-Cola!” he said.
“Oh, Coca-Cola. Alright, but who knows about cocaine?” Sanders asks. “Anyone ever seen cocaine? What about cocaine? Good thing, bad thing?”
“Bad!” the kids call out.
“Why is it bad?” Sanders asked them.
“Because it has a bad effect on the body,” one replies.
“That’s right. Do you know people who take drugs? You don’t have to tell me who,” he says, “but I bet you do.”
Sanders then tells them that cocaine “screws up your mind and it screws up your body,” before transitioning to talking about the dangers of smoking.
“Who here smokes?” he asks. “Come on, raise your hand.”
One of the young kid then answers him: “I don’t smoke because I’m a little kid. I’m only 5 years old.”
In this episode, shot at a mall, Sanders talks at length to a couple of punks named Michelle and Mike.
“Let me start off by saying it’s an interesting hairdo,” Sanders says to Michelle, who’s dressed head to toe in black. “Lipstick is also very interesting. The color screen will focus in on it. It seems to be black, is that right?”
He continues: “So let me ask you the obvious question, alright? What does your dress mean? What does it say?”
“It’s just basically saying to heck with society, to heck with law and order,” Michelle replies.
“You’re saying to the mayor ‘to heck with law and order?’” Sanders says jokingly.
“I don’t like the way society’s run,” Michelle tells him. “Everybody’s plastic.”
Mike then pipes in. “About the dress, it shows the way you feel. People wear black because you don’t feel too good about what’s going on around them. Some of the stuff thats going on in society is basically baloney,” he says. “Everybody’s always complaining about depression and such. Well, that’s going to happen in a democracy. It’s natural. Because if you have a democracy, there’s going to be capitalists.”
“What kid of society would you like to see?” Sanders asks them. “I’m kind of an anarchist, but communism doesn’t bother me,” Mike replies, as long as it doesn’t limit “freedom of speech,” and Michelle agrees.
“Thank you very much for your forthright views,” Sanders tells them.
And here we have Sanders on a horse. “Bernie, have you ever been on a horse before?” someone asks him.
“The main point that I want to make,” Sanders replies, “is that if I can survive on a horse, anybody can survive on a horse.”
“This horse is getting itchy,” he says at one point.
Will you be watching every episode of “Bernie Speaks with the Community” this weekend?