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In 1988 C-SPAN Interview Sanders Voiced Support for Jesse Jackson: ‘The Only One Making Sense’

Bernie Sanders (or Bernard, as he was referred to then) gave his first interview to C-SPAN nearly 30 years ago when he was still the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, mulling a potential run for Congress and voicing his support for then-presidential candidate Jesse Jackson.

Of the batch of candidates seeking the presidency in 1988, Sanders said that Jackson was the “only one who makes sense.” He added that Jackson was the only candidate who “understands that you need to get poor people and working class people” involved, and praised him for having “the guts” to take on the political establishment. “I have my disagreements with Jackson,” he said, “but he is, to my mind, the only one making sense on the issues.”

Perhaps the more remarkable thing about the interview is that, in terms of the issues he discusses, the language he uses, and the ardor with which he condemns the current political system is not very different from the Bernie of today.

Sanders blasts the outsized influence of big money in politics, the disparity in wealth, the rising costs of health care, and the power of corporations to control the media. He discusses his dream of a “third party movement in the Unites States, composed of working people, minorities, and women.”

The interview also evinces Sanders’ occasional blind spot for racial issues, and preference to re-frame them as economic issues, a tendency that has come up during his 2016 presidential run. “The real issue in this country is class,” he said, not race. Martin Luther King Jr., he claimed, only began facing real concerted opposition from the powers that be when he began to address the effects of capitalism across racial lines.

Discussing Jackson’s viability as a candidate, Sanders said the real weakness facing his campaign was not race, but class. “The real issue is not whether you’re black or white, whether you’re a man or a women. In my view, a women could be elected President of the United States. The real issue is: Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the workers and poor people? Or are you on the side of big money and the corporations?”

“Jackson is on the side of poor people and working people,” he said.

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