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Wed Oct 16, 2019, 05:24 AM

Bernie Sanders's Campaign Is Alive and Well

By Eric Levitz@EricLevitz 1:20 A.M.


At the Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio — his first major campaign event since taking ill — Bernie wasn’t just his old, bizarrely sharp and energetic-for-a-septuagenarian self. He was better, crisper, and funnier than before. The hoarse voice that plagued Sanders on the last episode of this (wretched) TV show was gone. A new perspective on the fragility of this life — and the preciousness of every opportunity to mitigate the suffering of other human beings — had, presumably, taken its place. Or maybe Bernie just got a good night’s sleep Monday. Either way, he turned in his finest debate performance of the cycle thus far.

In the (apparently, legally mandatory) early back-and-forth on the horrors of replacing private insurance premiums with payroll taxes, Sanders benefited from the greater clarity of his position relative to Warren’s (he is comfortable copping to the necessity of tax hikes, she prefers to avoid the t-word), and his rivals’ greater interest in damaging the race’s new frontrunner.

Later, he delivered a rousing defense of his desire to expropriate Tom Steyer’s wealth; interrupted Joe Biden to crack a joke amusing enough to earn him an impromptu embrace from the former vice-president; and still managed to stick a shiv between Uncle Joe’s ribs when the time was ripe:

And then, minutes after the debate was done, the Sanders campaign won the endorsement of the most charismatic congresswoman in the United States: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed that she will be lending Bernie 2020 her considerable starpower at a rally in Queens Saturday. AOC’s fellow “squad” members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will also reportedly be joining the political revolution.

Whether any of this will actually matter is unknowable. There isn’t much evidence that any of the previous Democratic debates made a durable impact on the polls. To the extent that Sanders needs to improve his standing with older voters, and Democrats who subscribe to conventional notions about “electability,” AOC’s rubber stamp isn’t going to help. But the senator’s mission Tuesday night was to keep the political obituarists at bay. There’s no question he accomplished that much.


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