Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Manager on Why Pundits Don’t Like His Boss

Faiz Shakir lets loose on partisan rancor, how MSNBC treats Bernie, and his dream to coach high-school baseball

A photo of Faiz Shakir.
Faiz Shakir. Photo: Douglas Graham/Getty Images

GEN: I thought I’d begin by asking you about the end of “bipartisanship” in Washington. Because at the moment there’s no real sense of a benign relationship between the two parties. It seems to a lot of people, I think, that there’s no getting “back to normal,” whatever that is, or was.

“The entire debate is built on a waterbed. It’s just constantly in flux.”

That’s one question, and then there’s the separate question of, like, what’s even permitted to be on cable TV. And all that goes unsaid — even at a place like MSNBC, which prides itself to some degree at least on trying to stick to facts, there is a different sort of manipulation, based in what is permitted to be surfaced and discussed.

“[Sanders] has become less iconoclastic, I would say, as his views have become more mainstream within the Democratic party.”

Why do you think this is?

So… I’m going to push back on this a little bit, because, you know, as a lifelong Democrat who has become steadily disillusioned… I personally feel that the Overton Window has just moved clean off the building at this point. It’s just, you know —

So when I look at your career, I see somebody who is struggling to stay on the left, as everything kind of moved past you to the right. The organizations that you’ve been involved in can easily be perceived as part of the problem in the party, the problem of the chumminess, and the clubbiness —

What is the relationship of the Democratic Party now, the way you see it, to the critique of wealth in the political system?

“What he did is kind of force the party to reckon with it: ‘How are you making your money?’”

My family are Cuban, and so their idea of, like, capital-E evil was socialism, because of what happened to Cuba; and what people learned, in the 1950s, about what had happened in Russia, and so on. Like, to my parents, you know, socialism meant mass executions, the ruin of a place they had loved —

So I came up with this idea that all -isms are suspect, that any bad guy can get hold of power no matter what sort of flavor it comes in, and abuse it. In any case, I think a lot of older people, like me, have these associations from childhood… So they hear “socialism” they’re, like instantly, it’s just so visceral, like, you know — “socialism bad.”

Even if older people might think, Yeah, I want things to be fair, rich people should be taxed more, I want society to be more equitable, with proper public schools for everyone — the kind of socialism they have in Denmark — maybe we would like that. But people want to know how it will impact their lives exactly; what steps will be taken to prevent the abuses that always seem to come with radical change?

If you could comment on the Center for American Progress… there’s this obvious schism in that organization that seems to mirror the schism in the party at large, between centrists, and leftists —

Wait, what?

Maybe you’ll get your chance, eventually…

Yeah. Once all this is sorted out.

Tell me about your baseball coach. What’s his name, why so much love?

Wow! And you became like a baseball star. Right?

is a journalist and editor of Popula.com, an alt-global news and culture publication experimenting with blockchain-based publishing innovations.

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