More than a campaign biography, this graphic narrative traces the decline and possible resurgence of liberalism within the Democratic Party.
The candidate for the presidential nomination barely makes an appearance until more than a third of the book has passed, as the introductory sections offer an incisive analysis of just how far to the right the Democratic Party has drifted. Political cartoonist and war correspondent Rall (Snowden, 2015, etc.) asserts that the defeats of McGovern and Mondale, the one-term presidency of Carter in between, and the ineffectual candidacy of Dukakis all served to move the party away from its traditional liberal mandate toward the center. Sanders was no one’s obvious choice to be the standard-bearer of a liberal uprising, not even the candidate’s, but the times made him inevitable—at least according to this book. As the party no longer accommodated positions such as those in the Occupy movement and opponents to the Wall Street rescue, Sanders decided that if no other candidate would give voice to that constituency, he would. The latter half of the book traces his remarkable political rise, as he defeated a six-term incumbent to become mayor of Burlington, “one of the great upsets in Vermont political history,” and went on to represent his state as a popular independent in both the House and the Senate. Rall’s analysis is scathingly radical. He labels George W. Bush “the most radical right-wing Republican of the modern political era,” dismisses Bill Clinton as a “DINO—Democrat in Name Only,” and blasts “Obama’s stormtroopers” for the violent dispersing of the nonviolent Occupy protestors. And Bernie? “If he was a fringe kook, he was a popular one” as a senator, and though this biography shows little confidence that Sanders will be nominated, let alone elected president, it demonstrates why he’s been able to pose a greater challenge than anticipated.
An effective, if unapologetically partisan, primer on a strong voice from the left to counter the Democrats’ rightward shift.