If you’ve been wanting to hear Bernie Sanders warble along to “This Land Is Your Land,” the Woody Guthrie folk classic, this is your lucky day. A video clip from 1988 appears to capture Sanders doing just that during a trip to the former Soviet Union.
He’s shirtless to boot (and reported to be down to his boxers), which in terms of generating special interest would seem to be a matter of personal taste.
NEW: Recently discovered footage from 1988 reveals a shirtless Bernie Sanders with his wife, Jane, on their honeymoon in the USSR, drunkenly signing “This Land Is Your Land” with a group of presumed Soviets.
— TOᑭ ᖇOᑭE TᖇAViS (@TopRopeTravis) January 28, 2019
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For the skeptical, another Tweep has a clearer photo of Sanders and his tablemates.
Here is the original photo I found online – much clearer than hat you see on the video. pic.twitter.com/xOr4pRqAe1
— Political Memester (@PoliticalMemes5) January 29, 2019
The Forward’s Jenny Singer, at least, applauds Sanders’s body acceptance.
It’s of passing interest that the critics who’ve “surfaced” this video clip are on the political left, and their obvious concern is that Fun Bernie from the Dank & Crazy 1980s will be cuter and more compelling to 2020 socialist-prog voters than Beto O’Rourke or Kamala Harris.
There’s also kind of a throw-away point that the 1980s weren’t the height of really Communist Communism in the FSU. Says Singer:
It’s true that in 1988 Bernie and Jane Sanders spent time in the Soviet Union immediately after their wedding, but Sanders was the mayor of Burlington at the time, and the trip, to Burlington’s Soviet sister city, Yaroslavl, was a part of his official duties. Sanders wrote openly about it in his memoir, jokingly referring to it as a “honeymoon.”
The video, which somewhat hilariously features a shirtless Sanders belting out the lyrics to the Woody Guthrie classic with a table of apparent locals, does look like a good time. But, as Leonid Bershidsky wrote in Bloomberg of the alleged “honeymoon,” which was brought up during the 2016 primary debates to suggest that Sanders has Communist affiliations, the Soviet Union in in 1988 was “hardly a place for an admirer of Communism to find comfort.”
While less sanguinary and bullet-ridden than in, say, 1938, the Soviet Union of 1988 was certainly still a better place for an admirer of Communism to find comfort than West Germany, India, or the USA. More to the point, it was still one of the best places on the planet to find card-carrying Communists.
Indeed, in 1988, mainstream Western observers were busy proclaiming that between glasnost and perestroika, iron-toothed reformer Mikhail Gorbachev was actually saving Communism, modernizing it, giving it a bridge to the future. (That’s what Gorbachev himself said he was doing, after all.) There was a comfortable sense among parlor socialists that Communism was being domesticated – had been being domesticated for years, really – and would be with us for a long, long time. Collectivism in some quasi-communist, hybrid-socialist guise was mankind’s future. As late as 1988, Ronald Reagan was still out on a limb by himself with his “ash heap of history” dismissal of Soviet Communism.
The Sanders were in the FSU in June 1988; 17 months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were no recognizable voices in the West – other than Reagan’s – predicting that either the Soviet Union or organized Communism was headed for implosion. It’s only in retrospect that the end of the USSR looks inevitable.
In any case, I’m really back on that “mayor of Burlington on official duties, visiting Yaroslavl” thing.
Hey, knock yourselves out, Burlingtonians. There’s nothing wrong with “sister cities.” But you have to love everything about this point; e.g., that it was a big deal to Sanders, that Burlington apparently wanted to spend money this way, that Sanders executed his public trust by having dinner shirtless and in his boxers with his Soviet hosts, and especially that 30 years later, Jenny Singer uses the “official duties” theme to implicitly rebuke critics who call the trip the Sanders’s “honeymoon.” It wasn’t his actual honeymoon, haters; he was on official duties.
Not, of course, what the head of the local Chamber of Commerce would probably do if he visited Yaroslavl, officially, on behalf of Burlington. But that’s not a bug, with those dope socialist mayors from the 1980s; it’s a feature. Carry on, ‘Murrica.