Froma Harrop - Bernie has never been one to get his hands dirty

Back in the 1960s, Bernie Sanders burned hot as a civil rights activist. He led sit-ins against segregation and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. A few years later, he joined the exodus of countercultural lefties from the cauldron of New York City to the bucolic hills of Vermont — the whitest state in the nation.

That's Sanders in a nutshell. The senator from Vermont, now running for president, is a lovable talker, but talk is almost all he's ever done. Other liberals found purpose teaching at inner city schools. Sanders hung around coffee shops in picturesque Burlington, arguing the finer points of the socialist paradise he intended to create in a place that was already half there.

Shortly after arriving, Sanders and his then-wife bought 85 rural acres with the thought of living off the land. "I don't think Bernie was particularly into growing vegetables," a friend told Mother Jones magazine. Well, many a Vermont field went unplowed in those days.

During an early run for state office as a Liberty Union Party candidate, Sanders proposed ending compulsory education in Vermont. As he put it, Vermont schools "crush the spirits of our children".

In fairness, Sanders did hold a serious executive office as mayor of Burlington. And he's mellowed into pragmatism. Despite his anti-war views, Sanders has supported Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet, ignoring the hundreds of billions in cost overruns. It meant jobs in Vermont.

And he's done some updating. In railing against the villains of the oligarchy, he's replaced "Rockefeller" with "Koch".

To his credit, Sanders never disavowed his socialist leanings. (He refers to himself as a "democratic socialist.") Nor has he scrubbed the Brooklyn from his voice, another honest touch.

Dressed in the rumpled suit of the prairie populist, Sanders has tuned his rhetoric to resonate with middle-of-the-road Americans worried about growing economic inequality. The crowds enjoy him, and he's doing surprisingly well in the polls.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat also running for president, is understandably irked by the attention Sanders garners. Portraying himself as the true liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, O'Malley notes his success in raising his state's minimum wage and legalizing same-sex marriage. Asked at a rally in Iowa how he differed from Sanders, O'Malley responded, "I've actually gotten these things done."

Part of Sanders's retro charm comes from his refusal to rewrite his story. But the story as he tells it is incomplete.

Writing in The Vermont Freeman back in the '70s, Sanders explained his decision to leave New York City as follows: He couldn't bear holding a "monotonous" office job among "the mass of hot dazed humanity heading uptown for the 9-5."

No mention of what were probably the stronger motivations — the muggings, the racial tensions, the bodies sleeping (or dead) in the subway stations. The New York of the '70s was a hard place for working people of all colors. As writer James Wolcott memorably put it, New Yorkers lived with "the sense that much of the social contract had suffered a psychotic break."

Today, Gotham's humanity is as dazed as ever and if anything, hotter, yet the city has become a magnet for young, ambitious, creative people. The difference is that New York has become an amazingly safe city — thanks in large part to the New Yorkers who stuck around to fix much of what went wrong.

It's one thing to fight in the fray of urban disorder and another to shadowbox in the gentle hills of northern New England.

Say this for Sanders, though: He puts on a good show. Stagecraft may be where his greatest talents lie.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)


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Will folks on Margin Ave. live long enough to enjoy a paved street?

To The Daily Sun,

I read with great interest the article in the July 1 Daily Sun about Cleveland Place finally getting rebuilt — to the delight of the residents of the street.

For about 30 years, my wife and I have lived on Margin Avenue at Weirs Beach in Laconia. Margin Avenue is an unpaved, narrow, city-owned dirt road with well over a dozen homes along it. Last year alone, we paid nearly $5,000 in taxes to the city.

Not to take anything away from the good people of Cleveland Place, I must say I am puzzled as to why the city cannot provide the people of Margin Avenue the same consideration given to Cleveland Place.

I have met on several occasions with the city's Public Works director, Paul Moynihan. He has always been cordial, but instead of action, we get excuses, like drainage issues (I agree, they need to be addressed) and a lack of funds (we pay our taxes like everybody else, but get inferior service).

Our street is a mess. It needs to be rebuilt to today's standards. We have potholes you can get lost in. It's narrow and when cars go by in a rainstorm, the dirt splashes into my house. I have to keep my windows closed or the dirt is all over the inside of my house. I have paved my parking area and built a deck to try to keep the dirt out of our house but nothing short of the city rebuilding the street will work.

After all these years of paying taxes to the city, we are wondering if any of us on Margin Avenue will live long enough to see a normal, paved street with adequate drainage here, like most everyone else in the city enjoys. Maybe there are streets in the city in worse shape, but I've never seen them. I realize the budget is tight but when is it our turn to get on the priority list? I would love to see a commitment from the city Public Works director, city manager and City Council as to when they will take care of the long overlooked mess Margin Avenue continues to be.

Robert Decotis


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By all means, please offer to help put my kayak in the water

To The Daily Sun,

I enjoy being out on the water just as much as other boat owner's do. I have a kayak and need to use the boat ramps to get it in and out of the water. It's too heavy for me to carry down to the beach from a parking lot.

Being patient and respectful of all boats is the rule of the water. If I am in your way at the time of entering and exiting, by all means please come around and offer to help. I would be grateful for anyone's help and we can all remain on friendly terms.

Thank you for your future consideration for my request. I will see you out on the water soon!

Ann Chabot


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President Obama will leave but his health plan is here to stay

To The Daily Sun,

It is sad to see that most Republicans have a negative approach to politics and governing. Without going into a litany of all their negativity I would ask you to name the positive programs that have come from the Republicans.

It seems that now is the time to ask them to do something positive for all Americans. Obamacare is now a fact of political life. It will no more be dismantled than will Medicare or Social Security. However, they all can be improved a great deal. Medicare has proven to be an excellent program for all Americans who benefit from it. Improvements recommended by Republicans could make a major reduction in the cost of our federal government. They might even pick up some votes from independents for providing more efficient government.

Obamacare should be joined to Medicare, cutting out the tremendous costs and red tape of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Both of these industries have very powerful lobbies which dictated many of the rules in Obamacare, raising the cost a great deal. I can buy prescriptions through Canada at a fraction of the cost for the same drug here. And why should an insurance company make a profit with Obamacare when they do not on Medicare?

So I would like to see the Republicans of this county, state and country pressure their representatives to act in a positive mode for a change. Obama is leaving and his health plan is here to stay, so take another tack in your letters and suggest something positive.

And I don't mean to imply that the Republicans are the only party that needs to deal with the inefficiencies in Washington. The Democrats are also too much beholden to the named lobbyists and others.

Kent Warner
Center Harbor


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