“At some point, doesn’t Bernie Sanders get tired of it. … Doesn’t he tell his supporters to go vote for Trump at some point?”— Donald Trump, Jacksonville, Florida, Nov. 3.
All it took to reel in Bernie was a single phone call by Trump, the greatest dealmaker since Abraham bargained with God.
The two outsiders, both native New Yorkers, talked nostalgically about their shared college experiences in the early 1960s — Sanders read Marx at the University of Chicago while Trump dreamed of profits at Wharton. Russia was another emotional bond: Bernie had honeymooned in the Soviet Union while Trump is smitten with Vladimir Putin.
So on the weekend before the election, the Vermont socialist senator broke off a campaign swing through Iowa for Hillary Clinton to deliver his own November Surprise. It was the most persuasive endorsement since Ted Cruz embraced the man who suggested that Cruz’s father had been part of the plot to assassinate JFK.
“My friends,” Sanders began, “I am the son of a Polish immigrant who worked every day of his life and never had a lot. We all lived in a three-and-a-half room, rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. My mother, who died at a young age, always dreamed of moving out of that lousy apartment and getting a home of her own.”
“The truth is that neither of my parents could ever have dreamed that I would be standing here before you to endorse a landlord — yes, a landlord — for president of the United States. But Donald Trump is not just an ordinary landlord. He’s a Republican landlord who was sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against African-American renters. Hard-working people just like my parents.
“I know what you’re thinking right now, ‘So why, Bernie, are you supporting Donald Trump’?
“It is not because of Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails, which I said at the beginning of this campaign should not be an issue. And it is not about the hacked emails from Hillary’s campaign that said mean and unfair things about me.
“But what I do believe is an outrage — a symbol of the rigged system run by the billionaire class — is that Donna Brazile gave Hillary a debate question or two from CNN. When I debated Secretary Clinton in Flint, Michigan, I never imagined that there would be a question about the how the people of Flint couldn’t drink the poisoned water from their taps. But thanks to Donna Brazile, Hillary had been secretly tipped off.
“There are also many positive reasons why Donald Trump is now my candidate for president. Unlike Secretary Clinton, we both militantly opposed Iraq War. I voted against it in Congress. And it was, I have to tell you, not a popular vote. But Mr. Trump did something far more courageous — he once whispered to Sean Hannity that he was against it.
“What I care about is fairness. And it is not fair that the richest 20 people in this country have as much money as the bottom half. Luckily, Mr. Trump is not that rich. In fact, if he ever would release his taxes, I suspect that he might not even qualify for the 1 percent.
“I share something important with Donald Trump: We both understand the power of the big banks. Greedy bankers should not have a get-out-of-jail-free card. Big banks should never be too big to fail. This is what I have been fighting for all through this campaign year — that bankers should be held accountable for their mistakes.
“Donald Trump has lived this principle. When bankers loan him money, they pay the price when he declares bankruptcy. I have said that Wall Street is a big casino. Well, Donald Trump has owned casinos — and still he went bankrupt.
“What the people have said this year is that it is just too late for the same old establishment politics and the same old establishment economics.
“Well, Donald Trump is not the establishment. There is a reason why the only newspapers that have endorsed him are owned by his son-in-law and conservative super PAC oligarch Sheldon Adelson. There is a reason why every establishment economist — even the progressive ones whom I admire — thinks that Mr. Trump’s economic policies are crazy.
“And don’t get me started on nuclear weapons. I know nuclear weapons. I did duck-and-cover drills in school in Brooklyn. I read ‘On the Beach’ and saw ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ When there’s a 3:00 a.m. phone call at the White House, I hope President Trump is on Twitter or watching his old speeches on cable TV.
“But the important thing is that we have a peaceful, democratic revolution in this country. Yes, a revolution. And I am proud to tell you that Donald Trump is revolting.”
Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is a veteran of Politics Daily, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. His book on his con-man great-uncle was just published: “Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer.” Follow him on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.