If the emerging corporate media narrative is to be believed, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s minor heart attack last week dealt a devastating, and possibly insurmountable, blow to the Vermont senator’s bid for the White House.
“I actually feel like Bernie’s hospitalization is a sign that we have to do more to get him elected. He is the most effective possible weapon we have against Trump, and his presidency would be an opportunity for an unprecedented transformation of the political system.”
—Nathan J. Robinson, Current AffairsBut prominent campaign surrogates, advisers, and supporters in recent days have forcefully pushed back against that notion and argued Sanders—with his grassroots army as enthusiastic and motivated as ever—is well-positioned to compete for and ultimately win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
In a video statement released on Thursday, Sanders himself spoke to supporters and the American public directly about his recent heart attack and said that he’s “feeling really good and getting stronger every day.”
Thanking supporters for their well-wishes, Sanders said his recovery and rest time has allowed him to reflect on the kinds of adversity that tens of millions of Americans face each and every day.
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“But at the end of the day, if you’re going to look at yourself in the mirror and you’re going to say, ‘Look, I go around once. I have one life to live, what role do I want to play?'” Sanders says in the video. “It speaks to the need to create the kind of country that we can become, where people are working hard to serve each other—to understand each other. That is the country we can become—we really can. But we have to have the courage to take on some enormously powerful special interests.”
James Zogby, a committed Sanders backer and president of the Arab American Institute, said that when the senator returns to the campaign trail after fully recovering from his heart stent procedure, he will be greeted by “an invigorated campaign with a staff and a support base that has doubled down in their efforts to make this happen.”
“We are going to have an active campaign. Instead of a breakneck series of events that lap the field, we are going to keep a marathoner’s pace that still manages to outrun everyone else.”
—Faiz Shakir, Sanders campaign manager
“Because they realize that for them—and for me—he’s the critical choice,” Zogby told HuffPost.
Speaking to reporters outside of his Vermont home Tuesday, Sanders said he plans to make adjustments to his schedule—which, before his health scare, frequently included three or four rallies per day on top of other campaign activity—to ensure he can sustain his presidential bid over the long haul.
“We’re gonna probably not do three or four rallies a day,” Sanders said, adding that he will likely attend two rallies a day.
Pundits and major media outlets quickly seized upon the senator’s remarks as evidence that he is dramatically dialing back his campaign activity or even, in the words of FiveThirtyEight‘s Nate Silver, “entering a phase where his goal is to pull the nominee to the left and/or to build a movement rather than to actually win.”
The campaign, and Sanders himself, quickly and aggressively disputed both claims.
“As Bernie said, we are going to have an active campaign,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, told Common Dreams. “Instead of a breakneck series of events that lap the field, we are going to keep a marathoner’s pace that still manages to outrun everyone else.”
In an interview with NBC News Wednesday, Sanders said he plans to “start off slower” once he hits the trail again “and build up and build up and build up.”
“We’re going to get back into the groove of a very vigorous campaign,” Sanders said. “I love doing rallies and I love doing town meetings.”
The senator also dismissed the notion that his campaign was not sufficiently transparent about his health, a line some political reporters pushed after the campaign announced last Friday that Sanders had a heart attack.
“That’s nonsense. I don’t know what people think campaigns are, you know we’re dealing with all kinds of doctors and we wanted to have a sense of what the hell was going on really,” Sanders told NBC. “So the first thing that we’re trying to do is understand what’s going on and not run to the New York Times and have to report every 15 minutes. You know, this is not a baseball game. So I think we acted absolutely appropriately.”
David Welch, a recently retired cardio rehab nurse in California who supports Sanders for president but has no affiliation with the campaign, wrote in a Common Dreams op-ed Thursday that the senator’s heart attack is not a concern for him.
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