Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading the polls in New Hampshire. His campaign raised $33 million in the fourth quarter of 2015. Why isn't he gaining more traction?
You might call it a case of "if you didn't hear it the first time, I'll say it again."
Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to his native New York yesterday to deliver an address billed as an important step for his campaign — returned not just to the city, but to the same Manhattan stage where he held a spirited rally and fundraiser in September.
Since the terror attacks in Paris, the presidential campaign has been dominated by national security issues. The Democratic Party debates have been buried on busy weekends. Sanders' signature issue — inequality caused by Wall Street — is being hijacked by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
At Sanders' first appearance at the Town Hall performance space on 43rd Street, he barely mentioned Clinton. Yesterday, he was on the attack.
Back to basics
Sanders' take on the recent history of finance is one-part history lesson, one-part morality tale.
As he tells it, Congress believed it could trust Wall Street, and in 1999 repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had kept commercial and investment banking separate since the aftermath of the Great Depression.
In 2008, the economy nearly collapsed.
"Greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance — these are some of the words that best describe the reality of Wall Street today," Sanders said to a receptive full-house crowd that frequently interrupted the senator with calls of support.
Within a year of becoming president, he promised, he'd break up banks whose failure would be catastrophic for the economy. He'd also reinstate Glass-Steagall.
The implicit enemy in all this: Clinton, who Sanders claims would only tinker with the current system. Comprehensive overhauls are needed, he says.
Abandon all hope, ye who profit here
Referencing "Dante's Inferno" and the Bible, Sanders said that today, "We don't need the hellfire and the pitchforks, we don't need the rivers of boiling blood, but we do need a national usury law."
Sanders also called for non-profit, independent ratings agencies, a tax on speculation to pay for higher education, a cap of ATM fees at $2 dollars and credit card interest rates at 15 percent.
He envisions a postal service, that benighted institution, retooled to perform low-level banking functions for those forced to frequent payday lenders.
Did he make himself clear on who should be the standard bearer of the 99%?
"Fraud is the business model on Wall Street," he added, just for good measure.
Socialists in a den of capitalism
Sanders' second New York Town Hall was a reaffirmation of principles, as opposed to a new direction, just weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
Some supporters mirrored the excitement of that first appearance, and wondered why establishment voices seemed to be ignoring Sanders.
Robert Plautz, 69, said he couldn't remember being so in tune with a candidate since hearing Ralph Nader in 2000. But this wasn't "some church basement," he said. "Others talk about inequality and say, 'Well, if we raise the minimum wage . . . ' Sanders goes beyond that."
"I've been waiting all my life to hear someone say what he says," said Susan Quist, 71. "We need a whole different system. Democratic socialism!"
"I wish he would win," she says. "I'd be terrified otherwise."
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers.