This is not your typical Bernie Sanders blog post. True, liberals like me have been dreaming of a presidential candidate like him—a straight-talking, honest, charismatic, and unapologetic leftist who draws crowds and enthusiasm from everyone, not just liberals—for decades. I have wanted someone like him since I was a twelve-year-old in the mid-80s who discovered that my values and ideals were a lot closer to Bob Dylan and the Beatles than Ronald Reagan and Alex P. Keaton. But I’m not talking about that kind of dreaming.
I’m talking about literally, dreaming. Like what goes on at night, during REM sleep.
Bernie Sanders has invaded my nights.
This is significant for me because like most adults, I seldom remember my dreams. (Hell, I’ve got a full-time, executive-level comunications job and two small kids, so I’m lucky to even get a decent night’s sleep most nights.) But for the past several weeks, I’ve been having an intense, recurring dream that involves a certain wild-hair-sporting, bad-suit-wearing, wildly gesticulating, yellow-toothed, humpbacked, Brooklyn-accent-bearing democratic socialist.
(Okay, so the dude would never have landed any role other than Freaky Grouch Grandpa at Hollywood Central Casting on the old MGM lot way back when. To say nothing of the fact that the dude is actually old enough to have gotten hired on the old MGM lot as early as 1950.)
In my recurring dream, I follow Bernie around a series of winding passages in a labyrinth suitable for either an ancient Greek myth or a postmodern, dystopian young-adult novel. He’s always just a few steps ahead of me, never quite within my reach, though I can hear his grating-yet-lovable rantings about the one percent and Wall Street and campaign finance reform just fine. I want to reach out and touch him, but I can’t. And unlike the famously touchy-feely politician, he doesn’t reach out to shake my hand (or rush to pick me up when I faint), like he does for the people who attend his rallies.
No, to me in my dream world, he’s just a formless cloud in the ether who can’t be touched or grasped, let alone categorized. I want him to save me from my eternal aimlessness, a la David Bowie in the movie Labyrinth, but for whatever reason, he can’t. This goes on throughout the night, and just when I think I’ve finally caught the man, he disappears. And I wake up.
I always wake up from these dreams feeling a mixture of sadness and hope. Sadness at the fact that I spent my night hours chasing a liberal dream (literally and figuratively), only to awaken knowing that the dream wasn’t real.
At least, it isn’t real yet. But someday, maybe it will be. And therein lies the hope.
Still, I’ve spent so many nights staying up to watch him in political debates, scrolling through Bernie stories in my custom news feed on my phone, even giving my eight-year-old son (a Bernie fanboy if there ever was one) a play-by-play whenever he pops up on TV, that Bernie seems to occupy my very cells. I’ve never felt so personally invested in a political candidate. Not even for Obama, whom I adored (still do, though he’s not the super-liberal that I and so many others really wanted.) Bernie has become like my dad, or a slightly younger version of my grandfather if my dad/grampa were a lefty-cranky-Jewish man who doubles as an invincible superhero who can fly and vaporize evil stockbrokers with a single bound, or maybe just with one of those insane eyerolls of his. (My dad and grandpa are neither super-liberal nor superhero, though my working-class grandpa is far more like Bernie than I’m sure he’d want to admit.)
Even if I’ve never met him in real life, Bernie seems to me like my friendly-yet-crusty neighbor, who knows me by name, is happy to listen to any problem I might have, however trivial, and who generally cares about what happens to me and my family. He feels like that to almost everyone, which I’m sure has something to do with how popular he’s become. He makes the writer in me (my day job) want to write about something other than what I get paid to write about.
How ironic that in our TV-entertainment-spin world of politics, a funny-looking septuagenarian in an endless parade of bad outfits is the biggest political story of the year. Bernie is larger than life mostly because unlike all the other political candidates out there, he feels real.
And yet, in my dreams, he’s this unquantifiable figure, almost a magic cloud. I want to know what and who Bernie is in my dream landscape, and yet I can never quite figure it out. I wake up every morning feeling unsatisfied.
And ready to go back for more, the very next night. And the night after that, and the night after that. Forever.
Tonight, I hope to be dreaming of Bernie Sanders. Maybe tonight, I’ll actually catch up to him in that strange, dark, scary dream-maze and finally get to ask him the one question that I’ve been dying to ask ever since I first saw him pop up on C-SPAN and the occasional morning news program spouting his cantankerous rhetoric all those years ago:
“Where have you been all my life?”