Sanders will be in Silicon Valley March 4 for the only Northern California appearance scheduled to talk about his new book, "It's OK to be Angry About Capitalism," hosted by Kepler's Literary Foundation at San Jose's California Theatre. The event, which is nearly sold out, promises a lively discussion about topics ranging from the senator's calls for health care reform to the future of work.
In their book, Sanders and co-author John Nichols, a Wisconsin-based journalist and national affairs correspondent at The Nation, explore the senator's influence over the last few tumultuous years in American politics and the unfettered ways that money drives political decision-making and is widening the wealth gap.
They lay out a vision for how the country's politics could be reshaped, offering guaranteed economic rights to all individuals in areas like health care, work and education.
This publication chatted with Nichols to hear more about the book he co-authored with Sanders and what messages it contains for readers in Silicon Valley. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Kate Bradshaw: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your role in working with Senator Sanders on this book? What was that process like?
John Nichols: Well, I've known Sen. Sanders for decades and written about him a lot over the years. I wrote the afterword to his autobiography; a couple of editions of it. And then he wrote an introduction to one of my books. So we've written things together before or at least had these literary connections over the years. In the summer of 2021, we were talking, and he said he was trying to put together a book that might talk more deeply about policy issues. And he asked if I would like to help do it.
We both contributed to all the different parts of the book. It's a book about his campaigns and also about his policies. What we tried to do was to explore some policy issues that maybe haven't been dug into as deeply. One of the things that I was particularly interested in was making sure that we wrote a lot about media policy. Also, I've written some articles over the years on technological change, robotification, the new era of work in America, and so particularly in some of those areas where we're talking about work life and the future of work, I encouraged us to go deep in those areas.
Bradshaw: So the overall thesis of the book is in its title, but it's also deeper than that. Can you summarize what are some of the book's calls to action?
Nichols: At the core, the book is trying to open up a discussion in America that goes to a deeper place. Too frequently, our discussions about politics and about the economy are de-linked, and so we don't think of economic issues as being those that should be close to or at the center of our politics. Often, there's a sensibility in the United States that economics sort of happens to us, right? Like, we don't know why the stock market went up or went down. What we wanted to argue is that there are a lot of decisions made about our economy by powerful people in politics and in business that affect all of our lives, but that we don't have as much say in it as we should.
If there's a call to action, it is for people to be more engaged in these debates and more willing to make demands of our politics. One of the core demands is that we tax the rich, that we make sure that billionaires and multinational corporations pay their fair share. Another aspect of it is that when these resources come from a fairer tax system — a fairer system in general — that those resources should be allocated in ways that create universal guarantees for people: a guarantee of health care, not as a privilege but as a right; a guarantee of access to education, not as a privilege, but as right. That's really the core call to action: for people to seize their democratic — small "d" democratic — power and demand a fairer and more just society.
Bradshaw: In this particular area's voting history, (in the 2020 primaries) there were plenty of super-wealthy precincts that picked Michael Bloomberg (a billionaire) over Bernie. And one of this book's messages is that there shouldn't be billionaires. What's Sen. Sanders' message for those voters? And what would you say to them?
Nichols: What we set out to do was write a book that talks about empowering the working class, and creating a more fair and equitable society. I think people of many backgrounds feel that is necessary and know that is good for the United States. Will there be people who resist? Of course.
Silicon Valley has a very rich political history, and it has sent some of the most creative thinkers to Congress, going back to the 1960s. Now, the district sends Ro Khanna to Congress. Khanna was co-chair of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and has taken many of the issues that Bernie Sanders has raised and put them at the center of his political activism and his political service.
There's plenty of space in Silicon Valley for a discussion about how to make our politics better, and, frankly, how to make our economy better. And at the center of that discussion, there is space for a real examination of how capitalism is working in the United States. That discussion will take people in a lot of different directions. One of the things we talked about in the book is what we refer to as uber-capitalism — that's capitalism out of control, where there's very little regulation, very little guidance and frankly, very, very wealthy people do whatever they want. What we argue is that's not healthy. It's not healthy for our society, it's not healthy for our economy, or for our politics. That's where the book is coming from.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and co-author John Nichols are scheduled to discuss their new book, "It's OK to be Angry About Capitalism" Saturday, March 4, 7-8 p.m. at an event hosted by the Kepler's Literary Foundation at the California Theatre in San Jose. Masks required. For more information, visit keplers.org.
Read a longer version of this Q&A at almanacnews.com/arts.