Bernie Sanders Grapples With Existential Angst In Unearthed Mayoral Memos

Rachel Stoltzfoos | Staff Reporter

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders lamented the unruly state of his house and expressed recurring existential angst, in a series of memos he wrote during his time as mayor of Burlington in the 1980s.

The memos are part of a library of mayoral documents kept at the University of Vermont, which have gained new attention now that he is a Democratic presidential candidate. He writes bluntly about his relationship troubles, existential angst and despair of making a meaningful difference in his town. (RELATED: Trump Accuses The DNC Of Conspiring To Oust Bernie Sanders Once Again)

“I am unable to look in the mirror and see how I am,” he wrote in a 1985 memo obtained by Mother Jones. “How am I? I don’t know. I don’t know who ‘I’ am. For years now, I have not lived a normal emotional life. My relationship to J. remains unclear. We pass time together, but the relationship doesn’t grow mature or deepen.”

“1) Psychologically — What’s going on?” he wrote the following year, at the top of a list of problems that also included “am not maintaining house well” and “am not traveling.” He concluded: “Life goes by fast so fast. The last five years vicissitude of the last 5 years — plus my normal insanity — place me in an uncomfortable position.”

Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders’ office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Sanders ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor of Vermont in 1986, after winning three terms as Burlington mayor. He won another campaign for mayor the following year, then eventually launched a successful campaign for Congress. He is now campaigning as a progressive Democrat and democratic socialist, but at the time he grappled with the “suffocating force of the status quo” and his self-described poor planning skills.

“What is hard to see through is the total almost total degree of powerlessness which presently exists,” he wrote in one memo. “We can make almost nothing happen.” In another he wrote, “Maintaining a radical vision is extremely difficult when one is confronted on every corner with the force of suffocating force of the status quo.”

“It seemed to me this morning that planning and decision-making were two of the biggest weaknesses that I have,” he wrote in another. “Not only do I not pay bills every month — ‘What, every month?’ — I am unable to plan vacations or intelligent ‘leisure time activity.’ It would be fun going white-[water] rafting or sailing down a Maine river or on a sailing trip, or traveling, etc. etc. Actually, I am better now than I used to be — but pretty poor.”

He and former Vice President Joe Biden are leading in media mentions and popularity with Democratic voters so far in the 2020 race. Nearly a fifth of Democratic voters said in a Morning Consult poll this week that they would vote for him in the primary.

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