How Bernie Sanders Left His Mark on Pop Culture


Making Hillary Clinton sweat through the end of the Democratic primary season was unlikely enough. But how did a septuagenarian socialist senator become something of a cultural (and pop cultural) phenomenon?

Here are some of the ways in which that senator, Bernie Sanders has left his mark beyond politics.

Baby Berns

Bald heads. Flailing arms. Perpetual restlessness.

It is easy to see why many of America’s youngest residents gravitated to Mr. Sanders — or, at least, why their parents have seen fit to dress them up as supporters, thick-frame glasses and all.

When they are older, perhaps the children can reconcile questions of income inequality and free college tuition on their own terms. Until then, they are #BabiesForBernie.

Lucian and Kathryn Toler at a Sanders rally in May in Louisville, Ky. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times____

Hair Goals

Do the youths of today wander into salons demanding “the Bernie”? They do not.

But at rallies and the occasional costume party, the faux Sanders mane has proliferated. Commitment levels can vary: Some place their wigs haphazardly over their hair, as if channeling the candidate’s sartorial nonchalance.

For others, dedication is critical. One Halloween site last year advised using a bald cap and double-sided tape to achieve the full effect. An “old-age makeup kit” was also recommended.


A supporter in February in Claremont, N.H. CreditTodd Heisler/The New York Times_____

Equality in Ice Cream

The revolution was served cold.

Mr. Sanders inspired an ice cream flavor created by Ben Cohen, a co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s — which began as a scoop shop in the senator’s home state, Vermont.

Mr. Cohen has described the flavor as “participatory.” A sheet of chocolate sits atop mint ice cream. “The huge disc of solid chocolate represents all the wealth since the end of the recession that’s gone to the top 1 percent,” Mr. Cohen said in January. He advised consumers to “whack that chocolate into a lot of little pieces” until it mixed with the ice cream.

“And there you have it,” he said, before proclaiming the flavor’s name. “Bernie’s Yearning.”

The Voice of a Revolution

In 1987, Mr. Sanders set off on a (very) brief singing career, with “We Shall Overcome,” an album of folk music and spoken word. It is about as melodious as it sounds.

But the work has enjoyed a second life. Mr. Sanders’s Brooklyn timbre once labored through Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” (“As I went wawking … that ribbon of highway … I sawr above me … that endless skyway”), but he eventually secured more professional help.

At a Sanders rally before the Iowa caucuses, the band Vampire Weekend assumed lead vocals, with Mr. Sanders mouthing the words a safe distance from any microphone.

Accented by Straight Tawk

Larry David’s version had the widest audience, but Mr. Sanders’s success unleashed a hail of impressions as consistent as his message. From Brooklyn to Burlington, Vt., it seemed, locals had been waiting for years to debut their Bernie.

They added and dropped R’s indiscriminately. They talked with their hands. They spoke in percentages (“the top one-tenth of 1 percent …”) and recited Mr. Sanders’s stated average donation ($27) as if it were a bank PIN.

Millionehhhhs and billionehhhhs rolled their eyes.

Taking His Shots (With Some Drama)

In recent months, Mr. Sanders drew headlines by scoring perhaps the hottest tickets on each coast, for “Hamilton” on Broadway and for a Golden State Warriors playoff game before the California primary.

Neither spectacle proved a perfect fit for the Sanders message. The musical, for all its paeans to immigration and American gumption, is at other moments a monument to the nation’s banking prowess.

As for the Warriors, Mr. Sanders strained to compare the most dominant regular-season N.B.A. team in history to his upstart bid. “Many experts,” his campaign insisted, had called it a “mathematical impossibility” for the Warriors to reach the N.B.A. finals after falling behind by three games to one in a best-of-seven series.

Alas, no one had said this. But it would have been nice.

Animal Control

Skeptics wondered how a President Sanders might have hoped to muscle his ambitious agenda through Congress. But there was always one rather impressive testament to his persuasive powers: He seemed capable of controlling animals.

It happened in March, at a rally in Portland, Ore. Mr. Sanders had been talking about education. A small bird — later named “Birdie Sanders” by collective internet wisdom — drew near. The crowd stirred.

“Now, you see, this little bird doesn’t know it …” Mr. Sanders began. He started to lift a finger skyward.

Then came the scene that launched a thousand memes: Birdie Sanders, landing on the lectern, as the people roared.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: