Perhaps my favorite video from the entire 2020 presidential campaign is a quick clip of an (only-semi?) joking Bernie Sanders chastising his grandson for having woken him up from "a very deep sleep." It's an all-too-brief glimpse into the everyday life of a political superstar whose public persona (grouchy, annoyed) seems to align pretty neatly with his private one (dyspeptic, miffed).
There's something comforting about watching the Bernie Sanders who rails on about "millionaires and billionaires" as if they're both a fundamental injustice and a personal pain in his ass, bring that same energy to something as trivial and commonplace as being woken up from a midday nap. It's that fundamental consistency which in no small part helped turn Bernie Sanders, septuagenarian curmudgeon, into BERNIE SANDERS, progressive icon.
And yet, despite this being one of the foundational things that makes Bernie Bernie, the Rupert Murdoch empire of conservative media is nevertheless attempting to make Sanders's characteristic grumpiness an issue, thanks to Atlantic writer Edward-Isaac Dovere's just-published Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Trump. In his account of the 2020 presidential election, Dovere described a "Senator Comfort Memo" drafted by Sanders's staff that detailed the then-senator-candidate's preferred hotel accommodations.
And what are these preferred accommodations, you ask? Per Dovere, Sanders's hotel rooms "had to have a down comforter or another blanket in the closet. He preferred that the extra blanket be dark blue, and made of cotton."
Quelle horror! The audacity of a 79-year-old asking for an extra blanket in his hotel room. What sort of villainy is this?!
Dovere also reported that Sanders preferred that the temperature in his rooms be turned down to a brisk 60 degrees — and that, having once stayed in a hotel where the staff couldn't meet that request, Sanders griped, "You don't want me to sleep tonight?" Which, as anyone who has spent time with an old Jewish man (or, in my case, aging into being one myself) knows, is less a malicious attack than it is a general statement acknowledging the situation.
"He didn't like getting upgrades and would often switch with an aide if he got the nicer room," Dovere wrote, adding that Sanders would joke that "if there’s a bomb in there, it's yours tonight."
My god, what a monster.
This apparently unforgivable behavior earned Sanders headlines on both Fox News and the New York Post, with both Murdoch-owned outlets blasting the senator's "diva" "hotel demands." To which I say: Are you fucking kidding me? This is diva behavior? Asking for an extra blanket and giving upgraded rooms to his staff? This is a man who refused to endorse his own son for Congress, and you think you're gonna score points because he likes to sleep chilly? C'mon now.
Politicians, and especially senators, and especially senators running for the White House, sit upon unimaginable reserves of money and power in this country. There is a lot to criticize there. Requesting a little hospitality from the hospitality industry, though? That's not diva behavior. That's just Bernie.