The Original Sandernista: For Richer Or Poorer, Jane Sanders Married A Movement
In 1981, when Bernie Sanders had been mayor of Burlington, Vermont, for less than three months, Jane Sanders asked for a desk in City Hall. This was when she was still Jane Driscoll, the 30-year-old divorced mother of three heading up the mayor’s new youth task force. “She is also,” wrote the Burlington Free Press at the time, “the mayor’s girlfriend.”
Driscoll and a fellow task-force member appeared before the Board of Aldermen and asked for neither funding nor staffing — they wanted the desk and a phone. They had to tread lightly: Sanders, a socialist who ran as an independent against a four-term incumbent Democrat, had won the mayoral race by only ten votes, and the almost entirely Democratic board was openly hostile to him. It had recently fired his secretary, Linda Niedweske, in the middle of the night. “We had a lot of adversaries,” Neidweske remembers. To Jane, the desk was paramount; it made a real difference, she explained later, when making calls if you could say you were making them from City Hall.
The aldermen voted in her favor, and the Youth Office was opened on the third floor. Jane manned the phone herself, unpaid, every day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., usually. She occasionally answered the one in the mayor’s office too when Niedweske, who had been reinstated, stepped out for lunch.
Twenty-five years later, Jane told Connie Schultz, the wife of Sherrod Brown, to get a desk in Brown’s office when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, the same year as Bernie Sanders. By then, Sanders had, in addition to being mayor of Burlington for eight years, served 16 years as a representative in Congress. He and Jane had been married since 1988. Schultz, a journalist on a leave of absence from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, recalls asking Jane about the desk, “Why would I do that?”
“They need to know you’re there,” she replied.
To Jane, the desk was a symbol that she was there to work, not just to visit occasionally as the senator’s wife. “They,” in Schultz’s memory, referred to the senator’s staff and those with whom he would be working in government. It was not a reference to the public, which didn’t, and still doesn’t, necessarily know much about Jane Sanders at all. When she had to rush to Iowa in January to fill in for Bernie, who was stuck in Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, her introduction as “Dr.” at rallies had some people in the crowds wondering out loud what kind of doctor she was (in leadership studies, it turns out). A woman in Cedar Rapids said she had once chatted with Jane for several minutes at a rally, only to discover she was Bernie’s wife when she saw her later behind him at the podium. One reason she’s remained unfamiliar to many voters is because of the location of those desks. Hers have almost always been, in some way or another, inside the offices of her husband. Though Jane, a community organizer when she met Bernie, has held other jobs over the last 39 years, none has lasted longer than working for him. Their romantic and political lives are arguably more intertwined than any other presidential hopeful pair of the last decade.
The dimensions of that relationship have been the subject of media scrutiny for decades, but they may receive particular scrutiny in the coming weeks. Female voters who’d hoped to see Elizabeth Warren lead the party must decide between Sanders, whose platform is very close to Warren’s but who has battled claims that some of his male supporters are aggressive and hostile, and Joe Biden, who, despite having been accused of retrograde, invasive behavior toward women, has so far done a better job of attracting women voters. On Super Tuesday, Biden bested Sanders by ten points with women overall. Jane, as the top woman in the Bernie Sanders project, the person who has his ear, could theoretically help Bernie bring them in.
Yet in an election in which candidates have been asked more than once to address the gender pay gap, Jane is a woman who has worked for her husband for free. She doesn’t tell stories on the campaign trail about sexism or use the word patriarchy; she has said she has never really “done gender politics.” In March 2019, when Bernie officially launched his second presidential bid, Jane introduced herself to the crowd gathered in Brooklyn by saying she felt “honored to be his wife.” “I know that might not be politically correct,” she continued, “but it’s one of the greatest honors of my life,” a comment interpreted by many as a dig at feminism.
“I said what I wrote down in the 15 minutes before I went up there,” Sanders told me in February about her remarks in Brooklyn. She wore one of her uniform breezy black suits and a statement necklace, with her long red hair down, a look that has remained largely unchanged over four decades, give or take a few sets of bangs. She has big, expressive blue eyes and, as a Brooklyn native, like her husband, says “yuge.” She wasn’t even going to address the crowd at the campaign launch, she said — but Bernie had suggested it. “And there’s nothing wrong with being a wife anymore than it’s wrong for him to be a husband. That is not less than.”
As for feminism, “it’s a given I’m a feminist. Bernie is a feminist too,” she said. “But I don’t think about myself in particular boxes.” This reluctance can be explained, in part, by generational difference: As Barbara Smith, the sociologist credited with coining “identity politics” in 1974, who has endorsed Sanders, reminded me, “We didn’t go to college and talk about intersecting identities. We talked about the Holy Roman Empire.” But her stubbornness is also a kind of Rorschach test for one of the central tensions on the contemporary left. For Sanders’s detractors, it exemplifies trademark obstinance, a devotion to the cause of Bernie bordering on fanaticism; for believers, it shows a commitment to a vision of a universal, class-based movement that has designs much larger than just beating Trump. For her part, Jane seems unbothered by the criticism. After all, she has weathered this kind of scrutiny for 40 years, since that first press story about her first desk, which ran with the headline, “Youth Director Driscoll Balances Her Ties to Mayor, Individuality.”
In her stump speech on the campaign trail, Jane often starts with the story of the first time she heard Bernie speak in Burlington. In February 1981, she was working at an outreach organization called the King Street Youth Center, which that year had become part of a group of community organizations increasingly critical of city government. She attended a meeting about a planned property-tax hike of 65 cents, proposed by incumbent mayor Gordon Paquette, in order to excoriate the proposal for how it would affect low-income families, including single mothers like her. “You sound exactly like Bernie Sanders,” someone told her, to which she responded, understandably, “Who?” Bernie, then 39, was Paquette’s long-shot challenger, attempting to break the Democrats’ hold on City Hall and their entrenchment with the Burlington business community. He had most recently produced a documentary about Eugene V. Debs, which he sold throughout the state from the trunk of his car. Jane was intrigued; she helped organize a forum between the two candidates. It was a pivotal night, during which Paquette faced a room of mostly poorer Burlingtonians for the first time and understood — too late — that he might actually be in trouble. “It was like Bernie was talking directly to me,” is how Jane typically puts it. (Her name does not appear in a Jacobin article about the race, which describes the event only as “sponsored by seven Burlington neighborhood groups.”)
A week or so after his win, at his victory party, Bernie asked Jane to dance. The attraction was immediate, according to Niedweske, who was Sanders’s 25-year-old campaign manager before she became his secretary. By the end of the month, Jane was the “friend from Burlington,” according to the Free Press, who accompanied Bernie to his first-ever national television appearance on Phil Donahue. Soon after that, she was appointed to his task force on improving the lives of the city’s youth, on which he had campaigned heavily.
Jane’s own sense of injustice had been nurtured by family hardship. When she was still Mary Jane O’Meara, a kid growing up in Brooklyn, she watched her father, Benedict, struggle with expensive hospital stays brought on by an accident when Jane was 2 years old. “We had unconscionable medical problems,” she told me, “for no reason except that we didn’t have enough money.” He had been a teacher but was out of work so often he drove a taxi instead. Her mother attended secretarial school at night, and two of her older brothers dropped out of high school to work. The family prioritized Jane’s education; she moved between schools depending on what they could afford before landing a scholarship to an all-girls Catholic school in Park Slope. Benedict drove Jane in his cab from Flatbush when she missed the bus. “I never felt like I had to fit in, because I never quite did,” she said. “I had to be comfortable with me, because that’s the only thing I was bringing to every new place.”
The summer after her freshman year at the University of Tennessee, she camped out at Woodstock. Not long after that, she dropped out as a sophomore to marry her high-school sweetheart, Dave Driscoll. They moved back to Brooklyn and had two daughters, Heather and Carina, who was born when the couple lived in Virginia for a time. In between nursing her children and working as a receptionist and a bank teller, she protested the Vietnam War, in which she’d lost a friend. When Driscoll’s job offered the move to Vermont, she was ready; she had been reading about Vermont in Mother Earth News, a back-to-the-land homesteading magazine with an anti-capitalist bent. They went north in 1975, when she was 24. In Vermont, she gave birth to her son, David, and the Driscolls fostered 13 more children together. Within a few years, they divorced, and Jane had finished her degree in social work at Goddard College, a small experimental school founded by Universalists. By the time she met Bernie, she had been working with kids through the Juvenile Division of the Burlington Police Department and at King Street.
Lesser known than the story of how they met is the story about what happened when Jane tried to get a salary after working more than two years for the mayor’s Youth Office for free. By then, she was running performances of Grease, an annual “People’s Circus,” an international-exchange program, a baseball league, and a tree-planting project. Jane was just one of several of Bernie’s government appointees working as a volunteer, some of whom had been initially rejected for full-time compensation by the city council, which was dominated 11-2 by a bloc of aldermen who didn’t approve of Sanders. But only Jane had the unique characteristic of being Bernie’s partner. For the first time, in her words, she “became a weapon” in a highly charged partisan environment that is hard to imagine in a small, bucolic city of 38,000 people. Democrats and Republicans hoped to hamstring the socialist mayor with bureaucracy until they could oust him after two years. “It was palpable, the tension and the anger,” says Gary DeCarolis, an alderman at the time, who said he used to worry about the mayor’s safety. According to Niedweske, “Everything was a smear. There wasn’t anything that we did or didn’t do that wasn’t going to be scrutinized. So his relationship with Jane was sort of one of many things that they just found problematic.”
In 1983, Bernie recommended that Jane receive a salary of $20,800 with no benefits for her job as director of the Youth Office. She had been living off “small contractual grants and fundraising,” she said. The city council and numerous op-ed writers accused him of cronyism. Why weren’t they advertising the position? What kind of “special status” would she enjoy? Bernie and Jane were defiant. Not only did Jane not like the term girlfriend, she told the Free Press, because it was sexist; she simply wanted to be paid for a job she had created. “When the Democrats controlled this city, they could have started an arts office, a youth office,” Bernie said. “I’m tired of hearing innuendo, especially regarding Jane. If she is not competent to do the job, I want to hear someone say it.” The council eventually approved Bernie’s budget, which included Jane’s salary, and an amendment to advertise for her position was struck down.
The hostile environment around the Sandernistas, as they became known in the local press, gave them a punky, ride-or-die attitude. As one Burlington businessman told the Washington Post, Sanders was “a guy who didn’t even have a job, supported by all these people on communes.” Bernie’s shadow “kitchen cabinet” met in public-housing apartments on Burlington’s New North End. They started their own cable-access television show, with hand-drawn title cards set to songs like “This Land Is Your Land.” The Women’s Council, of which Jane was a founding member, threw free health-screening days and self-defense classes.
If you talk to any of the early Sandernistas, Jane told me, “I would think that they would all say it was one of the busiest, all-consuming times of their life and the most rewarding time of their life.” Jane said that being a part of it all had switched something on for her, an impulse she hadn’t felt since she was much younger. In the ’60s, as a teenager, she told me, “seeing Bobby Kennedy — being a hundred percent behind him and then having him be killed, after having had Martin Luther King be killed … I don’t think people realize how much of a thing that was for young people, the impact it had on your psyche, on your heart.” Nixon’s reelection in 1972 despite mass protests against him, like the March on Washington, in which Jane had participated, had left her unconvinced that politics mattered. “We all thought we weren’t doing anything, we weren’t making any difference,” she said. Now, as one of the mayor’s cadre, “I was never alone in it.”
Jane developed her own reputation for bluster and for impassioned idealism. At one city-council meeting, at which a local politician from Belfast was visiting (this was during the Troubles), Jane confronted aldermen she felt weren’t paying enough attention to him. “Don’t you care that human rights are at stake here?” she shouted. In another altercation reported in the press, she hung up on an alderman who called her “honey.” “Jane was not a shrinking violet,” says Greg Guma, a longtime Vermont journalist who mounted his own insurgent mayoral campaign before backing Sanders in ’81.
But she was also more personable than the mayor, more affable, and that was useful. As he won more elections and grew more popular in Burlington, she continued to build out the Youth Office, one of the most visible features of his administration. When it moved downstairs, kids were literally climbing in through the windows. Jane coordinated a newspaper in which teen writers reviewed music and wrote op-eds on nuclear disarmament (the Free Press called it a “propaganda sheet”). Her two biggest projects concerned Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium, sitting often unused in the center of town owing to a citywide ordinance banning live music on public property. (The law had been enacted by Paquette in 1977 after fans at a Styx concert, “spurred by the lure of heavy metal music,” per the police, had caused $1,000 worth of damage, including urinating on library books next door.) Jane and a social worker named Kathy Lawrence lobbied Bernie to change the ordinance so that they could host a battle of the bands. “It was funny,” Jane recalled later, “because Bernie is not a great fan of rock music.” They eventually turned the building into a teen center in 1984, called 242 Main, part coffee house, burger bar, open-mic venue, and general all-ages, alcohol-free meeting place that became a fixture in the Burlington punk scene, hosting Fugazi once, until its closure in 2016. Jane was an adept fundraiser, says Lawrence, who ran the day-to-day. “Jane was the person who could pull things like that off. She just was really good at not seeing that the answer was no.”
By the mid-’80s, Jane was wearing a diamond ring on her left hand, but she and Bernie were publicly reticent about their relationship. During his 1985 reelection campaign, they threw a fashion-show fundraiser at which the last runway walk consisted of “The Bernie Look,” as described by Jane: “a jacket with a shirttail hanging out, low-slung pants, Vermont shoes.” Sanders referred to her as one of his clothing advisers. Guma remembers that “within the progressive movement, there were people who criticized the fact that she and he were a couple,” but it was infinitely more of an issue for the local press, which questioned their partnership each time a new idea was proposed. A sliding-fee day-care center planned for the basement of the auditorium was accused of having a hidden pay structure. Jane had suggested that the city rent the space to a private committee, which would then rent it to a day-care operator in need of a home, and an op-ed writer in the Free Press accused The Sanders administration of backing the arrangement only because Jane was “a close friend.” Jane kept pushing for two more years; the center opened with the city renting directly to the day care and still operates. “They were wrong,” she said now of the resistance. “And that’s the best revenge, you know?”
Bernie had been married before, to a woman named Deborah Messing, whom he divorced in 1966, and he didn’t want to do it again. Jane did. The couple broke up for more than a year in 1988. They had been on and off a few times, but friends thought it might really stick this time. Years earlier, Bernie had written in his diaries that he had “not lived a normal emotional life” and that his “relationship with J” wasn’t growing.
Sitting in a booth at Friendly’s one night, something changed. “Do you want to get married?,” Bernie asked. Jane declined, not sure he really meant it. As they left the restaurant, he tried again, putting his hands on her shoulders and declaring: “Will. You. Marry. Me.” Their ceremony occurred on the shore of Lake Champlain in May, right before their infamous “honeymoon” to Yaroslavl, Russia, Burlington’s sister city. (Later, the Yaroslavl delegation would come over, making a trip to Ben & Jerry’s.) They exchanged extremely Sanders-style vows in which the officiant described “the concept of family not as an economic unit but as a transcendent force.” Sanders’s son, Levi, born in 1969 with a girlfriend, was there, along with Jane’s children. “Burlington woman, Bernie to get hitched,” read the news. “The bride arrived in a Plymouth Voyager mini-van.”
In 1986, Jane worked on her first campaign ad for Bernie for his failed gubernatorial bid. “No special effects,” she described it at the time. Just “Bernie talking straight to the people.” Sanders ran against incumbent Madeleine Kunin, and Jane stood outside the meeting of the Vermont chapter of the National Organization for Women, handing out flyers about Sanders’s feminist credentials. NOW declined to endorse a candidate, but Kunin won.
After that, Sanders ran for the House unsuccessfully in 1988, then successfully in 1990, while Jane continued to run his television and radio advertising. When Bernie won, she became his volunteer chief of staff, setting up his D.C. and Burlington offices. Résumés of potential staffers arrived in black garbage bags. Jane sorted them with Jeff Weaver, his 2016 campaign manager, who met Bernie in 1986, when he was his 20-something driver. Sanders traveled home to Vermont every weekend. Carina and David were still in school in Burlington, so Jane shuttled back and forth more frequently. (Sanders formally adopted all three of Jane’s kids when Driscoll died of lung cancer.) Again, Jane received no salary — as a spouse, she couldn’t, nor could most of her travel expenses be covered by Congress.
D.C. was not the DIY experiment that had been The Sanders mayoral administration in Burlington. There were women in Chanel suits at Jane’s first Congressional Spouses Luncheon, to which Jane brought her mother. It was exciting but hard. “I stepped into a completely different world in Washington,” she said later. To me, she recalled talking with three female friends back in Burlington about some issue soon after Bernie went down to Congress. “They asked me, ‘Well, what does he think?’” referring to Bernie, who wasn’t there. “I turned my head around,” she said. “I told them, ‘I think I just became invisible.’”
The following year, in 1992, she wondered aloud what she would do now that Bernie had settled in. “I can’t — wouldn’t work for him,” she said in an interview. “But on the other hand, I can’t just be the home person and give home support. I have to share his work. He’s saying to me, ‘You should do whatever you want.’ The problem is, I’m not sure what that is right now.” She liked writing; she thought about becoming a journalist. Or going for her Ph.D.
Instead, she became his press secretary and reelection-campaign spokesperson. She helped draft legislation like the Progressive Caucus’s anti–“corporate welfare” bill in 1995 and the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002, her first “legislative deep dive.” She continued to work on his campaign ads, turning that experience into a small consultancy called Leadership Strategies, through which she worked for Bernie and a few other local Vermont progressives. As Bernie climbed, the scrutiny of her became more intense. When Sanders successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2005, his opponent accused him of lining his family’s pockets with the $30,000 Jane had received from 2002 to 2004 for campaign work and the $65,000 over four years to Carina, who worked with Jane’s consulting company for a bit after graduating from the University of Montana. (House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had paid his wife and daughter $500,000 during the same time period.)
By the mid-’90s, she seemed like she might be weary of her role as professional political wife. “When your spouse becomes a congressperson, you have to adjust your entire life if you want to stay married,” she told The Hill in 1996. Today, all she conceded of any career dilemma is that there were “some difficult transitions.” “I go where I’m needed,” she said matter-of-factly. She knew Bernie’s voice, so she was good at writing his press releases. She stopped going to the spouses luncheons, but she enjoyed going to meetings of the international spouses and the Supreme Court judges. She felt useful. “Harry Reid called me more than he called Bernie,” she told me.
In 1996, she struck out on her own as interim provost at her alma mater, Goddard College, which had hired her to steer it through a difficult period. The previous, embattled provost had fired some of the school’s beloved teachers, some said in retaliation for an attempt to organize a union. “It was satisfying and wonderful,” Jane admitted. But Bernie’s schedule meant that they were exhausted and never saw each other. She decided not to pursue a permanent position after her year-and-a-half posting. Goddard paid for her to get her doctorate from Union Institute & University, a distance-learning, research-focused school. She wrote her dissertation on the International Monetary Fund.
In 2004, Jane did take another presidential job, at Burlington College, another low-residency, funky Vermont “school without walls.” Sandy Baird, the lawyer and Vermont legislator who fought for Jane to get the job as a member of Burlington’s board, says Jane Sanders was an ideal candidate. “She was charismatic. She was tied to Burlington. She knew how to fundraise. And I knew that because she had been so active in raising money for Bernie’s campaigns and for the Youth Office.”
After a few years in which Jane reportedly helped the college achieve a $300,000 surplus in funding, she went bigger, spearheading a $10 million plan in 2010 to expand Burlington’s campus into grounds on Lake Champlain by purchasing land from the Catholic diocese. The board of trustees approved the arrangement, which involved financial support from a state board and a loan from Burlington’s People’s United bank. Jane furnished donors to secure it, but by 2011, according to the New York Times, the board was skeptical that enough money was coming in to relieve the school of its debt. Within a year, the trustees had asked for her resignation owing to what Sanders said were different visions for the future. The board has declined to give a specific reason. Weighed down with debt and beset by upheaval, Burlington College went through three more presidents before shuttering five years later.
In 2015, the Republican who ran the Trump campaign’s operations in Vermont asked the Justice Department to investigate Jane Sanders’s role in the land deal. The scandal has since mushroomed in scope, including inquiries into whether Jane Sanders inflated donation promises to secure loans, had an imperious management style that caused a staff revolt, and used her clout to get a $500,000 contract for her daughter’s woodworking school. The $200,000 she received as severance was referred to as a “golden parachute” by a Vermont Republican donor.
Baird says Jane Sanders could be bossy; they clashed over ideas for an exchange program to Cuba. But the idea that she was responsible for the college’s fate was wrong. Some faculty had left during her tenure, but many others had stayed. Guma, who has written extensively about the college’s demise, says Jane is just one among many people responsible for the deal’s “overreach,” including the board and presidents who came after her. “But that’s the worst you could say.” Guma is reluctant to talk; The Daily Caller has been running what he says are out-of-context quotes from him since 2015, suggesting that Jane could be accused of bank fraud. In November 2018, Jeff Weaver informed the press that the investigation had been closed and the Vermont U.S. Attorney had declined to bring any charges against Jane.
The Daily Caller also recently dug up the old articles about Jane’s position in the Youth Office and her salary that made similar insinuations: that Jane got a job because of her relationship with Bernie. Working for him behind the scenes for so long has had the effect of making anything she does independently of him seem suspect. Surely it would have been easier to establish her own identity — and made her less of a target — if she had differentiated herself more from him over the years.
“I heard that from friends, from women friends,” Jane said to me on the phone from Tulsa three days before the South Carolina primary. “‘Why are you going to just follow Bernie? You can do anything yourself.’ I said, ‘Why is every man that is working with him and every woman that is working with him wanting to follow him? Why does the fact that I’m married to him make me have to have my own separate identity, when other people’ — Jeff Weaver’s been with him since he was 19. Nobody questions that.” Most of those people, though, get paid, which Jane largely has not. As a political wife working for her husband, she’s in a bind: If she takes a salary, she opens herself up to charges of nepotism. If she doesn’t, how could she be an equal partner in their relationship? The Sanders mentality is one of kibbutz-style, collective participation, in which everyone pitches in, including family, and those who are down for the cause rarely leave. The model worked for Jane. But you can see why it sits uncomfortably with women who have seen that kind of unseen labor exploited, especially when one member has the most power. “I don’t need accolades or achievements of my own,” Jane told me. “I mean, every single person in every administration, whether it’s mayoral, congressional, senatorial, or presidential, they’re all playing a very important role for the person that you see on TV. And they’re not noticed either.”
“It’s partly a storytelling issue,” says Naomi Klein, the activist and writer and a Sanders surrogate, of how this narrative particularly alienates some feminists, especially the waves who fought for just the opposite of what Jane expresses: to be noticed. “Bernie is always looking for the universal.” Klein is a product of the women’s movement in addition to anti-capitalist organizing; she is the Gloria Steinem chair at Rutgers University, named for the feminist who famously said in 2016 that female Sanders supporters were doing it for boys. There are women in Klein’s life whom she has had difficulty bringing over to the campaign; Bernie’s gruffness, his penchant for pointing and shouting, recall for certain generations “an archetype of a Marxist guy who mansplains women, who doesn’t change his position, and tells women and people of color to wait in line after the revolution.” But, Klein insists, “that is not Bernie.”
Baird says she also knew some of these men in the ’60s, who said things at meetings like abortion rights were a “distraction from waterfront development.” “I think it remains true to this day that men in general don’t understand women’s issues. They particularly don’t understand the importance of the pro-choice movement. But Bernie always did.” In February, Klein said that a task ahead for The Sanders campaign is to convey that legacy more fully to more women. “We need to do more to talk about this culture of impunity,” she told me, “and the fact that sexual violence is an expression of a culture of absolute entitlement. It is about exploiting inequality. The prominent women surrogates of this campaign, I think we can do a better job in terms of telling that story.” To other women who support Sanders, the fact that he doesn’t talk in terms of feminism is part of the appeal. “I am a black woman in America, so I don’t have the luxury to be, you know, just a feminist like some of my white sisters and brothers,” says Sanders surrogate Nina Turner, a former state senator from Ohio and campaign co-chair. “What we believe in as a campaign is really rooted in humanism.”
Connie Schultz ran into Jane recently in the spouses gallery of the Senate during impeachment. She seemed upbeat even after the long hours of testimony. “There has always been a freshness about her,” Schultz says. Schultz has thought and written extensively about her own experience as a political spouse, about how women typically become “a problem or a prop.” “Jane not talking about herself doesn’t mean she’s not her own person,” she reasons with me. “Who she is right now is this shared vision with her husband, and that’s all she wants to talk about. But it’s so consistently who she is, who they both have been. And in this way, she may be arguably one of the most authentic spouses out there right now out of all of us, because she’s so clear on who she is and what she believes.”
“I don’t feel the need to distinguish myself to anybody else’s liking,” Jane said to me in our last conversation, when I asked whether she might start to tell her own story differently. The urgency of the moment, above all else, determines the messaging, she explained. “Medical bankruptcy is at an all-time high. There’s so many things that are happening that people are fearful of, being deported or having their family members deported,” she said. “So there’s no strategy of — we didn’t discuss it like, ‘You have to do this more’ or anything like that. It just is.” Even with Bernie’s path to the nomination narrower than it was when we met in Iowa, she has no plans to take a break. One thing their 40 years together have prepared her for is facing unkind odds. “If I’m with Bernie, the life is work,” Jane told me. “It’s public service.” She is also still needed for wardrobe consulting. A photo of Jane and Bernie heading into Ross Dress for Less went viral a few weeks ago. “Bernie needed a hat,” Jane said.