[There was a video here]
While tonight’s Late Show interview with Bernie Sanders was absent any of the respective tears or deep, deep discomfort that characterized Colbert’s two biggest moments so far (and at least compared to every other candidate interview we’ve seen), Sanders still manages to leave you with the impression that the man is just so goddamn human.
Especially as we recover from this week’s GOP debate (where even Trump fell into the rote, low-energy motions he’s usually so quick chastise), Sanders’ not-at-all-youthful vitality is positively jarring. He may be hunched in his chair. He’s swimming in a coat several sizes too big. And he never glances at the camera even once. But as soon as Colbert pushes him on his distaste for capitalism—Sanders’ favorite topic of all—the unscripted, bubbling rage in his voice is impossible to miss.
Sanders: Look, clearly we want a society which encourages entrepreneurship and innovation. But what we also want is a society in which all of our people can enjoy a decent standard of living, and not a society in which the very rich get much richer while virtually everybody else gets poorer.
Colbert: But in concrete terms what does that mean, is that like an 80% tax rate, or—
Sanders: In concrete terms, what it means is that it is a moral outrage that the top one-tenth of one percent today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and that 58 percent of all new income is going to the top one percent. That major corporations making billions of dollars a year, in some cases, don’t pay a nickel in federal taxes. That is the outrage, and that has got to change.
Granted, Sanders still doesn’t quite answer the question. But to Colbert’s credit, he was considerably more antagonistic with his questions to Sanders than, say, the pageant that was his interview with Bush. At one point, Colbert asks “What do you say to the people out there who are comparing you to Donald Trump, and saying that you are exciting or taking advantage of the same general anger that Donald Trump is?” To which Sanders responds:
I think that what Trump is doing is appealing to the baser instincts among us: xenophobia and, frankly, racism. [He’s] describing an entire group of people (in this case Mexicans) as rapists or as criminals... That’s the same old thing that’s gone on in this country for a very long time. You target some group of people, and you go after them. You take people’s anger, and you turn it against them—you win votes on it. I think that is disgraceful and not something we should be doing in 2015.
What I am talking about is a vision that goes beyond telling us we have to hate a group of people. What I am talking about is saying that, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, there are extraordinary things that we can do when people come together—black and white and gay and straight—and demand the government start working for all of us—not just a few.
The crowd went nuts. Granted, the young, East Coast audience would and did lose it after about every third sentence that fell out of Bernie Sanders’ mouth, but the great thing was—Sanders seemed mostly blind to it. He (at least as much as anyone who’s running for President can) doesn’t care what you think about him, just so long as you agree with what he believes is right.
Which isn’t to say that he can’t turn on the charm at all. Right after the show, Colbert tweeted out this video of Bernie hamming it up for the kids:
It’s just that, most of the time, he’s got more important things to worry about.