If you think about it, then Phish and Bernie Sanders have a lot in common. Both have charted unconventional paths outside the mainstream and built large, dedicated followings without compromising their styles in the process. They both also got their start in Burlington, Vt.—Sanders was mayor from 1981–1989, while Phish formed at the University of Vermont in 1983 and played over 100 shows around town in the ‘80s. So it isn’t surprising that at least one member of the group has expressed his support for the Independent Senator from Vermont, who is currently running an impressive underdog campaign for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination.
A lot of Phish fans were shocked and excited when you finally took the plunge into Twitter earlier this summer, but many were also surprised to hear that you were doing it so you could express your support for Bernie Sanders.
Jon Fishman: I signed up for Twitter because of my support for Bernie Sanders. I had no use for it before that. The first thing I posted was a video that my friend, who’s been a big supporter of Sanders for a long time, sent me. It was a video of Sanders confronting [former Chairman of the Federal Reserve] Alan Greenspan [in 2003]. He was saying, “Don’t you think your policies are kind of dangerous? This could lead to this and that kind of trouble.” And Greenspan condescendingly says to Senator Sanders: “Oh, we know what we’re doing. We have a handle on it.” Then the video fast-forwards to Greenspan, years later, answering to a congressional committee. He’s standing there saying, “My policies were wrong. I was wrong after all.”
Sanders was saying this stuff back then, when everybody thought Alan Greenspan was some economic guru that was going to save us. In reality, he was just another fool. Another privileged, entitled, wealthy guy who didn’t really know what he was doing and probably didn’t really care. He, essentially, was a purveyor of the trickle-down economy—the same bull-crap that Reagan was spouting back in the ‘80s. The whole idea of trickle-down economics is: Let the rich get richer, and then the rest of us, we’ll stick our tongues out and catch the raindrops. It’s just the most arrogant, entitled load of crap to try to put that on the general public as a viable model for driving an economy.
I can’t believe people are interested in what I have to say, though I feel like my opinions really are valid [Laughs.] If they’re willing to give Bernie Sanders a fair look because they like Phish or whatever, then fine. So be it. I’ll do what I can to get people to look at him. I don’t want to tell anyone how to think. I have my opinions. I feel that we, as a country, would be fools not to vote for this guy. That’s my personal opinion. I have never given money to any campaign. I didn’t give any money to Obama. I didn’t give any money to anybody. I’ve given all the money I’m allowed to give to Bernie Sanders. I’ve been watching this guy for 32 years. I moved to Burlington the year that he became the mayor. He was an incredible guy then, and everything he has stood for, he’s stood for the entire time. He’s consistent.
I am a drummer in a rock band. I am not running for president. Don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself if his judgment is wrong. Having watched this guy the whole time, I’m jumping up and down. This is the political equivalent of having the ability to draft Michael Jordan coming out of the University of North Carolina. It’s our turn to pick, and Michael Jordan is available. We have the choice—right now—to pick Wayne Gretzky for our hockey team. Is that person going to ruffle some feathers? Yeah, absolutely. Are they going to be good for the team and the whole league? Yes.
What would you say to someone that agrees with Sanders’ ideas, but is throwing their support behind Hillary Clinton because they think she is a lot more likely to win a national election?
Sanders is an independent and he’s running as a Democrat, but you have a third-party candidate’s thinking. It’s an alternative, a third choice. There’s the Democratic party line and there’s the Republican Party line. Then there’s Bernie Sanders’ approach, which I think is well-grounded, experientially, in government. He’s been the mayor of a town, a congressman and a senator. He’s been everything but a governor. He didn’t run the state, but he did run Burlington, and that’s a good chunk of responsibility. He’s well-versed in all the stuff that government does, whether it’s domestically or internationally. He is privy to all the same information that all the most-informed members of our government have been for 30 years. He has all of the qualifications to run for president that Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush or anyone else in the field has, if not more. He is politically as legitimate a candidate as has ever run for president. You can say that, well, it’s just my opinion—if he were to become the Democratic candidate, he would be as electable as anyone.
If you did your homework, and you don’t have the will to put your weight behind the person that you truly believe in, then what you’re saying is: “I have no hope for the future of our democracy.” Maybe, before, you could have stuck your head in the sand about it. But now—if you’ve actually looked into Sanders and it all checks out—you’re making a choice to vote for something you don’t actually believe in. Is that something you want to do in your life, overall? What’s at stake?
What are your thoughts on Hillary Clinton?
Let’s say you don’t vote for Sanders because you just don’t think he can come from behind and win. Think about the fact that the Republican machine has had eight years to build up their plan of attack on Hillary Clinton. Who knows what the Republican Party is going to pull out of their hat on Hillary? Will Hillary be able to stand up to the relentless smear campaign? Who knows what’s going to come out of that?
At the end of the day, we know that if we go to the polls, and it’s Bush and Clinton, then we’re all going to be sick to our stomachs. Yeah, it would be great to have a woman president. I’m all for it, but not just because she’s a woman. Yes, she’s qualified. She’s a qualified, experienced person and she’s smart. But we already know that she’s kind of disingenuous. We already know she’s a little bit of a liar, and we don’t know what we don’t know. That feeling will be in all of our guts when we go to the polls. On some level, if you’re one of those people that goes to vote for Clinton knowing what you had in Sanders, then it’s got to be a bit of a sickening feeling.