Jane Sanders for First Lady

jane-buttonThe Florida primary is next week, and her spouse is drawing ginormous crowds there. We are even starting to see pictures of these crowds on TV. Finally, Big Media seriously entertain the thought that Bernie Sanders’ campaign for a political revolution has grown some legs. Now, inevitably, the searchlight swings Jane Sanders’ way. America and its punditry will begin to look long and critically at Jane. There will be kerfuffle about her exit as the President of Burlington College, about the complaints of a toxic office climate that initiated her fall from grace. About the sketchy fiscal record she amassed there. And what this might all mean for the campaign in the context of Jane’s many roles in Bernie’s political life.

I’d be more worried about how Jane Sanders will fare in shallower media waters. Forget the dense grey screeds about policy, about reform vs. revolution, about substance that appear in publications like  HuffPost, The Atlantic Monthly or the Wall Street Journal. Let’s talk for a moment about appearances. How will such influential (i.e., widely-eyeballed) publications as USA Today, Cosmopolitan and InStyle Magazine treat Jane?

I fear they will be unkind, because Jane looks like one of us. She’s a little plump, a little unkempt, a little…small-pond in appearance. She looks like us because she is one of us. We may like that, but those Washington types, they don’t know what there is to see in it.

Yes, of course there also are “pretty people” in Vermont. And we do appreciate their contribution to our environment. We like to see their tight, slim bodies. We are cheered by their 1000-watt smiles. We appreciate their tidy-looking, luxurious hair. We do: we enjoy their style. But many ladies of a certain age, myself included, first moved to Vermont precisely because it is a highly-liveable place for the glamour-challenged. It is a place where even the 75-watt smiler can pursue her dreams.

We have a warm spot for the well-upholstered here in Cold Country. For the baggy-panted, homemade-knitwear-sporting, flannel-clad Regular People. And Jane Sanders — with her clear smile, her open face, her hair in need of a trim — comes across as a Regular Person, even when she’s spruced up for a public appearance. We like that a lot here.

Elsewhere, I fear, not so much. I can imagine Washington Society mavens recoilling. I can imagine the hushed snark aswirl in living-rooms around the Beltway: the titters, the mean cracks and dismissals. No other doyenne of Washington Society, incumbent, deposed or prospective, would even own an item from Johnson Woolen Mills — let alone a well-worn one.

But wouldn’t it be a relief to set down the burden of dressing up just to go downstairs?  Wouldn’t it help us all relax and think a bit more clearly if we were assured that our appearance doesn’t preclude our participation at the highest levels? And don’t you think this country could do worse than to have a White House that felt a little bit more like a Vermont general store?

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