The Bern Insurgency

I have to admit that I’m taking a wicked amount of pleasure watching the news media flail about trying to explain how a Socialist upstart from a state known for maple syrup and a ban on billboards could have interrupted the “inevitable” election of the long-presumed next president of the United States.

When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced last April that he was running for president, he gave fair warning: “People should not underestimate me.” The media did just that, politely calling him a “long shot” who couldn’t even get the support of the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party. That the longest-serving Independent in Congress chose to run within the two-party system was somewhat newsworthy. However, the pundits expected him to have little impact other than perhaps moving the political discussion to the left. There was zero chance, they said, that voters would elect a socialist. Besides that, he had no money and no campaign infrastructure, and he was running against a candidate with near-universal name recognition and a political machine with the firepower of the Death Star.

Nine months later, with millions of dollars in small campaign contributions and a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders finally is being taken seriously. Most major media outlets continue to predict that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. But Sanders has changed the race and likely the political landscape for years to come.Bernie in Iowa Jan 26

The pundits may be falling all over themselves trying to explain why they didn’t see this coming, but for astrologers, the charts tell the story. Before we take a look, though, let’s review his bio.

Bernard Sanders, known to his constituents simply as “Bernie,” was born on September 8, 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to lower-class Jewish parents. His father fled Poland at 17, barely escaping the fate of the rest of his family, who died in concentration camps. Sanders spent a year at Brooklyn College and then transferred to the University of Chicago. It was 1960, when the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, and the campus radicalism that helped define the sixties was just beginning. Sanders joined several activist groups, at one point getting arrested for protesting segregation in off-campus housing. In 1963, he made his first-ever trip to Washington, D.C., where he and other members of his activist groups joined Martin Luther King Jr.’s March for Jobs and Freedom. He also joined the student affiliate of the Socialist Party of America, and he applied for conscientious objector status as a protest to the war in Vietnam.

As the counterculture movement of the sixties gathered steam, Sanders and his older brother, Larry, went to live on a kibbutz in Israel. The egalitarian, collectivist way of life on the kibbutz made a lasting impression on both brothers, but it was Bernie who saw it as proof that socialism could work. (Larry Sanders now lives in England and last year ran an unsuccessful campaign as a Green Party candidate for parliament.) Virgo Bernie Sanders had another epiphany while living on the kibbutz: he loved growing vegetables. When he returned from Israel, he moved to rural Vermont and bought 85 acres of undeveloped land for $2,500. For the next decade, he became more involved in grassroots politics, while managing to scrape together a living by working odd jobs. He also fathered a son, Levi, with a live-in partner.

The victory gained him national recognition as the ‘Socialist Mayor of Burlington.’ The city council, however, was not amused…

Throughout the 1970s, Sanders ran unsuccessfully in several statewide elections as a candidate of the anti-war Liberty Union Party. He finally gave up, but then was persuaded to run against the long-time conservative mayor of Burlington in 1981. In a stunning upset, he won by 22 votes, which were reduced to ten on recount. The victory gained him national recognition as the “Socialist Mayor of Burlington.” The city council, however, was not amused and tried to block him at every turn. After a year-long war, things started to change, and by the time he’d finished his fourth and final term in 1989, Burlington was being hailed as one of the most livable cities, and Sanders as one of the nation’s 20 best mayors.

As Mayor, Bernie Sanders Was More Pragmatist Than Socialist [NYT]

Sanders lost his first run for the House of Representatives in 1988, but he ran again two years later and won. In 2007, he was elected to the Senate. He is the longest-serving Independent in Congress and, contrary to campaign rhetoric painting him as an extremist who refuses to compromise, his colleagues have called him a pragmatist, realist, and result-oriented – hallmarks of Virgo.

Bernie Sanders, the Wide-Eyed Pragmatist [HuffPo]

To date, we have no birth time for Sanders. A chart began circulating last fall with a time of 12:27 p.m., attributed to an unnamed former Sanders campaign worker. AstroDatabank, the go-to source for natal charts of famous people and world events, published the chart with an “A” accuracy rating, but later retracted it with a note that the source of the birth data was wholly unreliable. When birth data is not available, astrologers cast a chart for noon or sunrise (I prefer noon).BernieNatal2

Even without a birth time, we can detect planetary patterns in Bernie’s chart that reflect his temperament, political ideology, and drive. Aside from his Sun in pragmatic, hardworking Virgo, the first thing that jumps out at me is the Moon-Mars conjunction in Aries. This aspect alone can account for his enormous energy. His age often is mentioned as a liability, but this aspect indicates he’ll stay quick on his feet (he has more energy than I had at 25). Of course, it also accounts for his temper and the loud, angry tirades. Many see him as an “angry old man,” but age has little to do with it. In 1985, novelist Russell Banks followed Sanders around Burlington as research for a profile in The Atlantic. He describes a scene in a bar-restaurant, where Sanders comes to have a beer with voters and explain how they can get a rebate on their property taxes.

“It’s more a private than a public occasion, but Sanders’s intensity, heating up as he speaks, is unmodulated and is almost inappropriate,” Banks wrote. “He’s on a roll now and moves to a rapid-fire discussion of the Burlington Airport and how he wants the city to get a part of the money the airport is making and that now goes instead to the state.”

The article was never published, but editors of The Atlantic dug it out of the archives last October. It is filled with the kind of personal observations astrologers can use to put flesh on the bones of chart interpretations. It’s also a good read, whether or not you’re a Sanders fan.

Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Mayor, by Russell Banks

Indeed, the Moon-Mars conjunction could provide some clues for a rectified birth time. Marcia Starck, in the December 2015 issue of ISAR journal, used some life events to come up with a late afternoon birth time with Aquarius on the Ascendant and a very tight Moon-Mars conjunction.

In the noon chart, Venus is in Libra, in tight opposition to Mars. Mercury also is in Libra. The Venus-Mars opposition speaks to events in his love life, which was very active before he met his second wife, Jane O’Meara, with whom he has been married for 27 years. Sanders doesn’t like to talk about his personal life, but Jane Sanders, in media interviews, has described their marriage as a close, equal partnership. Venus and Mercury in Libra also provide some balance to the Moon-Mars conjunction and convey the ability to compromise mentioned by his colleagues in Congress. Conservative Republican John McCain, with whom Sanders hammered out a bipartisan bill to overhaul the Veterans Administration healthcare system, told a reporter for The Huffington Post that Sanders has “the gumption to drop F-bombs one minute and counteroffers the next.”

“We spend a lot of time banging our fists on the table and having the occasional four-letter word. But at the end of the day, Bernie was result-oriented.”

“Negotiating with Bernie was not a usual experience, because he is very passionate and he and I are both very strong-willed people and we spend a lot of time banging our fists on the table and having the occasional four-letter word,” McCain said. “But at the end of the day, Bernie was result-oriented.”

The outer planets – particularly the conjunctions of Saturn in late Taurus and Uranus in early Gemini, and Pluto and Chiron in Leo – hint at an ability to transform social structures. I have many thoughts on this, but will have to save them for a future post.

And then, of course, there’s his Virgo Sun. Virgo is the quintessential political and social critic who can zero in on problems that others overlook. It’s also the sign of service. In his first appearance on C-SPAN, in January 1988, Sanders was asked why he got into politics. He responded that even as a child, he looked around him and could see so many things that were wrong, and he wanted to do something about it.

Several astrologers have analyzed Election Day charts for the candidates, so I’ll focus here on Bernie’s planetary transits on February 5, when a new nationwide poll showed him within 2 percentage points of a tie with Hillary Clinton. Until now, Clinton has maintained a comfortable double-digit lead. This poll, conducted by Quinnipiac, is just one of many and could be an anomaly, but it was picked up by most major news outlets and was seen as significant in light of a last-minute debate last Thursday (February 4) and the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday (February 9).

The most striking transit supporting positive polling for Sanders has been the conjunction of Jupiter and the North Node, which has been close for the past several weeks and in tight conjunction with Bernie’s natal North Node at 22 Virgo. Jupiter moved into conjunction with his Sun toward the middle of October, then turned retrograde in January. It will pass back over his Sun in late March and early April, then again in mid-June. Meanwhile, the transiting North Node moved into partile conjunction with his natal North Node on January 22, with Jupiter also in partile conjunction.

At the same time, transiting Pluto in Capricorn has been in a trine with Bernie’s Virgo Sun. Last Friday (February 5), when the Quinnipiac poll was released, the Moon, Venus, and Pluto were in triple conjunction. Pluto will remain in a tight trine with his Sun through Election Day.

There are also very difficult transits on the way for Sanders, a couple in particular that are of concern not just in terms of winning or losing an election. But for now, he’s got a fair wind.

[This article is a lightly edited version of a post that originally appeared on The Mountain Astrologer‘s blog on Feb. 8, 2016.]