Writer and activist Jonathan Tasini was the first to get Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to admit he might run for president. Well, sort of.
When Tasini interviewed Sanders for the October 2013 edition of Playboy, the senator said it "would be tempting" to bring his platform to the presidential race, despite all the drawbacks. Asked whether he was ruling out a run, Sanders said, "Absolutely? 100 percent? Cross my heart? Is there a stack of Bibles somewhere? Look, maybe it’s only 99 percent."
Now that Sanders is a little more than one percent running for president, Tasini's offering another first: an election-season book about Vermont's two-term senator.
Chelsea Green, the White River Junction publishing house, has ordered up a 50,000-copy print run of the book, called The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America (192 pages; $14). According to Chelsea Green spokesman (and former Seven Days political columnist) Shay Totten, it's scheduled for release September 8.
The project came together quickly. According to Tasini, it took him 22 days to deliver a manuscript from the moment Chelsea Green president Margo Baldwin green-lighted it.
"That may break a record for publisher-writer collaboration," Tasini says.
The Essential Bernie Sanders is by no means biography nor narrative journalism. Tasini says much of the book consists of excerpted speeches the democratic socialist has delivered in and outside of Congress. Organized by subject — from "Economy: 10 ways to make it work for everyone" to "Politics: Our democracy is not for sale" — Essential is more policy primer than critical analysis. The author also draws heavily on the four hours of interviews he conducted with Sanders in April 2013 for the Playboy piece.
"Ninety percent of each chapter is really Bernie's words and his deeds," Tasini says.
The writer, a labor activist and occasional politician, admits he's hardly a dispassionate observer. He says he approached the book "as an organizer" and hopes it will help Sanders "build a movement."
"Clearly I'm a fan," he says. "I'm not trying to pretend like I'm a disinterested journalist. I'm an advocate. I'm not going to try to hide that or pretend that I'm not."
Tasini also has something in common with Sanders: He's run against Hillary Clinton. In 2006, when Clinton was seeking reelection to the Senate, Tasini challenged her in New York's Democratic primary. He drew nearly 125,000 votes, or 16 percent, to her nearly 641,000 votes, or 84 percent.
"I would say that he probably has a better chance of defeating her than I did," Tasini says.
Does he have any advice for a David taking on a Goliath?
"You can quote me as laughing out loud," he says. "I don't need to give Bernie any advice about how to campaign."