Last time we checked in on endearingly grouchy democratic socialist uncle and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ Twitch channel, it was notably lacking in Bernie Sanders himself. It also felt more like a campaign commercial than any sort of broadcast Twitch viewers were used to seeing. Yesterday evening, Sanders and company finally addressed one of those issues, though they probably could have picked a better time to do so—many Twitch streamers were boycotting the platform in solidarity with striking Amazon warehouse workers at the time.
The stream surprised viewers, who’d gotten used to watching various Sanders campaign staffers talking about issues and occasionally answering questions from chat. The channel also airs various Sanders rallies and speeches, but not in a way that directly engages Twitch or Twitch chat. This time, Sanders took center stage to talk at length about Medicare for All in advance of an upcoming speech on the subject.
While this stream mostly served as a preamble to that speech, with Sanders going over planned talking points like health care as a human right and drug companies’ multibillion-dollar profits, Sanders spent about half of the 25 or so minutes answering select questions from Twitch chat. Mostly, these centered around basic Medicare for All-related concerns like prescription drug prices, what health care is like in other countries, and of course, the oft-repeated line that implementing Medicare for All will temporarily render some people bereft of health care. When Sanders’ stream partner, campaign manager Faiz Shakir, read off the latter question, Sanders smirked and delivered a small pinch of Twitch-worthy spice, suggesting that “it might be a former vice president of the United States” who gave people that idea.
“I think it’s important that we have a health care debate on the facts and not fear-mongering,” he said. “But obviously it goes without saying that nobody is going to lose their ability to go to a doctor or have surgery, or have their cancer or heart disease taken care of. That’s just silly, and I don’t think anyone takes those statements seriously.”
He also took time to hone in on one viewer’s experiences with the Canadian health care system. This person chimed in to say that they received emergency brain surgery in Canada, and not only did they emerge from it in tip top shape, but so did their bank account.
“In the United States, people not only have to deal with those illnesses, they have to worry about what’s going to happen to the family’s finances because of the hospitalization,” said Sanders in response to this comment. “I’ve heard and you’ve heard stories about people who were hurt in accidents, who said, ‘Don’t take me to the emergency room! I can’t afford it.’ ...What you just heard from this gentleman in Canada, major surgery doesn’t cost you a penny out of your own pocket. Of course it costs money. It is publicly financed, because it is a right the same way education is a right. It’s paid for out of tax dollars. Everybody contributes. In my view, it will be funded in a very progressive way with the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes.”
He also offered details on how the first year of Medicare for All will play out—mostly focusing on full coverage (including dental) for children and seniors ages 55 and up—and implored people to ask their doctors if they’d ever dealt with patients who walked into their offices too late because they couldn’t afford care.
“I suspect those doctors will tell you what they tell me, which is that they lose patients time and time and time again, from illnesses that were preventable if people walked into the office when they should have,” he said. “In fact, the estimates are that we lose 30,000 people a year who go to the doctor when it’s too late.”
It was refreshing—if long overdue—to see Bernie Sanders on his own Twitch channel. However, the segment still suffered from many of the typical problems that plague his channel: Discussion was largely limited to standard talking points, and Sanders, like his staffers before him, was preaching to a choir mostly made up of diehard Sanders stans rather than Twitch’s gargantuan potential audience of young-skewing fence-sitters. On top of that, yesterday was the second day of Amazon Prime Day, because Amazon has decided it wants dominion over the concepts of days and counting in addition to everything else. This meant that Sanders was streaming while many Twitch streamers were boycotting the Amazon-owned platform to show solidarity with striking Amazon warehouse workers. When Sanders’ official account tweeted out the stream link, this did not go unnoticed.
“Bernie I have bad news about Twitch,” reads one response.
“You crossed picket line you are going to lose subscriber,” reads another.
“NO SCABS, NO TWITCH, NO AMAZON,” reads a third, echoing the sentiments of countless others.
Sanders, who helped exert significant pressure on Amazon last year to raise its minimum worker pay to $15, unfortunately did not address this issue on stream, creating another awkward disconnect between his island of a channel and the vast Twitch sea. It’s likely that he and his campaign staffers simply didn’t know about the boycott, but it’s difficult to reach the Twitch community if you’re not actively engaged with it—especially on issues that directly concern your campaign.