clock menu more-arrow no yes

Bernie Sanders: "When you hustle money ... that can isolate you from the reality of the world."

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Talking to CNBC's John Harwood, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders uncorked what's probably the harshest criticism of Hillary Clinton that we've heard from him — a criticism that's a little bit personal, but that mostly speaks to his view of the corrupting influence big money has on politics.

"When you hustle money like that, you don't sit in restaurants like this," he said. "You sit in restaurants where you're spending—I don't know what they spend—hundreds of dollars for dinner and so forth. That's the world that you're accustomed to, and that's the world view that you adopt. You're not worrying about a kid three blocks away from here whose mom can't afford to feed him.

"So yes, I think that can isolate you—that type of wealth has the potential to isolate you from the reality of the world."

This is a sophisticated and likely accurate take on the way money distorts the political system. It's easy to focus on "follow the money" narratives and alleged quid pro quo corruption, but the dynamic Sanders is highlighting is more insidious. Studies show that politicians think their constituents are more conservative than they really are and that politicians are heavily swayed by public opinion among rich people but don't care what poor people think. Both are partially explained by what Sanders says here — if you spend all your time with rich people, you end up actually confusing yourself somewhat about where the public stands.