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 Senator 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 to match. (1)
Nine months later, with millions of dollars in small campaign contributions and a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders is finally 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.
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, NY, to lower-class Jewish parents. His father immigrated to the United States from Poland when he was 17, barely escaping the Holocaust, during which most of his family was killed. In high school, Sanders was a long-distance runner and captain of his track team. He also made his first venture into politics, running for student body president. In a three-way race, he came in third. (2)
After graduating from high school, 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 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 ran last year as a Green Party candidate for Parliament. He lost.) 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. (3)
Throughout the 1970s, Sanders ran in several statewide elections as a candidate of the anti-war Liberty Union Party. He started out with 2% of the vote, gaining a little more each time but never winning a race. He finally gave up, but was then persuaded to run against the long-time conservative mayor of Burlington in 1981. In a stunning upset, he won by 22 votes, which was reduced to ten votes on a recount. The victory gained him national recognition as the “Socialist Mayor of Vermont.” The city council, however, was not amused and tried to block him at every turn. His first year in office was essentially a war, but then 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. (4)
Sanders lost his first run for the House of Representatives in 1988, but he ran again two years later and won. He was re-elected by wide margins and, in 2007, made a successful bid for the Senate. He is the longest-serving Independent in Congress and, despite campaign rhetoric as an extremist who refuses to compromise, his colleagues have called him a pragmatist, realist, and result-oriented — just what we would expect of a Virgo. (5)
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. Until last week, AstroDatabank was using it, with an inexplicable “A” rating that gave the chart credibility among astrologers. Fortunately, high standards prevailed, and the entry was reverted to “time unknown” with a note: “There exists no reliable source, it is all hearsay and speculation. The time has to be considered unknown, until substantial evidence comes forward.” The chart is out there, though, and I suspect there will be those who continue to work with it, in the absence of a verified birth time; in other words, it’s “better than nothing.” Really, it’s not. Better to go with a noon or sunrise chart (I prefer noon). (6)
Although we don’t have the advantage of 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 is often 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 restaurant bar, where Sanders comes to have a beer with voters to explain how they can get a rebate on their property taxes.
“It’s more a private than a public occasion, but Sanders’ intensity, heating up as he speaks, is unmodulated and is almost inappropriate. 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. (7)
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. (8)
In the noon chart, Venus is in Libra, in tight opposition to Mars. Mercury is also 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.”
“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.” (9)
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 another day.
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. (10)
Rather than looking at the transit chart for Election Day, which several astrologers and astrology students have already been studying intently, and will continue to explore for the next several weeks, I’d like to focus on Bernie’s transits last week, when a new nationwide poll was released showing him within two 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 upcoming New Hampshire primary on Tuesday (February 9). (11)
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.
(1) Bernie Sanders is running for president
(4) As Mayor, Bernie Sanders Was More Pragmatist Than Socialist
(5) Bernie Sanders, the Wide-Eyed Pragmatist
(6) September 8, 1941, Brooklyn, NY. Source: AstroDatabank. Rating X, date without birth time. Placidus houses.
(7) Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Mayor, by Russell Banks The Atlantic
(8) Marcia Starck rectification, ISAR journal, December 2015, p. 42
(9) Bernie Sanders, the Wide-Eyed Pragmatist
(10) First appearance on C-SPAN, January 1988
Bio: Pat Paquette is a writer, editor, and astrologer living on Vashon Island, WA. She has been blogging on astrology since December 2005. Her weekly astrological forecasts appear on the blog of her website, RealAstrologers.com, where you also can find a collection of her past articles.