The Era of Medical and Financial Transparency Is Probably Over

Two weeks after his heart attack Bernie looked fine. I guess there's no point in digging any further, is there?Corine Sciboz/ZUMA

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In 2016 Donald Trump refused to release his income tax records even though (a) he had promised to do so, and (b) he’s a real estate billionaire, the exact kind of person whose financial history is especially salient in a presidential election. This paid off: no one really cared, apparently, and Trump became president. The price of concealing his financial history was smaller than the price he would have paid for whatever that history would have shown.

This year, Bernie Sanders has refused to release his medical records even though (a) he promised to do so, and (b) he’s 78 years old and recently had a heart attack, making him the exact kind of person whose medical history is especially salient in a presidential election. Will this pay off? It seems like it: Sanders is soaring in the polls. The price of concealing his medical history is—in his estimation, anyway—smaller than the price he’d pay for whatever his medical history shows.

Presidential candidates are finally learning that releasing records of any kind is all downside. If the records show that everything is OK, no one cares and it buys you nothing. But if the records show a problem, it could blow your candidacy to pieces. There is literally no reason to do it unless there’s a big price to be paid for keeping things under wrap. But guess what? There isn’t.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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