The Sanders Revolution

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has built what seems to be a quixotic presidential campaign on a message of consistency and the promise of a political revolution, but to many of his supporters, the self-described Democratic socialist is no fantasy.

The 74-year-old senator from Vermont has taken the 2016 presidential race by storm, recently garnering over one million individual donations – faster than Barack Obama in 2008 – and attracting crowds in tens of thousands to his campaign rallies. Over 28,000 people attended his rally in Portland, Ore. in August.

The Brooklyn-born politician’s “revolution” is as much a threat as it is a promise. It appeals to people who love his platform of fighting income inequality, passing a living wage of $15 per hour, instituting free public college education and getting big money out of politics.

Sanders’ popularity has surged on social media. He has over two million Facebook followers and over 922,000 Twitter followers. His social media presence is so strong that last month, The Hill dubbed Sanders the winner of one of the Republican debates because of his viral live tweeting.

The senator’s supporters have also rallied behind the consistency of his message. Sanders has not wavered on his several political issues such as support for abortion (NARAL 100% voting record), gay rights (HRC 100% voting record), unions (AFL-CIO 100% voting record), peaceful alternatives to war (SANE 100% voting record), and energy independence (CAF 100% voting record), which contrasts with Hillary Clinton who has been criticized for changing her position on a variety of issues such as the Keystone Pipeline, the Iraq War and gay marriage, which Sanders has supported since the early 1970s.

Likelihood of a Sanders Presidency

Although Sanders has spent more than 25 years in politics, he is not immune to failure. He unsuccessfully ran for governor of Vermont three times. He also ran two failed campaigns for the U.S. Senate in the 1970s, never receiving more than 6 percent of the vote.

Many news outlets including Bangor Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, Fox News Insider, The Washington Post and The New York Times have all doubted his chances of being elected.

Although there is a broad consensus that Sanders is unlikely to win the nomination, the reasons why often differ. Bangor Daily News believes that he won’t win because voters don’t know him, Los Angeles Times and Fox News Insider believe it’s because he describes himself as a socialist, Washington Post believes it’s because he refuses to call himself a capitalist, and the New York Times believes it is because he cannot attack Clinton.  One infographic in the New York Times puts his chances at 10 percent despite his one point lead in the New Hampshire polls.

(Creative Commons)

Still, Sanders seems to have made his mark. People leave comments about how they haven’t voted in an election in 40 years but they’re voting in this one just to elect Sanders.  While some supporters adamantly believe that he will positively address the issue of income inequality in this country, others stand by him because they feel that he’s authentic, something that Hillary has been struggling to come across as.

What do political scientists think?

Dr. Lynn Eckert, a professor of political science at Marist College, was asked what she thought about Bernie Sanders and provided some interesting responses.

When asked how she thinks Bernie Sanders has affected the 2016 presidential race, she said, “I think that he has pulled Hillary Clinton to the left, and has appealed to the people with a populist message and has fed into the ire that people feel about American policy.”

Why has Sanders affected so many young people? Eckert stated that it is because this generation is coming out of college with the most student debt, and feels that the system is rigged against them. They are drawn to Sanders’ focus on fairness and equality. She added that what makes this campaign memorable is that Sanders is speaking truth to power.  He is telling people there is too much greed, while other candidates think that they need the support of the economic elite.

People are also finding some catharsis in his political campaign. When asked if Sanders will actually win the nomination, she responded, “No, but I do believe that he will have some say in the issues being discussed in the Democratic debates.”

Are other candidates #feelingthebern?

Despite Sanders’s growing popularity, he has consistently refused to attack his fellow candidates. He has often cited that he “hates and detests” the 30-second-attack ads that are often the staple of many campaigns. Many people on both the left and right have attacked him, including Donald Trump who called him a “maniac” and Hillary Clinton who attacked his spotty record on gun control at the first Democratic debate.

Sanders has even accepted his title as a socialist, which many Democrats and Republicans would hastily ignore. The “Vermontster” has even gone as far as to declare himself a Democratic socialist, which he says means, “creating a government that works for working families, rather than the kind of government we have today which is largely owned and controlled by wealthy individuals and large corporations.”

Video Courtesy of CNN

One of the things that has most surprised people about the Sanders campaign is his ability to make good on his promise about the amount of Republicans who are supporting him despite Democratic backlash. At the Democratic debate, Jim Webb, a former Senator from Virginia and recent presidential campaign dropout, said, “I don’t think the revolution’s going to come and I don’t think congress is going to pay for a lot of this stuff.”

Bernie Sanders has described his political revolution as one where: “80 percent of the people vote, not just 40 percent, and which means that Congress represents the middle class and working families of this country and not just the billionaire class.” Although some mainstream media and voters have been skeptical, many have not realized the impact Sanders has had on the presidential race. He has been getting the largest crowds, has the second most cash on hand and has raised all of his money without the assistance of a Super Pac. Even if Sanders does not get the nomination, his campaign will be one to remember.

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1 Comment

  1. Hope crawley

    What an informative article… citing extensively Sanders’ Voting record; what the other candidates are saying about him and the consistency of Sanders’ message. I found it particularly interesting where the author says news outlets don’t expect him to be able to win but, with reference to five major outlets, shows that each outlet gives a different reason why he can’t win. Pratt has put together a comprehensive, fact based study of the candidate.

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