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"Instead of attacking him," writes Weis, the insiders of the Democratic Party "should be thanking him, for he is energizing the base and attracting Independents." (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Why Bernie Sanders Is Winning the Hearts and Minds of America

Tom Weis

If you’re lucky, once in your lifetime, maybe twice if you’re really lucky, you’ll get an opportunity to support a presidential candidate who speaks to your values on a very deep personal level. For me, that chance came the day Bernie Sanders announced his presidential campaign. My reason for supporting Bernie Sanders for president can be summed up in one word: authenticity.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the real deal and people feel it in their guts. We know he’s on our side. A profile in political courage and integrity, Bernie Sanders is a patriot who has been fighting for economic and social justice all his life. Finally, we have a candidate who is not only willing, but eager, to take on Wall Street, the media elites and the corrupt political establishment. This is why I joined the political revolution on Day 1 and why millions of Americans from all political stripes are Feeling the Bern.

In a remarkable November speech at Georgetown University, Bernie Sanders passionately articulated the rationale for his candidacy by saying, “We need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation." Sign me up.

"This campaign is not about him. It’s about us."

If you’ve watched the Democratic debates (I feel your pain if you’ve suffered through the rancor of the Republican ones), you’ve probably noticed something else about Bernie Sanders: he’s tough, but he’s not a gutter fighter. He’s got class. Senator Sanders is a gentleman and a statesman who shares the public’s appetite for mature political discourse.

He also has his priorities straight: never did I think I would see a presidential candidate in their first nationally televised debate use their opening statement to talk not about themselves, but about the challenges facing our nation. That was a watershed moment in American political history and speaks volumes about the man’s character. He knows this campaign is not about him. It’s about us.

During that first debate, I watched, with glowing pride, a presidential candidate boldly and consistently articulate my values on a national stage. Then Sanders outdid himself by saying something no major presidential candidate has ever said. When asked to name the greatest national security threat facing the United States, Bernie correctly asserted: “the global crisis of climate change.”

This is not to say Bernie Sanders and I agree on everything. Who has ever agreed with anyone on everything? His climate plan, for instance, does not embrace the clear need for a World War II-style emergency mobilization, let alone a green energy moon shot (100% renewable electricity in 10 years). But Bernie has committed to convening a climate summit – with the world’s top engineers, scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous leaders – during the first 100 days of his presidency, where it will be our job to convince him of the need for both of these initiatives. The easiest part is going to be getting Sanders elected. The hardest work comes after.

The fact that almost none of his colleagues in Congress support Bernie’s campaign is another reason why I do. Bernie doesn’t take his marching orders from party bosses or corporate lobbyists, yet he is collegial enough to get bipartisan legislation passed. I don’t want a president who’s in league with the Democratic elite. I want a president who’s in league with the American people.

With the Iowa caucuses looming, here is the main argument Bernie Sanders is driving home against his chief rival, establishment candidate Hillary Clinton:

“I do not believe that you can get huge speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and then with a straight face tell the American people that you’re prepared to do what is necessary to take on the greed and illegal behavior on Wall Street. I don’t think people think that passes the laugh test… Why do special powerful interests give you money? Are they dumb? I don’t think so.”

The American people aren’t dumb either. We know we’re being sold out. We don’t need a president who is beholden to billionaires. We need a president whose allegiance is to We the People. The fact that Sanders is fueling his insurgency campaign with millions of small donations makes him a genuine threat to the establishment, and this has them panicked. The push back has only just begun, and it will be up to his supporters to fight back even harder.

"As Bernie keeps pointing out, Republicans win when people are discouraged and don’t turn out to vote. Democrats win when voters are energized and turnout is high."

Bernie Sanders is the best thing that could ever happen to the Democratic Party. Instead of attacking him, party insiders should be thanking him, for he is energizing the base and attracting Independents. What Democratic candidate has consistently turned out the biggest, most enthusiastic crowds in this campaign? Bernie Sanders. What candidate consistently polls the strongest against Mr. 1%, Donald Trump? Bernie Sanders.

Former Democratic National Committee chair Paul Kirk certainly gets it. He not only endorsed Sanders, he called the unlimited amount of money flowing into politics a “pernicious internal peril” to representative democracy. As Bernie keeps pointing out, Republicans win when people are discouraged and don’t turn out to vote. Democrats win when voters are energized and turnout is high.

Bernie has caught fire because he has his finger on the pulse of the spirit of America. It’s the same pulse I felt in 2010 when I pedaled thousands of miles through America’s heartland to discover nearly unanimous support for a green industrial revolution on the Main Streets of “red states” and “blue states” alike.

Frankly, I have never seen Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic nomination. She suffers from a massive trust deficit and is woefully out of touch with the mood of the electorate. Hillary represents cautious incrementalism at a time when the people are restless for bold transformational change, and at a time when such dramatic change is needed to ensure our survival as a species.

If ever a person has met his moment in history that person would be Bernie Sanders and that moment would be now.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Tom Weis

Tom Weis

Tom Weis is the president of Climate Crisis Solutions in Boulder, Colorado.

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