As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders catches up to Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, he’s drawing bipartisan support from Republicans and Independents.
hen Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy early this year, few thought he’d have a shot at beating Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. That perception has gradually changed as Sanders closes in on Clinton in the polls, and continues to rally massive support for his grassroots campaign. Central gathering places for Bernie supporters have been online communities like Reddit and Facebook, where supporters do more than adulate the presidential candidate—they organize and direct support on the ground. What’s more, the community isn’t solely comprised of Democrats. Among Sanders supporters you’ll find Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, and Libertarians.
It may seem against conventional wisdom that a self-described democratic socialist would be popular with right-leaning voters, especially given recent history—when conservative pundits were enamored with using ‘socialist’ as a slur against the policies of the Obama Administration. But times have changed. People aren’t afraid of the word anymore. Republicans want their party back. Independents have been waiting for a candidate like Sanders for a long time. Democrats are ready to shake up the establishment.
I asked right-leaning Bernie supporters to tell me why they’re backing his campaign. The responses I got were articulate and enlightening, and they demonstrate the level of discourse happening every day as the grassroots movement spreads across the country.
In Reddit’s /r/republicansforsanders and /r/sandersforpresident, I asked “Why do you, as a Republican, conservative, Libertarian, or Independent support Bernie Sanders?”
“I am disgusted by the money pouring into politics.” Answered Eternally65. “Not just the Koch brothers, but Bloomberg and all the other limosine [sic] liberals.” He added: “I’m from Vermont and Bernie, however much I disagree with some of his positions, is painfully honest, very straightforward and consistent. He’s good people.”
Eternally65’s answer highlights a consistent theme in Bernie’s appeal: he’s straightforward with his speech and direct with his message. This authenticity translates into support from voters who might otherwise dismiss him.
Next, bigstoneAZ wrote a lengthy post about why he supports Sanders. It says, in part:
“I guess first I would like to state that I am NOT voting for Bernie to vote against the other candidates. I truly agree with 99% of his policies. Second, I don’t feel that I am voting for a Democrat, I am voting for another independent who just so happens to be on the Democratic ballot. He is a man of principle and it shows that these policies he wants to enact are not something new to use as weapons to gain votes. Bernie has been saying these things for years! He actually loves this country and I honestly do not believe he WANTS to be President, he sees it as he HAS to be president. He could be spending his latter days with his family and enjoying life. Instead he is sacrificing his remaining years on Earth to help those that need it. He has little to gain but a lot to give. I guess it boils down to that it is just hard to argue against a man that cares.”
“Breaking up the Big Banks and Wages. My good friend works so hard for less than $10/hour. She would not make it if she did not have SNAP and a reduced bus pass. I was making $9/hour in 1997-98 working at Wendy’s and as a dish washer. 17 years later here is my friend busting her tail for the same money while gas, food, and rent has doubled or tripled. The stock market has gone higher than anyone would have imagined since 1999. What happened?”
Finally, HungInHawaii offers his reasons for support:
“I’m a 24 year old libertarian, and I grew up Republican. I still like Republican ideals (the real ones) over Democrat but Republicans have become a sh** show since after Bush came into office. It boggles my mind how ANY candidate put forward by the Rep are even being considered. It deeply saddens/depresses me that our country is filled with so many idiots. Even the Democrats aren’t much better. Bernie Sanders is the only political candidate I’ve ever actually wanted to win and I think our country desperately needs him to cause some real change and policies need to be placed. Not some political rhetoric but real fu***** decisions and fixing the underlying problems that cause most of our issues, e.g school, taxes, race relations, foreign policy. I think he will do a better and honest job of tackling such hard issues and he has a proven record of trying to – give the man more power!”
If Sanders is to beat Clinton in the primaries, he’ll need to increase name recognition among non-white voters, something his campaign has had a difficult time doing so far. Despite receiving an endorsement from Cornel West and being rated highly by organizations like the NAACP, the Sanders campaign hasn’t successfully courted African-American voters, who are still overwhelmingly in favor of Clinton.
But Sanders has something Clinton doesn’t: grassroots support. Time will tell if it’s enough to overcome his significant disadvantages in the race.
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