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Excerpt: "The rise of Bernie Sanders has no doubt been one of the more fascinating political stories of 2015 - a year that was not short on fascinating political stories."

Bernie Sanders. (photo: Marius Bugge/Nation)
Bernie Sanders. (photo: Marius Bugge/Nation)

This Was Bernie's Year: How a Socialist Emerged as a National Political Phenomenon

By Rolling Stone

14 December 15


he rise of Bernie Sanders has no doubt been one of the more fascinating political stories of 2015 – a year that was not short on fascinating political stories. When he announced his run in the spring, few thought the self-described democratic socialist would be such a strong opponent against Hillary Clinton, but his impact in the race has been significant: He's raised significant money, without relying on super PACs, and has pushed Clinton to the left in very real ways.

Whether you're full-on feeling the Bern, or are just a political observer, it's worth taking a look back at the year Bernie Sanders transformed from "that socialist from Vermont" to a national political phenomenon.

April 29, 2015: Announces Presidential Run, as a Democrat

Sanders, the longest serving Independent in Congress, jumped into the 2016 presidential race in late spring as a Democrat. Though in the coming months he proved to be a formidable challenger to frontrunner Hillary Clinton, raising significant money and pushing Clinton to the left, one of the terms most associated with his April announcement was "long shot."

At a campaign announcement event in Vermont in May, Sanders laid out his platform and noted that "we're going to establishing a very strong grassroots campaign involving millions of people. That's the only way to win."

May 1, 2015: Outpaces GOP Candidates in Initial Fundraising

A day after announcing his run for president, Team Bernie announced it had raised an impressive $1.5 million in 24 hours – "a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted in their first day," CNN reported at the time.

In what has continued to be a hallmark of the Sanders campaign – which has rejected super PAC funding – those initial donations largely came from small-dollar donors, averaging about $44 each.

Soon after Sanders jumped into the race, Mother Jones published a profile of the candidate focused on his early life and career. The piece included a reproduction of a bizarre decades-old essay by Sanders called "Man – and Woman," in which Sanders clumsily wrote about a woman's rape fantasies.

The resurfaced essay caused a brief flurry of controversy, as political reporters and feminists alike tried to make sense of it. The Sanders camp was quick to dismiss the piece as a "dumb attempt at dark satire."

August 8, 2015: Black Lives Matter Activists Shut Down Campaign Event

At a campaign event in Seattle over the summer, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement jumped on stage just after Sanders began speaking at the mic and said, "We're shutting this event down, now."

"I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, even with all of these progressives, but you've already done that for me," activist Marissa Johnson told the booing crowd before calling for a moment of silence for Michael Brown. "The biggest grassroots movement in this country right now is Black Lives Matter," she said, referring to Sanders' stated love for grassroots movements.

Sanders stood by quietly while the Black Lives Matter activists spoke, and the campaign event ended. Sanders later released a statement saying he was "disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare."

September 6, 2015: Pulls Ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire

After a summer of nipping at Clinton's heels in the polls in critical primary states New Hampshire and Iowa, in early September Sanders found himself with a nine-point lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, and a narrowing gap between the candidates in Iowa, according to an NBC News/Marist poll.

The news of Sanders' lead in New Hampshire was (and continues to be) welcome news to Sanders supporters, who argue the candidate is more electable than many pundits are willing to admit. FiveThirtyEight mastermind Nate Silver, however, has made the case that while Sanders could win New Hampshire and Iowa, he may well lose the rest of the primaries.

September 14, 2015: Addresses Evangelicals in Liberty University Speech

In September, Sanders gave a much discussed speech at Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Virginia, in large part to show his willingness to engage in respectful dialogue with conservatives. "I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse," he said in his speech. "It is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you.…It is is harder, but not less important, to try to communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue."

As MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald wrote at the time, Sanders "likely picked up few supporters with his speech," but "he received a courteous welcome and helped all parties demonstrate their willingness to respect the other side."

October 13, 2015: Tackles Clinton's "Damn Emails" at First Debate

Sanders had a solid showing at the first Democratic primary debate, hosted by CNN. His performance included what was probably the top moment of the night – and, frankly, of all the debates to date: When the conversation turned to Clinton's emailgate scandal, Sanders said, "Let me say something that may not be great politics. I think the secretary is right...the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."

The crowd ate it up, applauding wildly and giving Sanders a standing ovation. Though surely no one loved the line more than Hillary Clinton, to whom Sanders gave the gift of dismissing the scandal in the eyes of countless Americans.

October 17, 2015: Gets the 'SNL' Treatment, With Amazing Impression by Larry David

In mid-October, fans of Bernie Sanders and Larry David alike got what they had long hoped for: Larry David, doing Bernie Sanders. The impression was part of a Saturday Night Live cold-open skit parodying the first Democratic debate; it became an instant classic, with lines like, "I don't have a super PAC. I don't even have a backpack! I carry my stuff around loose in my arms, like a professor between classes. I own one pair of underwear – that's it!"

November 18, 2015: Is on Cover of 'Rolling Stone'

Sanders appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the fall, giving an in-depth interview to contributing editor Tim Dickinson about his chances for beating Hillary Clinton, why he's dedicated his political career to taking on the one percent, and his plans for working with a potentially hostile Congress, if elected. "If we win this election, it will have said that the political revolution is moving forward. In other words: I will not get elected unless there is a huge increase in voter turnout. That's a simple fact," he said. "And I will not get elected unless there are a lot of working-class people, who have turned their backs on the political system, now getting engaged in the system."

November 19, 2015: Gives Speech Defining Democratic Socialism

"Let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me," Sanders said, in a highly anticipated November speech at Georgetown University. "It means what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that 'this country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.'"

In laying out his political philosophy, Sanders cited Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance and other programs that were once derided for being socialist but have since "become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class."

November 23, 2015: Hangs Out With Killer Mike

It's no secret that rapper Killer Mike is a Bernie Sanders fan; he endorsed Sanders over the summer, tweeting, "His call 4 the restoration of the voters rights act sealed the deal for me."

But Killer Mike took his affection for Sanders to the next level in November, taking the candidate out for lunch at a beloved Atlanta soul food restaurant and delivering heartfelt remarks at a campaign event later in the day. "I am here as a proponent for a political revolution that says health care is a right of every citizen," he said. "I am here because working class and poor people deserve a chance at economic freedom, and yes, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be in poverty." your social media marketing partner


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+64 # Radscal 2015-12-14 15:06
“[Sanders] has pushed Clinton to the left in very real ways.”

Nonsense. Sanders popularity has forced Clinton to adopt some of his rhetoric, but there is zero probability it would affect the way she’d govern if elected. As Senator Warren learned, she will claim to support a progressive issue, but then crush it once elected.

“At a campaign event in Seattle over the summer, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement jumped on stage …”

That was NOT a “campaign event;” it was a long-planned rally in support of Social Security on the anniversary of its establishment. Since saving and expanding Social Security has long been one of Sanders’ policy stands, he was invited to attend. Of course he saw it as an opportunity to win or solidify support, but it was not a "campaign event."

The DNC machine seeks to prevent Sanders from winning the nomination without completely alienating his supporters in the hope they will vote for Clinton. Many of us will not, regardless of how carefully triangulated her organization attempts to manipulate us.
+15 # Inspired Citizen 2015-12-14 20:40
You're right: no more neo-liberals. This is a revolution, so #AllLegalMeans especially the use of leverage.
+7 # ritawalpoleague 2015-12-15 09:03
"...few thought the self-described political socialist would be such a strong opponent against Hillary Clinton..." Must confess, I was and am one of the few. How so?

It began with me at age three, following my mama's teaching me to pray every night: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mommy and Daddy, my grandmas and grandpas, and aunts and uncles and cousins, and all the poor children in the world who haven't had enough to eat today."

Then came, when I was seven, Mama's taking of me and my little three and a half year old brother Jimmy, into the back of a bus and up into the balcony of a theatre, both in a 'Jim Crow' law city, where we were visiting. Both times Mama was ordered to move us to where white people sit, because we were sitting where it was for coloreds only. Mama politely smiled, and refused to move us, saying we are all God's children, and explained afterward to me, that we must be brave and always help not just ourselves, but everyone, especially people who desperately need help.

And, at that same age 7, the Franciscan nuns taught us about St. Francis, how he had given his wealth away, in order to help the poor, homeless, hungry. In other words, we were being taught to be 'democratic socialists', and recognize that that's what the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are.
+2 # newell 2015-12-16 10:34
agree except that you will pout and not vote? or vote for a republican? i know bernie will campaign and vote for clinton as will i because there is an exponential level of difference between her sanity (no matter how misdirected) and the republican's lack. but if you want a republican finger on the button or the fate of the planet, don't choose clinton--just stay home, pout and imagine what the supreme court will look like.
+6 # Saberoff 2015-12-14 18:47
Why is everything in the past-tense? Am I missing something?
+35 # HahliHohli 2015-12-14 18:51
AND Published on Dec 13, 2015 YOUTUBE
Black voters explain why they have dropped Clinton and support Sanders instead so that they may build on MLK's Legacy.
+54 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-12-14 18:52
Bernie may be "our" last chance. VOTE. Get your friends to Vote.
+44 # Street Level 2015-12-14 18:55
They also didn't bother to mention that Bernie met with and brought Symone Sanders on board after BLM interrupted, whereas, Hillary met with BLM and TOLD them what to do.
I hate the DNC more now for ignoring Bernie.
+46 # djnova50 2015-12-14 19:43
Let's make sure that 2016 is also Bernie's year. We can vote for him.
+20 # reiverpacific 2015-12-14 19:47
I know that I shouldn't think like this -but just hope that Sen' Sanders lives through it if he gets close enough.
After all, there IS some historical precedence for this kind of thing.
+6 # Cassandra2012 2015-12-14 23:23
Quoting reiverpacific:
I know that I shouldn't think like this -but just hope that Sen' Sanders lives through it if he gets close enough.
After all, there IS some historical precedence for this kind of thing.

Alas, yes.
+29 # diamondmarge7 2015-12-14 19:53
DearBrilliant, Compassionate People Who Post here: Ya gotta do more than "vote" on election day! Ya gotta volunteer, donate, phone bank, do WHATEVER THE DICKENS IT TAKES--if our BERNIE is to be our President. Start by taking the pledge to WRITE IN BERNIE'S NAME if the corrupt DNC try to shove SlickWillieShil lary down our Progressive throats. Go to to pledge to write in BERNIE'S NAME + enroll somebody else, too. BERNIE is our last chance. HRC is a tool who will drag us into war; she won't do any of the things BERNIE has pledged to do. She is a liar and an opportunist.
+4 # politicaleconomist 2015-12-14 22:13
No, Bernie is not our last chance. He is our first really good chance in a long time. However, if HRC wins the nomination and the election, certainly the democratic party will not be open to a candidate of the 99% for at least eight years. However, if Bernie gets the nomination he probably will win (he consistently polls better than HRC against Rebublicans). And if he loses the nomination, for the reasons given, we should work to assure HRC does not get in. We, the vast majority, need to think and work long-term not just for the short-term "lesser-or-two evils" endless cycle.
+10 # CL38 2015-12-14 23:37
YES, YES, yes! Please volunteer if you want Bernie to be elected.
+26 # margpark 2015-12-14 21:54
I want our working people to come out to vote for Bernie. I love his ideas. At 78 I am actually on one payer as my husband was in the Navy for over 20 years so I have Tricare for life with excellent pharmacy benefits and Medicare for just going to the doctor.
+5 # Sweet Pea 2015-12-15 07:17
Benie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren was our last "best hope" to throw out a lifeline to save the USA. I'm afraid we are now facing destruction by the wealthy controllers who can "buy" our government.
+3 # Robbee 2015-12-15 15:41
zomblican alert! beware! # Inspired Citizen 2015-12-14 20:40 "... no more neo-liberals. This is a revolution, so #AllLegalMeans especially the use of leverage.

# diamondmarge7 2015-12-14 19:53 "... pledge to write in BERNIE'S NAME ... BERNIE is our last chance."

here's what else citizen stands for - while marge was out of town, finally, citizen, at long last! thanks! outed RAP! - Republicans Against Progress! - says - # Inspired Citizen 2015-12-10 18:10 "It's going to be #BerrnieOrElse the GOP. That's RAP's promise!"

- an opposing voice - Daily Kos - The privileged idiocy of 'Just let the Republicans win’, Laurence Lewis, Sunday Dec 13, 2015 "Whenever I hear a self-described progressive say that we ought to let the Republicans win the presidency and thus force the Democratic Party to adhere to "our principles," my first reaction is to assume that the person speaking is but another privileged idiot: White, male, young, doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck, doesn’t have to worry about whether he’ll be able to afford his medical bills or whether he’ll have a roof over his head next month ...

"But privileged idiots apparently don’t remember recent history, and how well such petulance worked out in 2000, when some hoped suffering through a Bush presidency would fix the Democratic Party. And privileged idiots either don't understand or don't care to understand what real suffering is ..."

listen to bernie! DON'T pledge to, or write him, in! - go bernie!
+2 # Robbee 2015-12-15 16:05
pointless gesture post! - # politicaleconom ist 2015-12-14 22:13 "No, Bernie is not our last chance. He is our first really good chance in a long time. However ... if he loses the nomination ... we should work to assure HRC does not get in. We ... need to think and work long-term not just for the short-term "lesser-or-two evils" endless cycle."

- yeah! sure! 'sept that hill is not "lesser of 2 evils" - she's lesser of 2 progressives!

hill is just as progressive as bernie on women, unions, labor, tpp, blacks, voting rights and path to citizenship for illegal immigrants - more progressive on gun control - hill is almost as progressive as bernie on everything but renewing glass-steagal, breaking up big banks and public funding, only, of elections

now about the "long term" - as bernie puts it - “Long term, we need to go further and establish public funding of elections … American democracy is not about corporations and billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections. It is not about Wall Street and big oil or the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson spending billions of dollars to elect candidates who will make the rich richer and everyone else poorer ... This is not democracy. This is oligarchy. The defining principle of American democracy is ... every citizen having an equal say ... And that’s the kind of American political system we have to fight for!"

listen to bernie! - go bernie! - and, if it comes to her, vote "infinitely better" hill!
+1 # newell 2015-12-16 10:40
thanx for a sane comment.
0 # Rcomm 2015-12-15 17:17
I saw the Liberty University speech. It may have been a "courteous welcome" but that wasn't evident from the audience responses. When he made a comment that children in the US should not go to bed hungry, most of the audience sat rigidly without even a half hearted clapping.
The overall audience response was just what I would expect from unfeeling people. The sad, and scary, part is those young people will someday run this country.
+1 # Karlus58 2015-12-16 10:36
Sir, they already are....
0 # newell 2015-12-16 10:53
VOTE BERNIE!! but be creative. like go to a/your church and ask them to pick the candidate that is closest, in action and ideas, to jesus. it will make them think. or register college voters--the most likely to vote for uncle bernie--if we can get them to the polls. have a party for kids and have them walk around the block with bernie signs. if there is no revolution in the usa there will never be a president bernie--or anyone like him. he will not restore the u.s.--he will give birth to its promise--so we can forgive our bloody past.
+3 # Patti Holden 2015-12-16 19:02
I love Bernie. He is exactly what this country needs. Am I the only one who notices he is rarely covered on national TV? Yes, he's pushing Hillary to the left, which is great, but we need Bernie to win. Tell everyone you know. I have my BERNIE bumper sticker and display it proudly--do you have yours?

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