Reporter Recalls the 1981 Powers of Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator has been doing this for 35 years.

When Bernie Sanders in 1981 won the race for mayor of Burlington, Vt., by just one-tenth of one percent, it was a shock to the old guard. But not to reporter Alan Abbey.

In the wake of Sanders’ New Hampshire primary victory, Abbey recalls today in the Times of Israel that, lo those many years ago, he witnessed first-hand just how dynamically this guy could resonate with voters:

I was new to Burlington, also a New Yorker, and also a Jew. I had spent only a year as the City Hall reporter for the Burlington Free Press. But in the preceding months, I had spent more time with Bernie than anyone outside his small circle of friends. I was usually Bernie’s only escort as he campaigned on Burlington’s snow-covered streets and knocked on hundreds of doors.

Time after time, I saw the same result, especially in the city’s working-class Old North End. The home’s resident, standing in the small vestibule known in Vermont as a mud room, eyed the visitor warily. Bernie’s otherness was obvious. The stentorian tone of his Brooklyn accent was decidedly unlike the soft, French-inflected Vermont twang of native Burlingtonians. His rumpled clothes, mop of unruly hair, and tilted eyeglasses gave him the appearance of an absent-minded professor.

The early portion of the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle is all about voters responding to candidates who address the “unexpressed” and “unheard.” Via a pair of respective Democratic and Republican candidates whose ability to capitalize on that sentiment was underestimated by the vast majority of political pundits.

Read the rest of Abbey’s here. He is now the media director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.