by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Sept. 4, 2015
REPUBLICANS, iNDEPENDENTS TAKE A LONG LOOK AT BERNIE SANDERS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- People act surprised that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is picking up the support of Republican voters, but it's not a surprise when you look into how he's won statewide elections in Vermont since that first victorious run for the U.S. House in 1990.
On the surface, Vermont is a pretty liberal state. In actuality, the electorate from election to election (and we still have them every two years for state-level offices such as governor and lieutenant governor) breaks down to about 35-40 percent Democrat, 35-40 percent Republican, and 20-30 percent independent.
Yet, in all but one of his House elections, Sanders has won by double-digit margins. In his first Senate race in 2006, he won by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. In his second Senate race, he won re-election with 71 percent of the vote.
The Tea Party never got much traction in Vermont, and Republicans here tend to be socially progressive and fiscally conservative.
Granted, as the first state in the country in 2000 to allow same-sex couples the rights of marriage through the institution of civil unions, there was a lot of discord among social conservatives that cost several Democrats their legislative seats. But for the most part, people went along with the idea and within a few years. Vermont went all the way and legalized same-sex marriage.
Bernie Sanders has never made a big deal about same-sex marriage or abortion rights. On firearms ownership, he goes along with the Vermont consensus that there's no gun problem in the state (and for the most part, there isn't) so there is no need for overly restrictive gun laws.
Sanders makes electoral hay due to a very simple and obvious fact - on bread-and-butter economic issues, he appeals to Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
As left-of-center radio host Thom Hartmann pointed out recently, the poll numbers support this statement.
In a national poll of Republicans, Democrats, and independents likely to vote in 2016 done by the Progressive Change Institute shows that:
Ann Coulter said recently, Hartmann wrote, that if Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination "he'll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him" because "supporting Social Security, free college, breaking up the big banks, aren't 'progressive' policies, they're just common sense, and 60 years ago they would have put Bernie Sanders smack dab in the mainstream of my father's Republican Party.
Even someone as far right as Coulter sees that Sanders is speaking to what Hartmann calls "populist, small-'d' democratic values that everyday Americans care about, regardless of their political affiliation."
That is why Bernie Sanders has won so many statewide races in Vermont. That is why he is steadily whittling away at presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton's lead. That is why we are seeing what Sanders has called "a political revolution" taking shape - and who knows what will happen next?
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.