CNN has announced the results of its August poll, which shapes a rather interesting development of the presidential race in the U.S. According to the poll, Donald Trump is gaining more and more ground among Republican voters and for the first time is getting close to a real chance of winning the nomination and the opportunity to challenge on a national level the leading candidate for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton.
However, the most interesting part of the poll results is the shift taking place in the left camp. According to the poll, 47 percent of Democrats back Hillary for the party's nomination – a 9 percent drop from July and the first time her support has gone below 50 percent.
Even more curious is the fact that the independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, got 29 percent of the left vote, registering a 10 percent increase since July. His growing numbers coupled with the size of the crowds gathering for his rallies give food for thought to analysts and experts. I will outline here three factors that provide a reason to believe that Bernie Sanders will become more and more recognizable, and his potential to sit in the White House will continue to grow.
The first reason is his biography. It is the proof that Bernie Sanders has all the characteristics of a candidate who can win. That’s what he has done for 30 years – winning when everyone thinks he has little chance. As my good friend and coworker from the Modern Institute of Politics, Ivo Indzhov, says, Sanders is an old-school left politician, and people like him are swiftly coming back on the big stage of politics.
Bernie is consistent and independent. He has fought for human rights at a time when doing so was a dangerous endeavor. Regardless of the influence of the big parties, he, the independent one, won the mayor’s office in the biggest city in Vermont, Burlington. Later on, he made it to the Senate as an independent congressman. Today, he serves in the Senate, the second chamber in the bicameral U.S. Congress, as one of two independent senators in an assembly of 100.
His rhetoric against the oligarchy, against the unfathomable greed of Wall Street, against the millionaires who buy politicians and political influence with cash, against the violation of human rights is what he has discussed over the last ... well, 30 years. The consistency in his position on numerous issues is remarkable for a person with such a long public-figure record. It makes him stand out from Hillary Clinton who, unlike him, had voted for the devastating war in Iraq, for instance.
The second reason to believe Bernie Sanders is full of potential are the crowds he rallies – amazing! In the last couple of weeks, he has talked (for an hour!) to crowds of 10,000 to 30,000 people. The well-respected magazine Politico has dissected this phenomenon in a recent article: How come the second-ranking (according to ratings) candidate for the left has managed to gather for one of his events more people than all the other candidates from both parties combined?
According to the magazine, the key to his knack for rallying people is the large network of volunteers and grassroots activists. Unlike other big rallies, such as the ones organized by Obama in 2007 and 2008, Sanders doesn’t hire a machinery of employees to walk around neighborhoods and motivate people to join a meeting. Bernie activates a completely different process: People organize themselves in order to show up to his rallies. His campaign team simply sends emails to supporters in a given area and posts an event on Facebook. But people are so carried away by what he has to say, by the message they don’t hear from any other candidate, that they themselves start rallying more people to hear this message, and they do it for free. Such a miracle hasn’t been seen in the U.S. for a long time.
At what point in the process the crowds appear is another question that needs to be understood. If we had these crowds at the closing chapter of a campaign, it wouldn't be so impressive. Sen. McCain also used to gather thousands of supporters in 2008, but it didn’t help him to win against Obama. He was gathering thousands during the final stages of his campaign, at a time when society was already breathing with the rhythm of the presidential race. At this point, toward the finish line of the campaign trail, it is common to have strongly polarized groups, some of which, even if a minority, could still rally a huge number of people in a country of 300 million. However, to have these huge crowds at the very beginning of the battle for the party's nomination is a huge resource.
At the moment, Sanders gathers more people than Obama did at the same stage of his campaign. Besides, Sanders’s team uses the modern methods of running a campaign without spending much money. Literally with a pen and a piece of paper in hand, his team members jot down data about the people who come to their events and do their best to turn the common listeners into avid activists. Having a multitude of people who spread your cause and do the work for you, and being able to activate this process in numerous cities and states, is a recipe for becoming a leading figure in the race.
The third reason is the money. Sanders is the only candidate who does not accept any money from millionaires and billionaires. He relies on small donations made by thousands of people. Obama tried to follow the same principle in 2008, but eventually his process turn into political engineering. Just in 2012, Obama spent $1.2 billion against Mitt Romney’s $1.5 billion. This kind of money does not come from small donations only. It was raised by the so called Super PACs, which are committees of activists raising huge amounts of money to be spent for the needs of the campaign. Well, Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a Super PAC, and he doesn’t want to have one, which makes him an important figure in the eyes of the common American. For the first time in many years, they see a candidate who truly needs them in order to become president. No, it is not like every other time – raise the billions, spend it on propaganda, win the elections.
But Mr. Sanders has something even more appealing. He wins over bighearted supporters who are willing to chip in from their own limited resources to help out his cause. They don’t get paid to spread his word. Bernie Sanders has managed to trigger a grassroots movement that is becoming an independent player capable of changing the rules.
No other candidate has this powerful combination of factors by his side. That’s why Bernie Sanders’ name will be heard more and more often. It makes him a candidate with great potential, and it gives him a very real chance of winning against the gigantic financial machinery built behind every other candidate. While they have the support of the billions given by the big fish, Bernie has his consistency, his firm stand on his principles, and the big network of people who support him with their hearts. They do so because nobody else has stood so firmly behind the fact that it is not OK that the top 0.1 percent have more than the bottom 90 percent. Inequality is the big issue of the 21st century, and there is one candidate who faces it. This candidate has all the odds to become the 45th president of the United States.