He didn’t stand a snowball's chance. That was the conventional wisdom. An unruly-haired senior citizen, whose speech inflections of his native Brooklyn are spookily reminiscent of Richard Nixon — espousing principles of socialism, for cryin’ out loud? A senator from the tiny state of Vermont that most citizens of the U.S. have never been to and probably never will, whose career in the Senate has been as an Independent, daring to seek the nomination for the highest office in the land as a Democrat against an opponent with decades of experience in government and political connections out the wazoo?
In the first place, how in the world could a 74 year-old grandfather hold up to the months-long, relentless grind of campaigning for president across this great land? And even if he could manage it physically, how could he hope to raise the umpty millions of dollars needed to support such a hairbrained effort?
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And yet, from his pie-in-the-sky announcement on a windy, hair-blowing day at a Burlington, Vermont marina, Bernie was on the trail, going like the Energizer Bunny, doing all the campaign shticks one would expect of someone half his age: talking to civic groups, knocking on doors, meeting with local officials, eating whatever was the local delicacy, making the rounds of the TV talk shows from New York to L.A. and all points in between, never losing his cool, always fervently staying on message, and seemingly enjoying every moment of it.
But still crazy, right? An aged Don Quixote, impossibly tilting at political windmills, espousing goals that sound great but are politically highly unlikely — who’s gonna buy into all that?
To the surprise and consternation of the political establishment, people in voter land listened and started lining up for Bernie, particularly, to everyone’s amazement, thousands of college kids and millennials. And hundreds of thousands gave him millions of dollars, $27 at a time. And when the caucuses began, Bernie started racking up delegates.
Still, it was pretty much accepted he didn’t stand a chance against the Clinton juggernaut. In his heart of hearts, he probably knew it. But he kept plugging away, all the way to the finish line, and when the counting was done, he’d racked up 1,894 devoted, diehard delegates, more than a third of the national total.
Even then, with the numbers against him, he could’ve been a stubborn thorn in the side of the convention, could’ve staged an acrimonious floor fight, as many of his supporters wanted him to do.
Instead, he was the epitome of gracious loser. His Monday night speech at the convention was an all-round class act.
Way to go, Bernie! Even though we may not have voted for you, and even though you didn’t win the nomination, you were a winner in the art of politicking.
Would that others would take lessons…