Why You Should Respect Bernie Sanders — Even If You Don’t Love His Politics

Bernie Sanders' supporters in Arizona

Bernie Sanders and his supporters may be struggling to sleep as I write this, thanks to the the Democratic primaries taking place in Kentucky and Oregon later today. Sanders made campaign stops in both Louisville and Lexington during the first week of May, and he campaigned in Paducah and Bowling Green over the weekend, drawing large crowds of supporters to both rallies. In addition, Bernie Sanders held two rallies in Oregon recently, speaking to packed houses in both instances.

What has drawn so many people, many of whom were not politically active prior to this presidential election, to the Sanders’ camp? To answer that question, only a few words are needed, the first of which is: acceptance.

Unlike Donald Trump’s campaign, Bernie Sanders’ campaign is for everyone. Photographs from his rallies look like modern versions of Coca-Cola’s classic “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” ad — but without the corporate sponsorship. His supporters are of every race and ethnicity, from every social class, from all backgrounds, and of all ages. From infants to tattooed Millennials to bearded professors, and from soccer moms to LGBT activists to high school teachers, no one feels out of place or unwelcome at a Bernie Sanders’ rally.

Another word that explains Bernie Sanders’ universal appeal is: empowerment. Sanders’ message is one for the average American. His campaign website even proclaims “This is your movement.” When Sanders speaks, he is not speaking to the crowd but, instead, for the crowd. Sanders is giving millions of Americans their voices back — voices that have been silenced by decades of politicians who listened to corporate interests instead of their constituents.

Bernie Sanders’ popularity with so many Americans is also the result of his image, and his image is not the creation of political stylists; Sanders’ image is one that began taking shape decades ago. He spent the 1960s supporting the Civil Rights Movement. He spent then spent the 1970s speaking for labor and against the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, he stayed busy cleaning up Burlington, Vermont. As the city’s mayor, he reportedly spent more time in work shirts and boots than in suits and ties, and his efforts earned him a place among the country’s 20 best mayors in 1987, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In 1990, Bernie Sanders finally landed on the national political stage after a successful run for U.S. Congress. He spent 16 years in the House of Representatives, and he’s now been a senator for nearly 10. Throughout his congressional career, Sanders has never wavered in his beliefs, and he has refused to be used as a pawn by special interest groups. This steadfastness brings us to another word that explains Sanders’ appeal: dedication.

Bernie Sanders is dedicated to his platform. He has always worked to save the environment, and his record has not gone unnoticed. The League of Conservation Voters, whose goal is to “turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities” ranks all politicians based on their voting records. Bernie Sanders has a lifetime score of 95 percent.

Bernie Sanders is also dedicated to education, and his voting record speaks for itself. According to Project Vote Smart, Sanders has voted in favor of expanding educational opportunities repeatedly in key national votes. On the two occasions when he voted against educational measures, it is easy to understand why when one looks closer at the pieces of legislation — both included provisions that can be viewed as state-sanctioned discrimination.

Bernie Sanders makes average Americans feel accepted and empowered. Bernie Sanders has remained true to himself. His image has never changed nor has his platform. Even if you have no love for Bernie Sanders’ politics, he deserves your respect for his dedication to his constituents, his beliefs and his decades-long struggle to improve the lives of all Americans.

[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]