Since socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders officially announced that he would challenge Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, much attention has been given to the scope of his grassroots campaign.
In the first 24 hours after he officially announced, Sanders reported that his campaign had already raised $1.5 million. Most recently, Sanders announced on CNN’s State of the Union that his campaign has now raised $4 million, from a whopping 100,000 contributors.
We already know that Bernie can thank Reddit for much of this online exposure to the digital campaigners. However, Bernie didn’t become the Reddit darling overnight – he already had a robust history of appearing in the online community multiple times in recent years.
Bernie Sanders Won the Talk Radio Primary
But Reddit isn’t the only politically minded audience Bernie Sanders sunk his claws into early – he also has a favorable history in the left-wing radio world.
Sanders’ got his liberal talk show foothold while he was a Congressman for Vermont. Radio personality Thom Hartmann, then broadcasting out of his living room, interviewed Bernie Sanders on his views about the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Bernie was such a hit with Vermont’s local radio scene, that it prompted Hartmann to start the radio segment “Brunch with Bernie,” an hour of Hartmann’s Friday show where Bernie discussed the week’s news and took calls from listeners.
More than a decade later, “Brunch with Bernie” is still on the air – except now Thom Hartmann hosts the top-rated progressive talk show, The Thom Hartmann Program.
Will Bernie’s “Off the Beaten Path” Campaign Trail Lead Anywhere?
MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald argues that Bernie Sanders’ progressive radio fans may be a little bright-eyed. Seitz-Wald notes that the overwhelming Bernie love amongst radio fans has “made things awkward for hosts who approach 2016 more pragmatically.”
Los Angeles-based syndicated host Norman Goldman said that he engages in daily debates with some listeners when he doubts Sanders, or even Elizabeth Warren.
“They react like a betrayed lover. They act like I’ve been cheating on them,” he said. “They’re over the moon for Bernie Sanders, they’re over the moon for Elizabeth Warren, but when you tell them they’re a narrow slice of America, they get really mad.”
But Goldman has a point. Polls show that Bernie Sanders, while gaining significant ground, is still far behind democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
The question now is if a collection of off the beaten path campaign trails can eventually lead Bernie Sanders to the democratic nomination.