The History Bernie Made

Hillary Clinton has won 13 states in the race for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders 9. The delegate count stands at Hillary’s 760 to Bernie’s 546.

This is far closer a race than most political pundits expected. Bernie only lost Iowa by 0.3%, and crushed Hillary by 20 percentage points in two-thirds of his victories: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Kansas, and Maine. In recent history, Kansas has always voted for the eventual Democratic nominee. Bernie’s victory in Michigan was widely dubbed, as Politico put it, a “stunning upset,” as Hillary had a strong lead in Michigan surveys just before losing.

As Florida, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio prepare for their turn on March 15, Bernie Sanders has the opportunity to shake the nation again, and move closer to overtaking Hillary in the delegate count. But before the race moves forward, let’s look back at what Bernie has already accomplished.

 

1. MOST INDIVIDUAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

Americans have donated to the Bernie Sanders campaign more frequently than they have to any presidential candidate in history. Bernie reached 2.5 million campaign donations faster than Barack Obama. So far, Bernie raised $94 million from individual supporters alone (averaging $27), a feat Common Dreams calls “historic.” Both loses and victories garner floods of new campaign cash: Bernie received $6 million the Monday after he lost South Carolina and $5 million within 28 hours of his Michigan win.

 

2. LARGEST CROWDS

Bernie is drawing far larger crowds than Hillary (her campaign claims she prefers small crowds). MSNBC called his crowd in Madison, Wisconsin the “biggest crowd of any 2016 candidate yet.” 26,000 people came to see him in Boston (a record for Boston, larger than Obama’s rally), 28,000 in Portland, 27,500 in Las Vegas. Nearly 400,000 flocked to his rallies between his campaign launch and November 2015. And there’s no slowing down. Thousands in Florida are currently gathering to hear him speak.

 

3. RECORD VOTER TURNOUT

True, this one is also thanks to Hillary supporters, no question about it. It’s not technically a record he holds alone. Yet the states shattering turnout records are giving victories to Bernie Sanders. In Kansas, almost 40,000 people voted for Bernie or Hillary, a new record. Bernie won in a landslide. Breaking a record from 1972, 2.5 million voted on both sides of the aisle in Michigan, meaning Bernie has to share that record with even more candidates, but he won the state in the Democratic contest. 595,000 voted for him, more than any candidate — 20,000 more than Hillary, over 100,000 more than Donald Trump.

 

4. FIRST JEW TO WIN

When Bernie took New Hampshire, he became, to quote USA Today, the “first Jew to win a presidential primary.” However, according to the Jerusalem Post, even garnering delegates in the earlier contest was a milestone: he was the “first Jewish figure ever to win delegates in a presidential primary through his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.” Bernie says his faith inspires his progressive politics, and at the debate in Flint, Michigan said, “I’m very proud to be Jewish. Being Jewish is so much of what I am.”

 

5. FIRST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST TO WIN

No one calling himself a socialist has done so well in a U.S. presidential race. Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs, never winning a primary, garnered nearly 1 million votes in the 1912 general election, about 6% of the popular vote. Should Bernie win the Democratic nomination, his popular vote count will demolish that.

Of course, Bernie calls himself a democratic socialist, but his policies are that of a social democrat. His “socialism” is just an expansion of popular Democratic programs — making Medicare cover all citizens (taxpayer-funded universal healthcare), expanding Social Security, using funds for Pell grants and student loans for free college tuition instead, more closely regulating Wall Street and giant corporations, raising the minimum wage, curbing the tax evasion of corporations and the wealthy, and launching a New Deal-style jobs program for the unemployed.

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