The value of the popularity of maverick campaigns such as those of Sanders and Donald Trump is not that either candidate is particularly wonderful, but that political dissent is growing and people are hungry for alternatives.
BURLINGTON, Vt. — It was one of the first political events Bernie Sanders ever went to in Vermont: a 1971 discussion by a small group of left-wingers, the Liberty Union Party.
These people were not winners, in the electoral sense. The closest they had come to winning a statewide race, at that point, was losing by 56 points. So someone in the audience asked: Why don’t you become Democrats? Why not sacrifice third-party purity for a chance at actual power?
Sanders — a transplanted Brooklynite, known in Vermont for his overheated writing and underwhelming carpentry — spoke up from the crowd. The sacrifice wasn’t worth it.
“He felt strongly that you worked outside the Democratic Party,” said Jim Rader, a longtime friend who took Sanders to the meeting. “He felt there were too many compromises that had to be made, too many compromises of political principles.”
Last week, 44 years later, a group of socialists gathered in a Vermont library to have a strikingly similar debate. This time, they were deciding whether they could support Bernie Sanders himself.