Unlike many self-professed liberal Democrats, Bernie Sanders does not equivocate. Nor does he step back from his socialist views or cautiously tiptoe around the issues in order to appeal to the “middle.”

The results: large, enthusiastic crowds at Sanders rallies (even in “red” states). Rising poll numbers. Increasingly desperate attacks from the right wing. Endorsements from unlikely sources. Even the mainstream corporate media is being forced to acknowledge his candidacy.

What is the “mysterious” secret of Sander’s success? It’s so simple that most political analysts, commentators, pundits and other so-called “experts” can’t comprehend it.

The concept is known as “statesmanship.” Bernie Sanders is a servant of the people, not a politician – and he has never forgotten this. He pays attention to his constituents. Like most members of Congress, Sanders submits amendments and slips riders into legislation. Unlike most of his colleagues, Sanders’ amendments and riders are focused on what is good for the natural people he represents, not the “corporate” people who would fund his campaign in order to advance their agendas. (In fact, the overwhelming majority of Sanders’ donations come from labor organizations –  he doesn’t take one dime from Exxon-Mobil, Comcast or other corporate megaliths.) His amendments include weatherization funding for homeowners, aid to seniors, and money for the establishment of community health clinics – all for the good of people, not corporations.

Former Democratic Representative David Obey of Wisconsin summed it up nicely when he recalled that “Bernie had a good instinct for knowing what people would like to vote for.”

A large component of the art of statecraft involves negotiation and compromise. It is an aspect of the job that Sanders has thoroughly mastered. Last year, as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he was able to work with Republican Senator John McCain and Republican Representative Jeff Miller to pass a measure addressing the excessive wait times patients were experiencing at V.A. hospitals and clinics. It isn’t the only time Sanders has been able to work with colleagues across the aisle. “To suggest that I cannot work with people who disagree with me would be pretty absurd,” he told the Wall Street Journal this week.

Sanders’ political skills, integrity, focus on issues that most concern his constituency and understanding of his legislative role as a public servant are the reasons the people of Vermont have been sending him to Congress for nearly a quarter-century.  These are the qualities driving his growing support.

Anyone who is considering a run for political office – whether local, state or national – needs to pay attention to Sanders’ career and campaign. You can learn a lot.

SHARE
K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues.