NEW DELHI: At the end of a social media event organised by the Bernie Sanders campaign last year, the host attorney Manisha Sharma presented him with a photograph of Gandhi and his quote: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

He read it aloud and added:”Maybe that is what this campaign is about.”

And he seems to be right. When alternative media such as the US based RealNews put together a video criticising the mainstream media for blacking out the Sanders campaign a few weeks ago, no one could have predicted the dramatic push ahead that has brought the old socialist Senator from virtual oblivion into the spotlights. And the mainstream American media, owned and run by the corporates, is being forced to recognise the campaign that has brought the American young out in droves behind Sanders.

The question perplexing all is Why? Why has an old socialist in capitalist America ignited the young who are flocking to his meetings, and making his campaign come alive. And what is more he is not even trying to camouflage his socialist thoughts, but is baring his chest as it were in full public view. A message received from him by The Citizen made no bones of his views where he spoke of a New Hampshire victory saying: “ When that happens, they will say it all started tomorrow night in New Hampshire where we have overcome not just a forty point deficit in the polls, but the sneers of the corporate media and opposition from political elites and billionaire super PACs.” The campaign messages ask for a donation of just $3, a figure that the young Americans have little difficulty dealing with. International News reports record instances such as :

Travis Stanger, a part time McDonalds cashier starting donation $# a month. The campaign wanted to be sure he stayed motivated, so in January a mailer arrived at his eastern Iowa home offering a free keychain if he replied with a text message. He thumbed in “BERN” and got the keychain, and the Sanders campaign got his phone number.

Josh Ingham, a 17-year-old senior at a suburban Des Moines high school, sees Bernie ads pop up on his cellphone when he tries to watch a music or news video on YouTube. The latest batch are short, punchy and young – they feel almost like Vines, jump-cut and lightly satirical. One features a mooing cow and ends by imploring students like him not just to vote Bernie at Monday night’s caucuses, but “take the folks with you.”

Sanders is not diluting his campaign, although he has moved from the one car to a cavalcade of sorts to impress the Americans that he is a serious contender and not a beating- behind- in -the- bushes candidate. His socialist views stand out in a campaign run by ultra-nationalists like Donald Trump who shocks more than he convinces, and Hillary Clinton who appeals to the older and certainly not the younger. Recent polls show that Sanders has captured nearly 70% of the young Democrats as against Clintons 26% . His constituency is between the 18-34 year olds.

So Why:

  1. His appeal lies in what he says with the young ---again according to local US polls---supporting his position that the government should step up to resolve the country’s crises instead of relying just on the private sector. Wall Street Journal was amongst the publications to confirm the popularity of this socialist approach, swaying the youth to Sanders side in a 60% to 37% ration.
  2. His clearly anti-establishment approach, where he questions the status quo capitalist structure followed by successive governments in Washington and speaks of income equality and student debt levels as issues that the government needs to step into.
  3. Specific arguments apart, his campaign has become increasingly aggressive in approaching and wooing the young who had been key to Barack Obama’s first victory at the polls. Sanders campaign advisors constitute a keen, tough team with at least two key persons having worked with President Obama’s campaign earlier, and is reaching out to the youth in a language that they understand.
  4. Sanders, though old, is seen as energetic and young in his ideas with socialism now being pitted directly against capitalism that the young generation clearly feel has not worked for them. His campaign is centred around economic disparity : ““The American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics are not working for the middle class and working families of this country and they want real change. They want to end the absurdity of seeing the middle class in this country continue its 40-year decline.”

Sanders, who writes his own speeches, clearly has the conviction and the ability to convince that he stands for democracy and the people. In a socialist framework that is resonating with the young, while old America looks on askance.