Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Driving across central Vermont, it was striking how many of these Bernie for President signs were on display. I mean, I figured that he enjoyed a comfortable majority of support among Vermonters, but the level of enthusiasm surprised me.
I became less surprised when I learned that Bernie has the highest approval rating (83 percent) of any Senator among his home state voters.
My Vermont friend explained: "He's perfectly in tune with this state. Though parts of Vermont form an elite outdoor playground, this is mostly a very poor state. Bernie knows how to listen to the people here."
Once upon a time, Presidential elections usually attracted a goodly number of semi-contenders who were properly described as "favorite sons" (we didn't elect daughters in those days). These men could count on the loyalty of a state or region where they'd made a local reputation as good public servants. In those days, Presidential campaigns became national much more slowly. The favorite sons sought to extend their appeal to the rest of the country. Sometimes that required a steep learning curve; I think particularly of Massachusetts patrician John F. Kennedy's eye-opening experience of Appalachian poverty in a West Virginia primary. In those distant days, there were no national debates and pols could take time learning more about this enormous country.
Perhaps Bernie should be thought of as a figure in the favorite son tradition -- forced these days very early to encounter racial and cultural diversity which his state never thrust at him.