When I encountered Sanders at a Burlington demonstration, my editor said there was no story. But todays presidential candidate has hardly changed
In 1972, a few weeks into my first job as a reporter at the Burlington Free Press, I was sent to check out reports of a demonstration in one of the citys poorer neighborhoods.
The scene was somewhat chaotic. Three or four people were highly exercised about some housing-related issue, but it was hard to get past the rhetoric to understand the details. To add to my rookie confusion, the group was led by a wild-haired, wild-eyed 30-something with an incongruent Brooklyn accent. I took notes and retreated to the newsroom.
Who is this guy … Bernard Sanders? I asked the city editor, reading from my notebook. He took on the expression of a man who had just bit into a lemon.
Oh, Bernie, he said. Forget it. No story. He sent me back to my desk, where I took obits from LaVignes funeral home for the rest of my shift.
More than 40 years later, that first Bernie experience and the others that followed feels like today. Sanders has physically aged; the dark curly hair is straighter and white, the voice softer, the tone less strident. But his message has remained remarkably consistent for a former neighborhood rabble-rouser who became a US senator and a serious presidential candidate.
Many of the notes and newspaper clips from those days read as if they were taken from recent Sanders rallies in Boston or Minneapolis. His issues back then were the same: equal educational opportunities. A rigged political system controlled by the corporate world. Income disparity.