"As presidential primary election results stormed in from icy New Hampshire on Tuesday, my thoughts drifted back to a similarly wintry evening 35 years ago. Along with fellow journalists, clerks, and city officials, I crowded into the drafty basement of City Hall in Burlington, Vermont, as that day’s election results were counted.
The local Irish and French Catholic politicos who tried to push me away from the election counters’ table knew Burlington so well, they could project final results from reading the totals on individual voting machines. Their normally ruddy complexions faded first to pink, then white, and then a sickly gray, as they realized that their Democratic Party, whose grip on Burlington’s levers of power rivaled that of storied political machines in Chicago and Albany, NY, was being voted out of office.
To them, the unthinkable and unimaginable had happened. Bernie Sanders, not only a “Flatlander,” Vermont parlance for a non-native, but a newcomer to Burlington, a New Yorker, a socialist — and a Jew — had won election as mayor by one-tenth of a percent.
The shocking outcome wasn’t as much of a surprise to me as it was to the city’s veteran political operatives. Perhaps my own status as an outsider made it easier to see the changes under way in that Rust Belt city, changes in demographics and attitudes that Sanders capitalized on to forge a winning coalition — the kind he is building today on a vastly larger scale."
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