I know that many people in Arkansas are dismissive of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator competing against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Arkansans should take a hard look at what Sanders is proposing and what is happening around his campaign.
In my career as an organizer, I have encountered many campaigns that were not designed to reach most voters. In fact, many campaign operations are only intended to reach 20 percent of the population.
In my experience, campaigns divide the world into three camps: those with you, those against you and those who are undecided. They do not look to increase the number of voters, or reach out to those who are uninterested in the election.
For many politicians, they only care about that 20 percent of the undecided. They pander, brownnose and tell half-truths to get the numbers they need to win the election based on that universe.
Reliance on this formula also means some politicians have an interest in suppressing the vote, a tactic that goes against our democratic traditions. Campaigns will say and do things that keep people from getting excited about an election. Consultants will encourage candidates and campaigns to only focus on those people who you know will turn out and vote.
Nontraditional campaigns know that new voters make a difference. New voters force politicians to think bigger, to act on behalf of everyone and not just the super wealthy who want to preserve the status quo. New voters are the ones who force change into the system and get the country moving in a different, more positive direction.
When new voters come into the system in large numbers, very big things happen. We see a political revolution that gets people excited about governance and thinking that change for all truly is possible. In New Hampshire, exit polls showed that 17 percent of the people who filled out those exit surveys were new voters who had never voted before.
We are at one of those moments in history right now.
Sanders is energizing communities in every corner of the country. More and more people are flocking to his events across the country. Here in Arkansas, we see increasing numbers of volunteers come into our offices in Little Rock and Fayetteville. These volunteers are new voters and voters who vote in every election.
The new voters are motivated by Sanders' vision of reforming our campaign finance system to create a country in which corporate interests do not overwhelm politics. It's a vision that sees the declining middle class pulled up by free college tuition and universal access to health care. The traditional voters are excited because someone is standing up for their values and talking about real issues that affect their lives.
Sanders is triggering a revolution that will make the government work for all people and not just those with great wealth. He wants the government to ensure that those workers who put in 40 hours a week should not have to live in poverty. That the money they receive for laboring over a kitchen stove or stocking shelves allows them to put food on the table and give their children a decent life.
Sanders believes that health care is a human right and that no one should be denied health care because they cannot afford it. He believes that families should not have to choose between going bankrupt or getting the care they desperately need.
Sanders' vision for America is a breath of fresh air. While other politicians demonize vulnerable populations and play one group of citizens off of another, Sanders is inclusive. His campaign is driving people toward a shared vision.
This shared vision is igniting passionate volunteers across the state of Arkansas to spend countless hours talking to their neighbors and friends about the senator from Vermont. Sanders is building a stronger America that works for all of us — one that supports the middle class and ensures that all communities are supported by the government.
Sarah Scanlon is state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
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