Sanders is more than a rebel
© Getty Images

Everybody knows Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report MORE is a revolutionary.

But everybody does not know that he is a political authority who has compromised, cajoled, and coerced change into reality.

ADVERTISEMENT
As The New York Times claims, “That is what seems to separate Mrs. Clinton from Mr. Sanders: a willingness to sacrifice ideological purity in order to get things done.”

But, if you actually research Sanders’ record, you will find him a formidable administrator and leader who got “things done” almost to the point of excess.

As a young person, his fellow activists remember him as “very smart and very policy oriented,” often asking, “‘What can government do to solve this problem?' Or, 'What policy... should we be asking for?’” He was “not like the rest of us kooks, who didn't know what we were doing. He had more ideas, and he spoke better.”

Todd Gitlin, then-leader of Students for a Democratic Society, remembers Sanders and his compatriots as the “anti-utopians”— “pros” “impatient about fancy as-if thinking” who “took politics seriously.”

Evidently, even at 21-years-old, Sanders was, in fact, very concerned with getting “things done.”

In 1981, he ran for mayor of Burlington, winning by 10 votes. That slim margin grew and grew as he was re-elected three times, his constituents supporting him in such numbers because he “encouraged grassroots organizing, adopted local laws to protect the vulnerable, challenged the city's business power brokers,” funded training programs for women entrepreneurs, and raised taxes on business.

To foster community organization, Sanders implemented Neighborhood Planning Assemblies (“today, Burlingtonians credit the NPAs with raising the level of resident participation and discussion in local politics”), a Youth Office, an Arts Council, and a Women’s Council. 

He tightened the budget, grew the economy, and attracted local business by creating trade associations, giving new entrepreneurs start-up funding, and offering technical assistance.

He “worked collaboratively with other politicians to create a more livable city,” not pushing pipe-dream proposals, but initiatives that were practical and effective.

As Frederick J. Bailey, a Republican banker, says, “It is a nitty-gritty job of day-by-day executive decisions, and he did it well. He got things done.”

He was a “a pragmatic and efficient administrator, one so fiscally conservative that some Republicans say he managed to 'out-Republican the Republicans.'

Today, “Burlingtonians give Sanders credit for steering the city in a new direction.”

Clearly, Sanders was the opposite of a smoldering, “ideologically pur[e]” radical who could not “get things done.”

As Greg Guma, Vermont writer and activist, says of the candidate's pragmatic streak— “He became what we call up here a ‘Vermont Exceptionalist.’”

Elected to the federal House of Representatives in 1990, Sanders passed more amendments than any other lawmaker serving with him: reducing the cost of college, expanding free health care, holding the IRS accountable, cracking down on child labor, increasing winter heating funding for America’s poor, and fighting against corporate welfare.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2005 (and endorsed by Barack Obama, Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Howard Dean), Sanders succeeded inforging a compromise” to get the first-ever audit of the Federal Reserve, a “cause that Republican congressman Ron Paul had been pursuing for decades.”

With the Affordable Care Act on the high-wire, and millions of Americans lacking health insurance, Senator Sanders leveraged his influence to secure enough funding for 10 million Americans to receive free health care through Community Health Centers. Now, even conservatives are requesting funding for Sanders' program.

Sanders also worked with Republican John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE (Ariz.) to overhaul the Veterans Administration; in an interview with National Journal, McCain praised Sanders’ work on the bill, saying, “I found him to be hon­or­able and good as his word.” Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Dem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls Senate Dems press Trump on legal justification for potential Syria strike MORE (D-R.I.) said that, “Frankly, without him, I don’t think we would have got­ten it done… It was a great test­a­ment to his skill as a le­gis­lat­or.”

Bernie Sanders is a politician in the best sense: someone with a blood-deep commitment to justice for his constituents, coupled with the ability to make that vision— for a democratic, just America— as real as the poverty and hunger gripping our nation today.

He has even been called a “stealth politician” because “people think he’s just this guy who has super-liberal” tendencies, but, in actuality, he is “a brutally successful political knife-fighter.” 

Bernie Sanders is no pure, uncompromising idealist, but a talented and effective change-maker.

To paint Sanders as unwilling to “sacrifice ideological purity in order to get things done,” is to ignore the fact of his accomplishment-filled, compromise-infused record.

Webb is a published writer on politics.