On Tuesday, November 6, 1990 Vermont voters gave Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders an overwhelming mandate to do what he had promised for years: give ‘em hell in Washington.
“Our small state might go down in history as the leading state in a political revolution which takes power away from multinational corporations and the wealthy and gives it back to the people,” said Sanders, while cheers rang out from the overflowing crowd at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington.
Sanders was elected to Vermont’s one and only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating incumbent Republican Peter Smith and capturing 56% of the vote. The results were beyond his wildest expectations.
The win was historic in that the Vermont House seat had been held by Republicans for several decades before Bernie’s election. He also became the first and genuinely Independent politician elected to the House since Henry Frazier Reams of Ohio (1951 – 55) and the first Democratic Socialist elected to the House since Vito Marcantonio of New York (1935 – 37, 1939 – 51).
“Bernard Sanders’ wildly jubilant supporters partied into the early hours Wednesday as they savored their champion’s smashing victory in the race for Vermont’s lone congressional seat.
Phillip Parent, a dairy farmer in Franklin County near the Canadian border said he had to put his herd to bed before coming down to Burlington to celebrate. “It was a long drive but I wanted to see history in the making,” said Parent, who said he supported Sanders because he was fed up with traditional politics and was hoping Sanders, an avowed socialist, would “shake things up in Washington.”
In a thank you letter to staff and volunteers, Bernie wrote:
“You know as well as I do that one person in Congress is not capable of bringing about the fundamental changes in national priorities that this country desperately needs. We need a mass movement of millions of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for social and economic justice, world peace, and environmental sanity. I think we all have an enormous amount to be proud of in that we are leading the nation in building such a movement.”
Once in Washington, he wasted no time, talking with fervor about a “redistribution of wealth” and “political revolution. This is a man for whom politics is like oxygen, a politician who thrives on ideological debate. And debate he does. Sometimes with whomever will listen. And that’s just in his first few hours of his first official day in town.
Give ‘em hell, Bernie.