Bernie Sanders & The Power of Listening

By Joanne Boyer

The political reasons for the outpouring of populist support for Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders are legion. The Vermont Senator has gone from an almost after thought in the minds of political pundits to the person who is literally drawing tens of thousands of people to hear him speak—in little more than three months. Not to mention, he’s topping polls in early primary states.

For anyone familiar with Bernie Sanders this is not a surprise. For those not as familiar, there could be a lot of head scratching as to how this man of the people finds himself continually having to reschedule his events to larger venues to accommodate overflow crowds.

For the record, the crowd gathering began in Minneapolis at the end of May when nearly 4,000 showed up on a Sunday morning. From there the numbers increased to 10,000 in Madison in July, to 15,000 in Seattle and the 27-28,000 in Portland and Los Angeles in August. Other crowd-stoppers include Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. In fact, everywhere Bernie goes.

We’ll save the political discussions as to why this is happening for another day. Instead, I would like to offer up another—very basic human reason—as to why Bernie Sanders resonates with so many people

For the first time in generations, people feel as though a political candidate is “listening” to them — as if someone has heard their voice and what they have been either saying for years: could someone please help the American working and middle class struggling with a rigged economy that favors the wealthy and powerful.

The art of listening. Can you think for just a moment as to when it was that someone really listened to you and how wonderful that felt? You mattered. Few in the political world today listen better than Sen. Sanders. And the power of what listening does to and for people has been on display since Bernie began his campaign.

One of my favorite authors who writes about the power of listening is Brenda Ueland. In her delightful book “If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit,” she shares the following

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force…When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life…When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other…and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. …Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way.

For all the political pundits who will rattle off polls, charts, and theories, I believe that the “little fountain” within us has been tapped as Bernie Sanders urges “we the people” to take back our democracy.

From one of his recent speeches:

“This is not about Bernie Sanders,” the candidate said to the room filled beyond capacity. “You can have the best president in the history of the world but that person will not be able to address the problems that we face unless there is a mass movement, a political revolution in this country…The only way we win and transform America is when millions of people stand up as you’re doing today and say. ‘Enough is enough. This country belongs to all of us and not a handful of billionaires.’” The fight ahead, he told the crowd, “Is about you.”

Finally someone has heard our cries for help. We were listened to. And “Katie-bar-the door” as Brenda Ueland would say…when that little fountain begins to work again, it will accelerate in the most surprising way.

Surprised by the huge crowds for Bernie Sanders? We’re not.

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