“Feel the Bern”: Marketing Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism to Primary Voters
While many argue that Bernie Sanders’s feisty challenge to Hillary Clinton was as much about Clinton’s weakness as a candidate, this chapter considers how the Sanders campaign was able to take an avuncular, unpresidential curmudgeon and market and brand democratic socialism both to a deeply committed left-of-centre base and to many voters who were not ideologically committed but who wanted change. It underscores how Sanders’s messaging became more important than the candidate himself and why so many people supported Sanders instead of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders, like Trump, used populist themes and simple messaging that were outside the Democratic Party establishment. Far from being a one-trick pony, Sanders tapped into a strain of populism that Clinton’s campaign either missed or did not fully consider. This chapter also draws upon marketing and branding research to show that Sanders is perhaps far closer in spirit to Trump than what many commentators might have expected or, indeed, noticed: They both blame the media and the party for the perceived unfairness and rigging of the entire system.
KeywordsBranding Populism Democratic socialism Political marketing Social media
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