Since announcing his candidacy on May 26, Sanders hasn’t been afraid to embody the ‘grumpy old man’ persona. But, while other candidates have floundered with a negative tone, Sanders is polling better than ever. So, is Sanders really negative, or is his demeanor masking positive calls for change? A look at his recent statements helps answer that question:


“The answer to unemployment and poverty is not and cannot be the mass incarceration of young African Americans. It's time to bring hope and economic opportunity to communities across the country.” Sanders Senate website, 6/8/2015


  • At first glance, this statement reads like an uncommonly angry call for criminal justice reform, especially when spoken in Sanders’ thick Brooklyn accent. But upon further investigation, Sanders explanation of reform is based on the same idea touted by many other presidential candidates: the need for change. Although said in the definitively unapologetic Bernie style, this statement isn’t radical or revolutionary, but rather offers a new spin on a common topic.


“This campaign is not about me. It is not about Hillary Clinton or any other candidate. This campaign is about you, your kids and your parents. It is about creating a political movement of millions of people who stand up and loudly proclaim that this nation belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires.”  Sanders campaign website, 6/21/2015


  • A major campaign topic for Sanders has been calling for a political revolution by getting money out of politics and focusing on the people. Despite framing these calls with negative facts, ultimately there is an underlying positive tone about potential change and a brighter future. Sanders is known for his extreme language, but these calls and his tone are merely a reimagination of Ron Paul’s popular grassroots ReLOVEution.

“What this campaign is about is creating a political revolution in America — a revolution which takes on the greed of Wall Street and corporate America. This is a rigged economy and, brothers and sisters, we are going to change that. ... The greed of corporate America and the billionaire class has got to end, and we are going to end it for them.” Journal Sentinel, 7/1/2015


  • With a gruff demeanor and negative words, this message could easily be interpreted as an angry socialist yelling about Wall Street. However, Sanders’ use of personal words calls for a reinterpretation. By using “we” and “brothers and sisters,” he brings himself into the fight for a better America, forming a more authentic and personal message. Statements like this one reinforce the idea that, even though Sanders is markedly the grumpiest politician, his ideas are just as inspirational as his opponents.   


Michael Maslansky recently analyzed how the Republican candidates were using messaging strategy, finding that Rubio was the only candidate to use a proven strategy. Rubio’s positive outlook on the future is reflected in Sanders’ realistic outlook on the present and the need for a massive political.


by m+p intern Erin Morris

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