The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont

By Steven Soifer | Go to book overview

2
Burlington, Bernard Sanders, and the Progressive Coalition

In this chapter, a brief description and history of Burlington, Vermont, will be given. This will set the stage for discussing the phenomenon of Bernard Sanders and the Progressive Coalition. Who is Bernard Sanders? How was it possible for a socialist to win the mayoralty in Vermont's largest city, and for the Progressive Coalition that sprung up around him to gain control of six of the thirteen seats on the Burlington Board of Aldermen? What is the future of Burlington's experiment in progressive politics?


SETTING THE STAGE: A PICTURE OF BURLINGTON, VERMONT

The city of Burlington is nestled between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain in the northwestern part of the state of Vermont. Burlington itself has a population of slightly over 38,000, while the greater Burlington area--which includes many of the smaller population centers in the Chittenden County area--has 123,000 people. Thus, in a state with a population of only 535,000 (the 48th smallest state in the country), the greater Burlington area has over one-fifth of the total. 1

Historical records show that Lake Champlain itself was first discovered by the Frenchman Samuel de Champlain in 1609. During the next 150 years, French settlers and a Native American tribe (the Abenakis) "shared" the area. In 1763, the British won control of the area from the French, leading English immigrants to come to the Lake Champlain region. One of the best known of these settlers--Ira

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