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Bernie Sanders on the Today Show 1981

Sanders in 1981 defeated Gordon Paquette, Burlington’s five-term Democratic mayor, by just 10 votes. The then-39-year-old Sanders ran as an independent and, while he didn’t campaign as a socialist, he made no secret of it, either. Elected just months after Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency, Sanders’s victory caught national attention. The 1981 Today segment, titled “Socialism in New England,” shows journalist Jane Pauley declaring, “Face it, you don’t find too many socialists in elected office in this country.” It then cuts to Phil Donahue, who is sitting down with the newly-elected Sanders. He says that many people were surprised at Sanders’s narrow win. “My goodness, how could this happen in good old conservative Vermont?” Donahue asked. “Well, in Vermont, being conservative is different, perhaps, than being conservative elsewhere in the country,” Sanders said.