With little fanfare or publicity, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has launched his own Facebook Live TV show, simply called “The Bernie Sanders Show,” continuing the messaging of his groundbreaking 2016 presidential campaign and expanding his ever-growing support base. According to a recent Fox News poll, Sanders is the most popular politician in America, with 4.7 million followers on Twitter and 7 million likes on Facebook — more than double that of his closest competition in Congress, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“The Bernie Sanders Show” has already aired four episodes, with guests including journalist and author Jane Mayer, Rev. William Barber, the leader of the “Moral Monday” movement, Gasland filmmaker and environmental activist Josh Fox, and Bill Nye the former “Science Guy”, whose climate change discussion with Sanders has already racked up 4.7 million views and 106,000 shares.
The Senator is “viral gold,” declares his media producer, Armand Aviram, with a loyal, enthusiastic, and remarkably engaged audience in the key 18-34 year old demographic hanging onto his every word. His Facebook page has generated 164 million video views since the beginning of year. Even a 40-second cell phone video of Sanders talking next to a ficus plant has racked up 14 million views.
Sanders spends no money on advertising or promoted content, and tapes each show from a mini media production effort out of his Senate office.
“It gives me an opportunity to speak directly to many millions of people about the work that we’re doing about the issues that we consider to be important,” Sanders told NBC News.
These issues include single-payer health care (introducing a “Medicare For All” bill in the Senate), increasing wealth and income inequality, corporate tax reform, renewable energy, and criticism of the mainstream media.
“What my young people tell me — and nobody over 12 really understands this — is video is increasingly important,” the Vermont lawmaker said. “And I’m not particularly happy about that. I kind of think it’s OK for people to actually read for five minutes. But I’m told less and less that that’s the case and that people increasingly want to see video. So we’ll do video.”
Hosting a talk show isn’t new territory for Sanders. As mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980’s. he hosted his own cable access show, called “Bernie Speaks,” in which he interviewed residents, highlighted his accomplishments as mayor, recited poetry, and even recorded a folk performance of “We Shall Overcome.” He also hosted a radio show on WDEV as a member of the House of Representatives in the 2000’s.
At first Hartmann was skeptical, but Sanders was an immediate hit with the progressive, left-leaning audience, appearing on the show every Friday for an hour for 11 years. He even occasionally brought his own guests on his weekly “Brunch with Bernie” segments.
“We would talk between the two of us for five or 10 minutes, and then for the rest of the hour all I would do is screen calls. ‘Greg from Burlington, you’re on the air,'” recalled Hartmann, who now hosts “The Big Picture With Thom Hartmann” on RT America.
“That’s literally all I did for an hour, which breaks every rule of talk radio. The host should never turn their show over to the guests. That’s just absolutely death,” Hartmann said. “But our audience just absolutely loved it.”