Bernie Sanders is one cash-savvy anti-capitalist. The socialist senator’s campaign raked in another $44 million in March, topping the record it set in February by $500,000, bringing his total for the quarter to $109 million and very likely out-raising the Democratic front-runner in the process. What’s more, Sanders posted those record revenues without doing anything to compromise his brand, continuing to redistribute wealth from a vast army of small-dollar donors while telling the billionaire class it can keep its money (until it’s expropriated in 2017).
And boy, has Sanders learned how to exploit a brand. Last week, a small bird gave the insurgent candidate a chunk of social-media gold when it landed on his podium at a rally in Portland. Six days later in the South Bronx, hundreds of the senator’s supporters were bedecked in “Birdie Sanders merch.”
What makes Sanders’s March haul most stunning is that halfway through the month, his prospects for actually winning the nomination dropped close to zero, when Clinton swept the five March 15 primaries. One of the many advantages of drawing funding from a devoted mass of micro-givers is that they’re far more willing to bankroll a long-shot cause than a billionaire looking to maximize return on investment. The Sanders campaign’s mastery of online fund-raising will not only allow the senator to keep building his movement from here to the convention; it will also provide him with an extra source of leverage over the party once he gets there: Plenty of down-ballot Democrats will be looking to drink from Sanders’s small-dollar spigot.