Hundreds of people stood in line for hours in downtown Montpelier Tuesday for a chance to meet Sen. Bernie Sanders. The event was part of Sanders' promotional tour for his new book Our Revolution, which chronicles Sanders' political career and provides his road map for the Democratic Party to gain the support of millions of working people in the future.
It was standing room only at Bear Pond Books on Tuesday afternoon as people waited for an opportunity to say hello to Sanders and have a photograph taken with him. For many, it was simply a chance to say "thank you" to Sanders for making a strong run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Claire Benedict is one of the owners of Bear Pond Books. She says the response to the book signing was overwhelming.
"There were people in line when I showed up for work at 8:30 this morning," Benedict said. "We had people from Florida, from Maine, from New York, from all over, not just our local Vermonters, and people were just so excited to meet Bernie. They just wanted to shake his hand and get a picture and they were very excited."
Benedict estimates that at least 400 people purchased books, some buying multiple copies.
She says her store has hosted many events featuring authors in the past but nothing quite like this one: "I'm not sure we've had quite this crowd and this much excitement, so — no, this is a big one!"
After the event, I had a chance to sit down with Sanders in a cozy, second floor office, lined with books.
Sanders says he's convinced that a large majority of Americans support his views on raising the minimum wage, providing paid family leave, and taking aggressive action on climate change, immigration reform and free college tuition.
He says his job now is to mobilize this group.
"On all of those issues there is overwhelming support among the American people," Sanders explains, "and our job is to bring these people together. And I think the truth is the Democrats have not done a particularly good job in that respect. We have not been mobilizing people, organizing people at the grassroots level, and what I am trying to do right now is to change that."
Sanders was recently appointed to a leadership role in the Senate Democratic caucus. His official position is the "chair of outreach."
"Our job is to bring working people, young people into a political party, which in many ways really has not welcomed those people," he says. "I want an open, democratic party — with a small 'd.' I want to hear the voices of working people, many of whom are hurting right now."
Sanders says he's disappointed that some elements of the Democratic Party have not been responsive to the economic conditions facing millions of working people.
"One of the problems that the Democrats have had is they have not perceived the reality that, despite the fact we're better off today than we were eight years ago economically, there are millions of people who are working longer hours for low wages," says Sanders. "People who have seen a significant decline in their standard of living. We've got to stand with those people and take on the 1 percent, take on the billionaire class and create a government and an economy that works for people."
And Sanders thinks the Democratic Party needs major changes in order to be successful in the future.
"What has got to happen is we need a rethinking of how the Democratic Party functions," he says. "Because it's not just the loss of the White House, it is the loss of the Senate, it is the loss of the House of Representatives, it is the loss of some two-thirds of statehouses throughout this country."
Sanders says he plans to travel around the country in the coming months getting his message out to as many people as possible.