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Bernie Sanders, Bernard Sanders
Six months after he scored a surprise victory to become mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, Bernie Sanders is pictured at city hall on Sept. 15, 1981.  Donna Light—AP

Bernie Sanders' Problem With the Constitution

Sep 17, 2015

In this week's issue of TIME, Sam Frizell takes a look at the rise of Bernie Sanders, the rumpled senator from Vermont who has proved to be a surprisingly hardy challenger to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. A big part of the magic, he concludes, is that Sanders' economic justice-heavy platform comes from the candidate's true convictions.

A sign of that can be found in Sanders' thoughts about the Constitution nearly three decades ago. Back in 1987, for a special issue commemorating the Constitution's 200th birthday, TIME polled a variety of "students of democracy" on the document's strengths and weaknesses, and how they would like to see it changed. One of those who responded was Sanders, then the socialist mayor of Burlington, Vt.

His point reminds us that the Constitution may be more prone to change than the candidate:

The most obvious weakness of our Constitution is that the economic rights of our citizens are not adequately addressed. Freedom must mean more than the right to vote every four years for a candidate for President. Freedom must also mean the right of a citizen to decent income, decent shelter, decent health care, decent educational opportunity and decent retirement benefits. One is not free sleeping out in the streets. One is not free eating cat food in order to survive.

Read the full story from 1987, here in the TIME Vault: Contention and Continuity

Read the new cover story, here on TIME.com: The Gospel of Bernie

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