Bernie Sanders deserves the public trust and support now more than ever before. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS

Bernie Sanders deserves the public trust and support now more than ever before. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS

Call him what you will: socialist, communist, old man, curmudgeon, whatever disenfranchising name you give him. But there is one adjective you cannot use to describe him without making yourself look a fool. That word is “inauthentic.”

To whom are we referring here?

Formerly independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, of course. Arguably the most authentic man in the 2016 presidential election cycle (but don’t say that to Trump supporters), Sanders refused to concede Monday’s exceptionally close Iowa caucus. It is time we take a look at truly how far the senator’s campaign has come since his announcement of candidacy in late May 2015.

A little more than three weeks after Sanders’ May 26 official declaration of candidacy for the Democratic nomination, Morning Consult released its polls in the early nominating states Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

The results were what would logically be expected from a race that was dominated exclusively at the time by the prospect of an expected Hillary Clinton win, as the novelty of a powerful first female president drew Democrats everywhere. In Iowa, Clinton grabbed 54 percent of the vote, while Sanders drew only 12 percent, and then-prospect Vice President Joe Biden came in third with 9 percent.

Flash forward to the beginning of September 2015, when Sanders really started to pick up the trail to high polls numbers. In Iowa, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, the senator bested former Secretary of State Clinton’s 40 percent with his own 41 percent, which was an extremely tight but huge improvement from just three months before.

This was all even before the first Democratic debate, which was held Oct. 13. The result of that debate, according to many news outlets, was that Clinton won easily. This was just the beginning of media outlets, both progressive and conservative, completely doubting and underestimating the Sanders campaign.

Since last fall, it has been obvious how much adversity Sanders and his campaign supporters have faced. Even left-leaning media sources such as MSNBC have failed to praise the positive aspects of the Sanders campaign, being completely devoted to the more moderate Clinton. What these sources cannot refute, however, is the fact that one of these candidates has flip-flopped on their beliefs, and one has not. Not only did Clinton not support gay marriage in 2004, but she openly made her case against the prospect.

While Clinton may have backtracked to say that her support at the time for the Defense of Marriage Act, which would have outlawed gay marriage, was to prevent a constitutional amendment outlawing it altogether, her speech of support for the bill was convincing. Even without the CSPAN video of her DOMA endorsement, we can see that her praise of the bill is in vast contrast to Sanders’ longtime defense of gay rights, which goes back as far as 1983.

Who was open to gay rights and the defense of people since first assuming office? That’s right, Sanders was.

Attacks upon attacks from the Clinton campaign and supporters will not tear down the grassroots movement that Sanders leads in modern America. Students, parents, teachers, leaders and workers are the ones pushing for funding for this political revolution — not billionaires or corporations.

There is a stark difference in these campaigns, but it takes more than looking at a side-by-side comparison of policy — it takes a side-by-side comparison of history and bank records, and it takes a comparison of authenticity. Yes, people change, but a politician’s change on policy stance is usually achieved in light of moving with the party. So I ask you: which candidate has identified with a party for the longest?

The American people are speaking out. The desire for trust and change is at the pinnacle of people’s minds. After all, how else is a candidate like Trump surging in front of the establishment candidates? Do we, as progressives, want a moderate who claims to fight for our rights, but in the end is soft on the Republicans who will fight tooth and nail to end Obamacare or any chance of universal health care?

Or do we want someone who will keep their promise and fight as hard has they can to treat Americans of whatever age, political affiliation, skin color and gender as equal citizens? The Democratic Party should stand behind the latter — the person who can truly keep their promise, a person who has millions of regular people standing behind him — not just a few billionaires.