Today, Bernie Sanders is a household name, a wildly popular presidential candidate and an icon for progressive Democrats in the United States. But back in the 1980s, this "democratic socialist"—though some folks would prefer the term "social democrat"—was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, where his administration attempted radical reforms. Some efforts were successful, but when a waterfront deal failed, it was not due to Sanders' efforts; he would rather compromise and have a net gain than be an ideological purist.
In his preface to this reissue of the 1990 book, Challenging the Boundaries of Reform, W. J. Conroy reflects on the recent legacy of Sanders, his Agenda for America, and his appeal to young voters. His book then looks back to identify Sanders' experience in Burlington by examining several case studies that unfolded amidst a conservative trend nationally, an unsympathetic state government, and a hostile city council.
Ultimately, Conroy asks what lessons can be drawn from the case of Burlington that would aid the American left in its struggle to capture both government and civil society?