By Zaid Jilani, AlterNetEditor’s note: This article was originally published on AlterNet.

Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign for the White House has surprised many with his rising poll numbers putting him in competitive territory in both of the first primary and caucus states. Many have wondered what has propelled a once obscure independent senator from Vermont into such strong standing in the Democratic primary. His secret recipe is simple: he stands for what Americans are demanding. Here are some examples:

Health Care: While Sanders supported the Affordable Care Act, he supports the broader solution that a majority of Americans and even a quarter of Republicans support: a Medicare-for-all system. It’s a policy he brings up in virtually every stump speech in every part of the country. Sanders also has a plan to let people import pharmaceutical drugs from Canada and allow Medicare to bargain for drug prices, something that polls very well.

Wages: Sanders supports a proposal to bring the national minimum wage to $15 an hour over a number of years. A recent national poll found 63 percent of Americans support this policy.

Climate change: Sanders promotes a carbon tax to directly deal with global warming, choosing not to deal with overly complex cap and trade schemes. Two-thirds of Americans support some form of refundable carbon tax.

Breaking up banks: Sanders wants to break up America’s too-big-to-fail banks, something just 23 percent of Americans opposed doing in 2013.

The secret to Bernie Sanders’ campaign is actually pretty simple. His rivals in both parties often attune their plans to the interests of donors, balancing their concerns with those of the American people. Sanders isn’t doing that. He has built his campaign on the backs of small donors who represent most Americans, and he is promising them exactly what they want.

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