Bernie Sanders’ pursuit to simultaneously turn down the noise and crank up the conversation surrounding American politics has earned him reputations ranging from a champion for equality to a liberal zealot. Regardless of opinion, his historic grassroots campaign could very well earn him the Democratic nomination and potentially make him the next POTUS.
Mapping out the landscape of the Sanders campaign, you’ll find a handful of complex, history-making platforms that lay the foundation of his 2016 Presidential bid. Platforms you might not expect from an unimposing 74-year old senator, who at first glance looks like another old, white man who thinks he should be president. With approximately 6 months to the Democratic National Convention and roughly 8 until the election, a closer look at the platforms that set Sanders apart from the pack provide a revealing glimpse of the oldest and most liberal presidential contender we’ve seen in years.
Growth Rate of Campaign
Bernie Sanders is unapologetic in his viewpoint that the 1% have hijacked American politics by greedily monopolizing the process from start to finish. Naturally he has no affiliation with a super Pac, making his grassroots funding the best political match-up for Donald Trump’s billionaire bucks should Trump end up with the Republican nomination. With the luxury of being able to fund his own campaign, Trump’s presidential bid also comes sans super Pac. Needless to say, if the race ends up as Clinton versus Trump, one can expect the super Pac button pushed over and over to aggravate the Clinton campaign.
Sanders has eloquently demonstrated that billionaire bucks from special interest groups are not just immoral, but also unnecessary for funding a successful presidential bid. In December, Sanders became the first non-incumbent candidate in United States history to exceed the 2 million-campaign donations benchmark, where contributions averaging $27.16 have piled up. Sanders made sure to point out the distinction between rejecting or accepting money from big business, saying, “You can’t level the playing field with Wall Street banks and billionaires by taking their money.”
The Sanders’ campaign raised $33.6 million dollars in the final three months of 2015. This impressive sum was followed up by $20 million additional donations in January of 2016 alone.
Capitalism versus socialism rears its ugly head with the war between the 1% and the 99% becoming a cornerstone of American conversation. Sanders remains firm on his stance that there is nothing acceptable about the level of income inequality in the United States–where the top one-tenth of 1% are in possession of almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%.
Traditionally, the United States of America does not have a track record of electing presidents who express viewpoints so closely associated with the philosophies of socialism. It’s fair to say that the term socialism creates skeptical apprehension, which is likely the result of the word’s connotation being distorted by generations of political rhetoric. A June 2015 Gallup poll clearly displayed the general disdain the American public has for the term socialist. Only 47% of individuals polled said that they would vote for a socialist presidential candidate. This poll even determined atheists and homosexuals to be more electable, with respective rates of 58% and 74% potential “yes” votes.
Sanders is aware of the stigma the word has retained and explains, “I don’t myself use the word socialism because people have been brainwashed into thinking socialism automatically means slave-labor camps, dictatorship and lack of freedom of speech.”
More recently, Sanders stated, “I don’t believe government should own the grocery store down the street or control the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.”
So, is Bernie Sanders a socialist or not?
The term currently en vogue is Democratic Socialist, which conveys ideas far more like those of Franklin D. Roosevelt than Stalin. In a 2015 speech at Georgetown University, Sanders tackled the topic, saying:
My view of Democratic Socialism builds on the success of many other countries around the world who have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of the working families, the elderly citizens, children, the sick, and poor. Economic rights must be a central part of what America stands for…. This is not a radical idea, it is a conservative idea. It is an idea and practice that exists in every other major country on Earth.
Garrison Nelson, University of Vermont political science professor, clarifies Sander’s political stance by explaining:
The key to understanding Bernie Sanders is that he’s different from other socialist candidates. Most socialist candidates do not want to win. They want to lose and blame the system for their defeat. They revel in their defeats. Bernie believes that to be absurd.
Whatever your take on the aforementioned political positioning, most people would agree that the 99% have problems. Bernie Sanders just isn’t one of them.
Mary Jane & Mass Incarceration
Bernie Sanders as president would instantly paint the political landscape with a more progressive brush. Sander’s main conversations with media outlets continue to address racial and economic discrepancies, which include both legalizing cannabis and defunding private prisons.
The need for cannabis policy in the United States is increasing exponentially, and while Bernie Sanders isn’t exactly a green rush advocate, he’s not afraid to talk about the hot topic with a progressive punch. His November 2015 move to end the federal prohibition of pot, through the senate bill known as “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015”, attempts to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act which currently dictates American drug policy. Sanders is seeking clarification of the murky system of emerging state policies that conflict with draconian federal laws. As Sanders has said, “We have far, far too many people in jail for nonviolent crimes, and I think in many ways the war against drugs has not been successful.”
This brings us to the issue of over-incarceration. The militarized police tactics used in the War on Drugs have led to mass imprisonment of non-violent offenders and as a direct consequence, prison overflow. These continued practices show federal prohibition policy to be increasingly ineffective and inhumane. Sanders has emerged as a bold opponent of the existence of private prisons. His blunt stance on the matter included a bill entitled the “Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2015” that would put an end to the for-profit system of imprisonment, with his website addressing the issue matter-of-factly:
I have recently introduced legislation that will put an end to for-profit prisons. My bill will prevent federal, state, and local governments from contracting with private companies who manage prisons, jails or detention facilities.
It is wrong to profit from the imprisonment of human beings and the suffering of their families and friends. It’s time to end this morally repugnant process, and along with it, the era of mass incarceration.
Bottom line, Sanders is the most realistic candidate to prioritize ending cannabis prohibition during his term. He could indeed be the politician that pushes the envelope and provocatively redefines the title Commander in Chief. Only time will tell if we’re approaching a new age in which cannabis is not considered an illegal drug, and the so-called ‘offenders’ will find themselves freed from the constraints of private prisons.
The Oldest President in History
If elected, Bernie Sanders would be the oldest person to serve as President in American history. However, his progressive platform breaks the age-old, stereotypical idea of the old, white, male politician as President.
Sanders has been making his unabashed viewpoints known since his college years. As he wrote in the Liberal Union Party newsletter Movement in 1972, “A handful of people own almost everything, and almost everybody owns nothing.”
Sanders’ political career officially began when he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont by the narrow margin of ten votes. This 1981 victory being his first-ever election win. The down to the wire race received international attention and he served four terms between 1981 and 1989. He moved onto the United States House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007, and has served in the Senate from 2007 until present day. In 2010, Sanders grabbed headlines with a filibuster against extending Bush-era tax cuts that lasted 8 hours.
If elected President, Bernie Sanders will be 75 years old at the time of his inauguration.
Where My Ladies At? Taking the Female Vote From Clinton.
An awkward side note to the Sanders vs. Clinton primary has ignited commentary around the female voters turning their backs on Hillary during her second history-making bid for the title of first female president in United States history.
The whole ‘first female President in United States history’ issue is a delicate conversation – especially amongst females in the party who are not supporting the Clinton campaign. Although the outcome of the Sanders vs. Clinton political jousting remains to be seen, watching Clinton get swatted from her presidential bid by yet another grassroots campaign could be painful to watch. In the New Hampshire primary alone, Sanders beat out Clinton 53% to 46% with female voters overall, with the astonishing statistics growing to Sanders claiming 82% of the female vote in millennials under 30.
Race to the Finish
Hypothesizing about the potential of a Sanders vs. Trump race to the White House curates vivid imagery of the social activist versus the business tycoon. A recent USA Today/Rock the Vote poll showed millennials to be highly in favor of the aforementioned Presidential face-off, with 46% supporting Sanders to Clinton’s 35% if the primary were held today. On the Republican side, 26% of millennials want to see Trump take the nomination, with Ben Carson claiming just 11% of that demographic.
It is an undeniable fact that some people consider Donald Trump to be an asshole—plain and simple. Bernie Sanders seems to stand closer to the neighborhood of your cute and curmudgeon-esque grandpa. While likability does not define a President, there’s something to be said for the potentiality of this epic showdown, and that it is something the people appear to be craving. In fact, there is likelihood that just by simply placing these two candidates next to one another on an international stage, some uncomfortable truths behind income inequality in the United States stand to be exposed.
Some feel the state of politics in the United States has evolved into a charade—a stage upon which politicians are untrustworthy brokers of power, leaving citizens in a state of misinformed frustration. Within the cast of players bringing the production to life, we find characters as diverse as the people they are fighting to represent. Whichever side you’re leaning toward, the candidate that can locate the pulse of American politics will likely prevail. And hopefully resuscitate the spirit of social progress necessary to manage the forthcoming cultural evolution so many of us see on the horizon.