If you’ve been following the race for the 2016 presidential nomination, chances are you’ve thrown your support behind Hillary Clinton if you’re a Democrat, and if you’re a Republican, well, Godspeed. This article is not about Clinton, though, and it’s certainly not about the Republican entourage led by the antics of Donald Trump. This article is about Bernie Sanders.
If our media gave Sanders an ounce of the attention it gave to the e-mail scandals of Clinton or the unfettered slew of ignorance that streams from Trump and composes the conservative rhetoric, we would have a far more stable political environment. We’re going to talk about Sanders simply because no one else wants to treat Sanders as a serious candidate, despite polls showing him making significant gains in key swing states. Those swing states will ultimately influence who our nation’s next leader will be. It really can’t be argued that Sanders has faced discrimination on behalf of the media.
Call an entire race of people “criminal rapists,” and you’ll be guaranteed a spot in the nightly news. Talk about revolutionizing the way we approach economics and the political process in America and get covered nominally by MSNBC. So, as a college newspaper, we find it fitting that we take the time to study Sanders’ politics, platform, voting record and consistency.
Sanders was born in Brooklyn in 1941 to Jewish parents. In fact, his father was an immigrant from Poland, whose entire family was massacred in the tragedy of the Holocaust. His interest in politics began at a young age and carried into early adulthood. He attended the University of Chicago, where he graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. At the University of Chicago, Sanders was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League, but his activism didn’t stop there. He was a student organizer for two essential groups, working tirelessly to enforce equality between the races and the sexes; those groups were Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, (S.N.C.C.).
Sanders is documented to have participated in sit-ins on his own campus with the intention of procuring desegregated housing, as well the 1963 “March on Washington,” where economic and social equity for African Americans were lobbied for in what is, to this day, one of the largest political gatherings our nation has ever known.
Though Sanders’ career took a while to solidify itself, he was eventually elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Under his mayorship he implemented what are known as “community land trusts,” which are essentially nonprofit organizations that develop plans for underfunded communities to supply affordable housing and recreational venues for economically depressed communities. This feat was also paired with a successfully balanced budget and the halting of development projects that would have destroyed the ecosystem surrounding the Lake Champlain waterfront properties. The property now has multiple uses, though the public consensus seems to overwhelmingly appreciate the plethora of green parks and miles of public beach that have been saved by this often underestimated man.
Many analysts and reporters suggest that politicians spend too many years holding public office. Indeed, many professors at EUP suggest in classes that perhaps the Founding Fathers, when proposing the concept of democracy, did not intend for politicians to make a profession from serving the people. Our professors sometimes state that our Founding Fathers would certainly look upon the representatives who have made politics a “family business” with scorn and contempt. Wasn’t one of the critical reasons Puritans fled England was to escape the oppression that comes part in parcel with aristocracy, that is, families who lead luxurious lifestyles on behalf of the taxpayer? We would like to hear Jeb Bush or Rand Paul answer this question.
However, if we look at Sanders’ repertoire, we find an abundance of variety, which is something most politicians can’t claim. After a successful mayorship, Sanders taught at Harvard University and Hamilton College. In 1990, Sanders returned to politics and ran for a seat in the House of Representatives. Though he had lost on his initial bid, in his resilience he was elected to the House, (the first registered Independent to legislate in the House in 40 years).
Most political sites suggest that Sanders was a dark horse, due largely in part to his fence-sitting affiliation with Independents. Even though most of his votes went toward left-leaning policies, (he didn’t support the Iraqi invasion, the Patriot Act, or the policies of the Federal Reserve pre-2008 economic collapse) he didn’t and still doesn’t support most gun control initiatives. He had voted against the Brady Bill, which mandated background checks and mandatory waiting periods for citizens who desired to purchase firearms.
By 2005, Sanders decided to run for Senate, given that his predecessor had decided not to seek re-election. Sanders ran a pricey campaign in Vermont, which paid great dividends as he was elected with 71 percent of the vote. For readers who may be interested, there is a humorous photo of Sanders being sworn into the Senate by none other than Dick Cheney. In the photo, Sanders beams as Cheney seems to begrudgingly read him the oath.
Sanders’ name picked up mass recognition in 2008 when he gave an 8.5 hour speech on why the Bush era tax cuts, which were largely for corporate America and the upper-class, were distorting and widening the gap between social classes in America. Long speeches in the Senate are often deemed filibusters. This speech would have counted as one had his words influenced his fellow Senators, but since the legislation was signed into law it was not considered a filibuster. Want an interesting fact for when you’re at a loss for something to say at a party? A publishing company picked up Sanders’ speech and the proceeds were then donated to Vermont nonprofits.
And now? In 2016, Sanders seeks the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. His campaign has been entirely financed by American citizens and civil rights groups. This is in stark contrast to his other opponents, on both the left and right, who have received generous donations from Super PACs (political action committees), which seem to do nothing but buy politicians and elections. Does that make Sanders’ bid improbable from a financial aspect? Not at all. Within the first 24 hours of his announcement, $1.5 million was donated. By early July, Sanders’ campaign had roughly $15 million from 250,000 donors. In Iowa, a key election state, Sanders pulled greater crowds than Clinton.
His crowds are in the tens of thousands, and yet he is considered an unrealistic alternative to Clinton by most political pundits and news sources alike. As for his policies, Sanders offers a reality we never imagined any politician would ever have the bravery to condone. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Sanders hopes to emulate the Nordic models of social and economic growth and rightly so, these countries lead in education, healthcare and happiness.
Here’s a summary of what this nominee advocates: universal healthcare, women’s rights, drug decriminalization, affordable college, raising the minimum wage, same-sex marriage and environmental issues.
What’s he against? Big business, money in politics, the NSA, the TPP, the Iraqi war, the Patriot Act, loose regulation of Wall Street, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and censorship.
Emma Giering is the voices editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at email@example.com.