Why I support Bernie Sanders (and you should too)

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Janitza Luna

Patrick Dóñez gives a thumbs up for his favorite presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders.

Although I have been politically informed and engaged for several years, the 2020 Presidential Election will be my first opportunity to cast a ballot. I understand the importance of this constitutional right, and there is only one candidate I feel comfortable voting for: Bernie Sanders. 

While volunteering for the Sanders campaign, I am often asked why a 78-year-old senator from Vermont is so appealing to a young person like me. I always respond, even if I did not find Bernie’s brash, quirky personality charming (which I do), his true appeal lies in his singular vision that transcends age, race, and gender. I do not care that he is 4.5 times my age or that he does not look or talk like me. I can tell he cares about me. Here’s why. 

It seems fairly straightforward to assume that the self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” is the most prepared to make structural change, but many media figures like to treat more conventional candidates like Elizabeth Warren as more or less the same. These comparisons are misleading. Sanders is the ONLY Democrat running with comprehensive plans for universal healthcare and public education, the most extensive Green New Deal (endorsed by the Sunrise Movement), criminal justice, and immigration reform plans, and is by far the most friendly to organized labor (He’s been on picket lines more than all the other candidates combined!). 

Bernie Sanders is also the only candidate to unequivocally condemn ANY military action against Iran. Most others called the assassinated General Qasem Soleimani a “terrorist” who did need to be dealt with, just not in the “irresponsible” manner President Trump handled it. You can count on Sanders to be reliably anti-interventionist, unlike people like Joe Biden, who advocated for the Iraq War. 

Almost 50 years of combined political and activist experience, including marches in the Civil Rights Movement, demonstrate Bernie’s lifelong commitment to making the world a fairer, cleaner, safer place. The world is facing unprecedented environmental crisis, wealth inequality, and the rise of white-supremacist, xenophobic violence. The ONLY responsible choice for the leader of the world’s most powerful nation is the person who has made it their mission to fundamentally change “the way things are” and begin the process of building a new society from the bottom up, not the top down.

Once I finish the spiel, a lot of people tell me: “I like Bernie/his policies but…” It is important to address these concerns.

“We need more women and POC in power!”

Yes! Everyone should support female candidates and candidates of color; in fact, many of the country’s most prominent young politicians like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ilhan Omar credit Sanders’ “political revolution” with inspiring them to get into politics. Bernie’s movement is ushering in the next generation of diverse political leaders.

But more importantly, women and POC in positions of power should not be the end-all-be-all for a political movement. The goal should be complete liberation of these groups. If for right now, the best person to do that is a septuagenarian white man from New York, then so be it. 

Furthermore, critics who accuse Sanders of not being sufficiently pro-woman and minority ignore the centerpieces of his campaign that will help those groups: universal healthcare and education, environmental justice, and workers rights. The vast majority of low-income service workers are women of color and immigrants; an increased minimum wage and cheaper access to healthcare would be life changing. 

Considering the frequency of right-wing attacks on women’s reproductive rights, Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, which drew praise from Planned Parenthood for “ensuring that under his healthcare proposal women would have coverage for comprehensive reproductive health care services, including abortion, maternity care, and preventive health services,” is essential. 

Bernie’s emphasis on workers’ rights reflects his prioritization of the most vulnerable segments of society. These improvements will only lead to the political mobilization of more young, progressive women and people of color. Until then, Bernie’s all we’ve got.

He can’t win!
Newsflash, he is winning! Not only is Sanders leading Democrats in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, he is also finally polling ahead of previous frontrunner Joe Biden at the national level. He also beats Trump head-to-head with a higher margin of victory than any other candidate, including in crucial swing states like Florida. Any criticisms of Bernie as “too far-left” to win a general election are totally disingenuous and should be taken with a grain of salt.

What about Warren?

What about her? The absurd notion that Elizabeth Warren’s policies are more or less interchangeable with Sanders’ has been debunked time and time again, most notably on the question of healthcare. Her plan, inexplicably referred to as “Medicare for All,” is actually virtually identical to that of Pete Buttigieg, a candidate commonly regarded as far more conservative than the “progressives” Sanders and Warren. 

The corporate media’s determination to convince the public that the two candidates occupy the same lane is a transparent effort to portray Sanders as irrelevant, with nothing new to offer. On the contrary, Warren’s desire for a “kinder capitalism” (a contradiction in terms; a system designed for the purpose of private profit can never adequately serve the needs of the people) is fundamentally at odds with Sanders’ plan for a transformative “Political Revolution.”

Furthermore, Sanders’ chances of defeating Donald Trump are astronomically greater than Warren’s. For starters, Warren has almost no chance of even securing the Democratic nomination; she trails Sanders and Biden by huge margins in most states. Second, she is the NINTH most unpopular senator in the country (Sanders is the most popular). Despite her boasts about her electoral successes at the last debate, she barely won her two senate elections, did incredibly poorly in districts that voted for Obama then Trump (these are crucial in the general election; Sanders does very well in them), and her overwhelmingly white professional class base WILL NOT be enough to win an election. Next!

Finally,

I JUST DON’T LIKE HIM!

Personal distaste for Sanders is the most difficult argument to counter, since the people making it can almost never explain why. Sanders and his policies are immensely popular, despite what Hillary Clinton and MSNBC might say. The people who refuse to support him for this reason tend to fall into two categories: the ones who do not want to admit they really do not support his policies and the ones who have fallen victim to various smears by the elite media. The first group is irrelevant, they will not make or break the campaign. The second might be convinced.

The corporate media, whose investors depend on the kind of unregulated capitalism Bernie opposes, understandably does not want to see him win. Commentators on MSNBC and CNN, not to mention Fox News, almost uniformly deride his campaign, condescendingly pondering whether the American people could support a “Socialist.” But since Sanders’ policies are so popular, they have been forced to resort to bad faith character assassinations that are also mostly ineffective. But avid consumers of cable news may find themselves convinced by this bad faith rhetoric.

Discussion of Bernie Bros and Sanders’ toxically white masculine base has been around since the 2016 election, and as described above, are totally baseless. Bernie has a majority female supporter base that is far more racially diverse and working class than his opponents. Meanwhile, characterizations of the candidate himself as a misogynist are highly spurious at best. Sanders has been quoted as far back as 1988 saying a woman could be president and has been a champion for women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights far before these issues were popular. Try to disregard the television’s characterization of the candidate who threatens their profit margin.

Final Words

For the last four years, Sanders’ supporters have been told that they need to be more realistic, more pragmatic, to accept good rather than great. They have been insulted, ridiculed, and blamed for the failures of more conservative candidates. But still, the Bernie Sanders campaign has maintained enormous grassroots support since 2015, a testament to the overwhelming popular desire for transformative change in this country. 

The United States will never be great, or even good, if people are still sleeping in cars, dying from treatable illnesses because they could not pay a medical bill, rotting in prison cells for victimless crimes, or working in dangerous conditions for starvation wages while their bosses make billions.

The world will never be a safe, fair place if the United States government continues to pursue endless war and violent regime changes abroad for the benefit of defense contractors and oil companies, reject the refugees from conflicts of our own making, or exploit natural resources until the planet is burnt to a crisp.

We need a leader who will stand resolutely against the systems of oppression and exploitation that control our lives, who will put the needs of the vulnerable above those of the comfortable, who will provide space for the empowerment of the exploited. We cannot wait around for the incremental change and return to “normalcy” offered by Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar or the preposterous “conscious capitalism” Elizabeth Warren advocates. Those kinds of change may be enough for students at The Webb Schools, but they never have and never will be enough for the millions upon millions of Americans the system has never adequately served. 

You can only count one candidate to make the kind of unprecedented transformation we need. There are no alternatives. A vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote for the future.