Why Bernie?

How this Political Agnostic came to see the light.

I’m not well versed in politics. I’m not registered with a political party. I’ve generally mistrusted politicians and demonstrated that mistrust with apathy towards—and abstinence from—political participation.

I voted for President Obama in 2008 (still have the sticker). Honestly, it’s the only vote I’ve ever cast. In 2012 I didn’t vote for the President (though I leaned toward Mitt). I declared myself “politically agnostic,” that is, unsure I believed in the political process at all. So this year I think it’s been surprising to the handful of friends who pay attention to me on social media to find that I’m all about that Bernie. Like, actively sharing news articles about a politician. It’s weird for me. I’ve donated. Twice.

I believe in [Bernie Sander’s] integrity regarding his vision for the United States.

So I wanted to explain the reasons I’m voting for Bernie Sanders. I don’t have a personal stake in some of his positions. I have a lot of feelings about others. Generally speaking I support his vision for the United States. More importantly, I believe in his integrity regarding his vision for the United States. Here’s why:

Voters' rights

Most politicians treat voter turnout like a very sharp knife. It needs to be handled carefully: get the right kind of turnout at the right time. But Bernie is pro-vote. As a user experience designer, I understand how easy it is to influence people to do (or not do) something simply by making the process more or less difficult. Wading into the political bogland that determines the course of our nation is demoralizing enough: voting should not be a complicated, “earned” privilege on top of that. It’s ease and fairness should be something the United States holds up with pride.

I’ve heard some people make vague variations of the argument that voting is so important it shouldn’t be such a given. It should be revered, and thus it should require some effort. Who prescribes the measures to determine how much effort is required? A committee? Our elected representatives? In as far as we have measures in place to filter who can or cannot vote, just so far will there be people abusing such measures to limit the vote in their favor.

For the sake of the same principle, we should do all we can to make sure that voices have equal weight.

The Economy

FDR had the “advantage” of a congress desperate to save the country from ruin. I am not naive (in the following respect): I understand that our nation’s current congress is prioritizing our people’s wellbeing far below a lot of less noble interests. But the period of economic equality that FDR helped usher in spanned decades — the 1940s through the 1960s saw the largest middle class in our nation’s history.

Bernie Sanders has earnestly championed a similar approach to the american economy. Namely, investing in our population instead of financial institutions. Do you realize that our banking system ground us into a recession and then strong armed $700 billion dollars out of the government in the ensuing panic? And that $700 billion is a laughably conservative figure of what the people have paid for the 2008 financial collapse.

To the people who are fond of pointing out that the people supporting Bernie Sanders just don’t understand how economies work I emphatically declare: neither do you.

You do not understand how economies work for the majority. Your current towing-the-line on economic theory amounts to an understanding of how economies work for a small, unscrupulous minority. The evidence is fresh.

Senator Sanders is the only candidate who is willing to see the problem of how badly our economy is failing the majority. And it’s not a matter of him identifying a trending social issue. This is where we return to the integrity of his vision. He has been railing against the issue for 30 years.

Thirty years of Bernie Sanders

Foreign Policy

I am baffled by the cool dismissal of Bernie Sanders on foreign policy. Don’t we want a president who abhors war? Who absolutely cares about veterans? Who considers the consequences of conflicts? Wouldn’t that be nice for a few years?

Every major military action we’ve participated in for the past 50 years seems to have only worsened our global position. Can you point to a conflict that has benefitted the American people in the last 3 quarters of a century?

Bernie Sanders leads a Segregated Housing Protest at the University of Chicago

Human Rights

Bernie Sanders has championed civil liberties and human rights his entire adult life.

If there is any marginalized people that we’ve come around to acknowledging as a nation, Bernie was working for their rights long before those rights became a foregone conclusion.

Not Free Stuff

A word about the eventual garment-rending-in-the-face-of-Socialism that will become a key component of the Republican Party’s platform if the DNC (despite it’s best efforts) manages to nominate a democratic socialist to run for president. I do not believe we are trying to abandon capitalism—I believe we are trying to refine American Democracy.

So first, let’s talk about healthcare. Healthcare already is a right, we just pretend it isn’t. Who pays for ER visits when an uninsured patient goes bankrupt? Yup: us. And why? Why do we treat ER patients who cannot pay? Because a hospital, by law, has to treat anyone who shows up with an urgent medical need. Now before you argue against a law like that, really think about what you’re saying. Places like Salt Lake City are finding phenomenal success reducing the costs of caring for the homeless by giving them homes. Why do we care for the homeless in the first place? Why don’t we let the homeless die in the streets?

Eventually, often at the last instant, we admit we must do something. But that last instant is typically the most expensive. It seems we cannot rid ourselves of a national conscience. Could it be possible that we make our country economically stronger by acknowledging that national conscience earlier on? Isn’t that what single payer healthcare intends to do? To say, “You don’t have to be dying before we as a nation admit you have as much right to live as the guy who can afford to pay insurance premiums.”

Now let’s talk about this other entitlement program that all these lazy millennials just can’t wait to get their hands on: Education. I had to work through college and even then I certainly didn’t pay for it all myself. My father helped a lot at first. I qualified for some grants, and took out some loans. I went to public colleges and universities. I’m still paying off some of the loans—but it’s not crippling debt. I believe it was valuable for me to work that hard to get through school. From my perspective, significantly lowering the cost of a college education is noble, but it’s not the biggest deal in the world. Because if everybody has a chance for an education like mine, I think we’re ok.

But then again I was a married, white, middle-class male. And come to think of it, it still took me 8 years to earn my BFA. There are millions of people who do not have my advantages. So, in that sense I do support dramatically improving access to secondary education. I don’t think it needs to be “free,” but I really don’t mind if we try for it.

In Conclusion

I am uncomfortable getting involved in politics (contrary to recent appearances). I only started learning about Bernie Sanders because I loved the hashtag #feelthebern so much. But I’ve dug deeper on this man than I have any politician before him, and I was as surprised as you are to find out that I #feelthebern.

I do not consider myself a liberal. I’m not registered with a party. If I haven’t covered a policy point in my rant above, you cannot presume to know my position on it. I am not a straight-ticket voter (see above: I’ve voted once). But I am willing to be considered a liberal this year if it means Bernie Sanders becomes our president. And I’m willing to try to articulate why. I hope you’ll do the same.