Meet Bernie Sanders. Properly, this time.
This article is now on the Huffington Post Politics Blog, where I will be blogging regularly, while also continuing to upload articles here on Medium. It’s also been published by Observer, if you intend to share the piece, which I hope you do, please do so with the Observer version.
This is an open letter to the American people.
In the race to decide the next President of your arguably great nation, there is one candidate who has been drawing the largest crowds of any candidate visiting the key primary state of Iowa (including the Republican primary candidates, who probably estimate about 1% of the American population at this point). A candidate who out-fundraised Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul in any of their first 24 hours as candidates. A candidate whose policies align with the majority of Americans on everything from income inequality to money’s role in politics to the minimum wage to federally financed political campaigning to abortion to overturning Citizens United to global warming and government taking action to combat it to the affordability of a college degree to gun control to government surveillance to passing a law legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. A candidate who was one of the thousands of Americans who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in his historic March on Washington in 1963. A candidate who has served as a mayor (being one of the earliest proponents of a lot of the policies that are nowadays commonplace in municipal government), a congressman and a senator, with deep knowledge of the American political system and equally deep, authentic convictions that he has held onto for his entire political career.
There is also only one candidate who so far has been either ignored or ridiculed by the massive majority of the American media during his entire campaign. A candidate whose campaign kickoff had the most attendees of that of any candidate so far, and yet was mostly ignored by most media outlets, or relegated to a side-note about a general story on the race, while candidates like ex-Governor and current-who-are-you-supposed-to-be George Pataki got major coverage. A candidate whose disproportionately tiny actual coverage includes headlines such as Bernie Sanders for President? Why Not? and flattering subtitles like “Why Sanders draws the crowds, excites the base, polls relatively well — and still won’t make much of an impact in 2016.” A candidate who straight-up got asked by Katie Couric whether he’d like to be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidate and who is constantly reminded that “success” would be pulling Clinton’s campaign farther to the left on certain policies. I mean, come on.
That candidate’s name is Bernie Sanders, and he could, and should, be the 45th President of the United States of America.
Saying what I’ve just said shouldn’t be a controversial thing. If anything, it’s by all means a perfectly sound thing to say when writing about a political candidate.
So, I will now address the groups of people that somehow remarkably make saying “this old white heterosexual American man whose platform is entirely in touch with most of mainstream American politics should be President” a weird, taboo thing to say.
First off, the general news media. Apart from what I said above, there is really something genuinely worrying about the concept of a news media largely owned by millionaires (and in some cases billionaires) who employ millionaire anchors and writers shunning the one candidate in favor of major redistribution of wealth away from America’s top earners and into the middle class. The media can make or break a candidate, and, unlike ever before, the current 2016 presidential race coverage seems determined to break Bernie Sanders, with some exceptions currently applying the ol’ “oh would you look at that he’s actually doing well maybe we should stop blatantly dismissing his campaign” approach to reporting. Looking at you, New York Times.
This is not a matter of bias. It is a matter of math.
Sanders is polling better among the Democratic primary electorate than any candidate in the Republican electorate. That is a fact. He is drawing larger crowds than any other candidate in Iowa. Also a fact. Hillary Clinton only beat him by 8 points in a recent Wisconsin Democratic Party straw poll. Fact. His positions are not far-left or fringe; by the mere definitions of those terms, they cannot be if they are accepted by a majority of the American people. Fact. So, why is the media ignoring and/or acting like a gang of grade school bullies about Bernie’s campaign?
Don’t make it about socialism either, now. FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. both got called socialists in their day, so good luck arguing that it’s a step in the wrong direction, Sanders just happens to use the label. A majority of Americans don’t identify as libertarians, but the media is not treating Rand Paul like a fringe candidate. A majority of Americans don’t identify as sympathizers of the Tea Party, but the media is not treating Ted Cruz like a fringe candidate. Also, one quick thing, he’s a democratic socialist. There’s a difference. One word. An entire word that references a completely different set of policies, a different set of foreign examples.
Granted, the U.S. has had a major issue with communism in the past century, and communists tends to associate themselves with socialism, and some people argue that it’s difficult to get Americans to even understand the difference between the two. But it is no- actually, no, wait, let me just say this next bit with the fancy big font:
It is not the media’s job to decide what the American people can and cannot hear. That is dishonesty, that is lying. It is the media’s job to keep the American people informed. That’s what it’s there for, and doing anything else is simply abusing the trust millions and millions of Americans have for the current news media system.
Speaking of the American public, I’d like to speak directly with everyone who is hesitant to support Bernie Sanders. Statistically, reader, that’s probably you. If you’re scared of a vote for Bernie being a vote thrown away, firstly, we’re only talking about primaries as of right now, losing the race doesn’t put anybody in office or screw anybody over, it just means somebody else gets the Democratic candidacy. That’s it. Vote for the candidate you believe in, period. If you’re disillusioned with the voting process as a whole, stand up, get yourself together, take some time out of your day and go vote for Bernie in your state primary (you might want to find out when your state primary is, first). That sort of lazy, voting-won’t-work attitude is exactly what those who rig the process want the American public to fall into so as to make pushing their horrible agendas easier. If you don’t like Hillary Clinton but think she has a better shot at winning the Oval Office, then help make that not be the case anymore. Go out. Vote. Promote Bernie (or O’Malley, if you’re weird that way). Share this article. Write one yourself. Volunteer. Yes, the system is rigged, no doubt about it, but taking actual, concrete action for candidates like Bernie is the only way to actually fix it.
No candidate is ever inevitable and no candidate is ever doomed, that is not how democracy works. A society that continually wishes to achieve political change in the most passive way possible is not a society that will ever achieve political change. A candidate is only inevitable or doomed if the voting public decides that to be the case.
But that’s a general point, back to Bernie. “But, you may be asking yourself, what about [insert candidate here]? I think [insert candidate here] is by far a better choice than Sanders for the White House.” Obviously, I may not know what a “candidate turn-off” might be for you, reader, but I can certainly think of a few for every other 2016 candidate.
George Pataki vetoed raising the minimum wage in New York, despite the support of the state’s population and both houses of the legislature. Rick Santorum equated same-sex marriage to “polygamy and incest” and abortion to slavery. Martin O’Malley’s policies as mayor of Baltimore helped create the very same police system that allowed for the 2015 riots in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray. Ben Carson has compared the Obama administration to both Nazi Germany and the United States back when slavery was legal. Lincoln Chafee “endorsed the bankruptcy reforms that allow banks to pursue debtors through the process and restrict consumer use of bankruptcy as a protection, […] supported partial privatization of Social Security and voted for the USA Patriot Act.” Marco Rubio is on the Koch Brothers’ payroll, and is therefore all for gutting horrible, horrible programs like Social Security and the Pell Grant. Chris Christie pulled stunts with Exxon Mobil that positively reek of corruption. Ted Cruz joked about beating his wife at a campaign event.
And, last but most certainly not least, Hillary Clinton. The only “grassroots campaign” that has mounted campaign operations in all 50 states, uses the word “grassroots” so much it’ll make your head spin, and runs a grotesquely overproduced Twitter feed. It’s not that Hillary Clinton’s turn towards progressive policies is at all bad, it’s just that, well, if Bernie and his policies are juice, she’s that weird, Dasani flavored water. She’s the anti-hipster, admitting she’s a fan once the band gets popular. It’s not that most liberals (in fact, probably most Americans) wouldn’t happily vote for Hillary Clinton in a presidential election, it’s that she simply does not represent the values that she is now presenting. Her money is just not where her mouth is. Being a supporter of hers, it does pain me to say it. But come on.
She makes more off of a single speaking gig than most Americans do in an entire year, and yet claims to be a champion for a middle-class she cannot even pretend to truly understand. She wants to help get big money out of politics, and yet her campaign counts on a big fat Super PAC that hopes to raise $2 billion dollars, more than any candidate has ever raised, in history, in any nation, period. Heck, her list of Senate campaign contributors looks like a Wikipedia list of Wall Street banks and healthcare giants. Her local campaign “roundtable discussions” are made up of vetted, handpicked people from the communities she visits, with not a dissenting voice in sight. She is pro-surveillance in the name of safety, the majority of Americans aren’t. She is considered untrustworthy by a majority of Americans. Do not be afraid to say Hillary Clinton is not the candidate for you because you don’t want a Republican in the White House. Hillary Clinton is not the only option.
Tell me again why Bernie Sanders can’t win. Tell me again why Bernie Sanders’s campaign is doomed.
Is it the money? I don’t know if you know this, but money does not decide if a campaign is credible or not, the people do, in a process called voting. Not to mention that the crowds he has received in Iowa show just how credible his campaign already is in the eyes of the people. And for a primary candidate, especially one that refuses to have anything to do with billionaires or PAC’s, the Sanders campaign has raised a remarkable amount of money and volunteers.
Is it the fact that he’s never been a Democrat or a Republican? Because, well… I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump and Ben Carson have never held elected office for a political party. At all.
Is it his age? Because Sanders isn’t even close to being the oldest person in the Senate, filibustered for eleven hours on President Obama’s extension of the Bush Tax Cuts just four years ago (by the way that’s a 124-page transcript), resonates fantastically well with older Americans (a group that certainly proved they are a force to be reckoned with in the 2014 midterm elections), and, for the record, while, yes, Bernie would be America’s oldest president yet, Hillary would be the second oldest, sandwiched between Ronald Reagan and William Henry Harrison.
Is it his looks? Because, I’ll have you know, Vermont’s beloved democratic socialist son didn’t look half bad in his younger days.
In all seriousness, Bernie is by all means a candidate that is not to be taken lightly, a by-the-numbers major player in the race to be the next president of the richest, most powerful country in human history. He is a candidate with firm values, authentic determination and a thorough set of solutions to the problems facing America today. And it is about time we started treating him that way.