Feel the Bern
The most progressive candidate in the race for the Democratic Presidential nominee is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. His platforms are laid out brilliantly on his election campaign website. One of his premiere campaign proposals is to expand Medicare for all Americans, policies that, if enacted, would change the lives of countless people in this nation. The United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t provide its citizens with universal healthcare.
His additional major policy proposals include canceling all student loan debt, a fifteen-dollar federal minimum wage, a worker’s right to unionize, making all public universities free for all, cutting our massive defense budget that incentivizes Endless War, and championing the most significant proposed piece of legislation on addressing climate change, the Green New Deal.
To put it simply: if Sanders wins in November 2020, it would be a major shift in the political landscape of the United States.
More than Empty Symbolism: Prioritizing People over Corporations
I believe a Sanders’s win would open the floodgates for more openly progressive politicians, who prioritize people over corporations, to run and win significant offices at all levels of government. In a government that has been too long influenced by corporate money (thanks to Citizens United), a successful progressive uprising would be an enormous accomplishment. Imagine a country with more AOCs, Ilhan Omars, Nina Turners, Rashida Tlaibs, and Anthony Clarks in every state of the union. It would be a nightmare to the Fox Business News crowd, the Wall Street Journal readers, and the MSNBC/CNN elites. But it would present a real win for the working people.
Sanders’s policies would be a tax break for the working and middle classes. In 2009, the Obama Administration, along with the Democratic Congress, passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program to bail out big banks. It was corporations getting that pesky government welfare. Despite those same corporations ripping off millions of homeowners and shipping jobs overseas, while continuing to union-bust their employees for over three decades. The policy proposals presented by the Sanders Campaign would be a bailout for the working and middle class of this nation. Currently, millions of Americans, myself included, owe 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt, college cost continues to rise, and hundreds of millions of Americans struggle with medical debt.
A Sanders win would bring about an age where we genuinely combat corporate greed that threatens not only democracy but human survival on a mass scale thanks to climate change. It would move us past empty symbolism and to tangible action. Specifically, a victory by the Sanders coalition would bring about the end of window-dressing identity politics that has hindered the Democratic Party since the Obama era.
In fact, President Obama embodied the problem with identity politics among the Democrats (the Republicans have their own identity politics problem, embodied most grotesquely by Trump), how it is used to evade the material problems that affect working and middle-class people. President Obama was a black man, yet his neoliberal policies didn’t really help working and middle-class black people. During the recession, for example, the black community’s wealth was cut in half due to the 2008 crash of the housing market. This era also saw the rise of black lives matter as a direct response to race-based police brutality against black people. Having a black president was a game-changer symbolically, of course…it meant that one day a lucky, privileged one of us could now reach the highest office. But what does that having our first black president matter if most of us are struggling just to make ends meet and avoid being shot by racist police? Short answer: it doesn’t matter. It’s just empty symbolism.
No, Bernie is Not Perfect…
Since the 2016 election, there has been a lot of criticism launched at Senator Sanders. For sure, all public officials should be critiqued for their voting records and policies. However, the pernicious myth of the “Bernie Bro” has plagued the Vermont Senator and goes beyond a critique of his voting record. This myth is a symptom of something much nastier. Just scroll down Twitter, and you’ll see folks who think Bernie and his supporters are a bunch of socialist frat boys. To be honest, I’ve yet to meet a socialist frat boy, but I’ve been out of college for over a decade, so who knows. Yes, Senator Sanders does deserve some criticism, but he’s not a bro and nor are his supporters.
I’ve even been called a “Bernie Bro” for pointing out the fact that Sen. Elizabeth Warren pulled a Rachel Dolezal in pretending to be indigenous for almost 20 years at Harvard Law School. I was just telling the truth. Want to know another truth? The Sanders coalition is very diverse. Pramila Jayapal, Killer Mike, Ro Khanna, Carmen Yulín Cruz, Litesa Wallace, and countless others don’t strike me as a bunch of white cis-gendered frat dudes. All you have to do is look at the list of people who have endorsed the Vermont Senator’s presidential campaign to see it ain’t a bunch of bros.
But he’s not perfect. In 2001, he voted for the war in the Afghanistan War that led to trillions of dollars in waste, the loss of countless lives of Afghans, the deaths of thousands of American service members, and left a numerous amount of service members left with the visible and invisible wounds of war. That war still rages on, but away from the public eye since the Bush era. Sen. Sanders apologized for his vote in 2001 for the war in Afghanistan. He admitted he was wrong, a rare act in politics nowadays.
He voted for the disastrous 1994 Crime Bill (lawmakers attached the progressive the Violence Against Women Act to the bill, which helped crackdown on domestic violence and rape). The state that Bernie represents has not been kind to black folks. In a state that is 95% white and called one of the most liberal states in the union, it is a leader in locking up black people.
Black Vermonters make up just 1.2% of the state’s general population, but 10.7% of its incarcerated population. This means that, proportionally, there are nearly 10 times more black people locked up in Vermont’s jails and prisons on a given day than there are walking its streets.
After the election of Trump and the 2018 primaries, Senator Sanders continued to make excuses for white voters’ racism and their gleeful support of an open racist like Donald Trump. Not all Trump voters are racist, but I’m 100% sure that every racist who voted in 2016 picked Donald Trump. There’s talk that as a state rep, then-Representative Sanders called cops on anti-war protesters who were protesting the Bill Clinton Administration’s hawkish policies abroad. These are legit reasons to be critical of the Vermont Senator. No politician is perfect, and I don’t think Senator Sanders is without his flaws. He will need to address these issues as he contends for the highest office in the land.
These legitimate critiques of Sanders, however, have been overshadowed by nasty, illegitimate accusations against him. For example, Hillary Clinton contends he’s a sexist asshole who didn’t support her enough in 2016 to help her win the presidency. But history proves Senator Clinton is a damn liar. Bernie Sanders fought very hard for the neoliberal and hawkish Secretary Clinton to beat the rapist-in-chief Donald Trump.
Then there’s the strange ideological critique that democratic socialism would end America as we know it. Folks like public highways, the fire department, and millions of people take public transit to work and sporting events each year. The U.S. Postal Service and public schools have been revolutionary in changing American civil society. Nations that have democratic socialist leanings and policies have some of the best social safety nets, most egalitarian practices, and rank highest on international happiness polls. It seems like democratic socialism is actually, you know, kind of cool.
We Don’t Need a White Savior
Bernie Sanders will not be a white savior. We don’t need a savior. We need countless people working at all levels to make the United States a more equitable, humane, and just society. As usual, Black folks will continue to fight for equality, and Bernie Sanders could be an ally in the White House. An ally is not a savior. Women’s rights and equality will be a continued fight during Sanders’s administration. But women will have an ally in the White House. The LGBTQ community will still have to fight for their rights and to be recognized as full human beings, but they will have an ally in the White House.
To be fair, Bernie is not a guaranteed ally to anti-war activists. The Anti-War movement will always have to be on guard because American presidents always succumb to the power and money of the Military-Industrial Complex.
All these diverse groups will need to hold a potential President Sanders accountable if he wins in November. Climate Change, income inequality, racial prejudice, religious conflict, and nuclear war still threaten to destroy society. Everyone will have to do their part to address these issues together and collectively.
I believe that a Sanders presidency will mean we have more actual progressives stepping up and running for office to change their local communities for the better. It’s time to end the ‘so-called’ pragmatism of voting for centrists and moderate liberals who are often no better than their Republican counterparts. We, as a nation, are at a tipping point. The working class has been under attack for four decades, at least, and we can’t continue to stand by and tell ourselves, “we’ll get to them later.” I, for one, will only support elected officials who will fight for the middle and working class. My working-class family continues to struggle, and I want them to have a fighting chance. For these reasons, the Evolving Man Project fully endorses Senator Bernard Sanders for the President of the United States. It’s time we had someone for the people in high office.