The Modern Girl’s Guide to Politics: Bernie Sanders

After last week’s post about Donald Trump, it seemed only fitting that we swing ourselves in the opposite direction to the candidate who seems to stand directly opposed to him in every facet (except, you know, sex and race and age), which brings us to: Bernard Sanders, junior U.S. Senator from Vermont. Believe it or not, Senator Sanders has generated almost as much press as the Donald — although in wildly different ways — and provoked surprisingly similar responses from his fans and haters alike. So how is it that in an election cycle where voters are begging for change, two old white dudes have come out eliciting the strongest responses in voters? Is it possible that these two have more in common than not? Probably, but not in the way you’d think.

Bernie Sanders: The Democratic Dark Horse Candidate

When CNN published the press release about Sanders’ candidacy announcement in April of 2015, they came right out and said the obvious: an actual Democratic nomination was a long shot. And in early 2015 it looked like it would be. A fringe candidate with little support, little name recognition, and almost no money — how could it possibly work? Well, as one news article aptly put it, there is something refreshing about his “odd gimmick” of saying the same thing for 40 years. And that’s a gimmick a lot of voters can get behind. No one expected him to do this well, and now that he has the Democrats are finding themselves left with more questions than answers about what’s going to happen in the coming months. Buckle up folks, because every time someone tells Bernie they’re seeing his exit sign on the highway, he just breezes right past it.   

Why Some People Love Him:

Remember when we said before that a lot of Americans were feeling disenfranchised? Well, that perceived lack of efficacy runs both in directions of the political spectrum. Voters, particularly Millennials — who are unquestioningly the most progressive voter block this election cycle — aren’t just feeling the political Bern, they’re feeling it in their wallets and their lives as well, with the latter no doubt seriously informing their views on the former. A USA Today poll conducted in January revealed that despite their liberal social leanings, the top priority for Millennials was fixing the economy — an unsurprising find given that they came of age in a world where a college degree no longer guaranteed job security or economic freedom. Senator Sanders’ messaging on the one percent speaks directly to the fear that income inequality has swelled beyond a point of natural correction, and that a radical new approach is needed to address it.  

Why Some People Hate Him:

Senator Sanders considers himself a Democratic socialist, and as everyone’s angry uncle who lives in the woods can tell you, socialism is dangerous! Unfortunately for your uncle, many seem to forget the far more important “Democratic” on the front of that, and have thus railed against him as an anti-American freedom hater determined to ruin our great nation, without recognizing that our great nation is, in fact, partially socialist already (i.e. Social Security, Medicare, the military, etc) and most people are pretty cool with it. But Bernie’s biggest foes haven’t been the conservative detractors bent on discrediting his worldview, but fellow Democrats who want to pump the breaks on his progressivism. With many citing his super-leftist policies as infeasible in today’s political and economic climate, the cries against him have oscillated between being outright Pro-Hillary and more commonly We-Just-Can’t-Handle-Sanders-Yet. The voting public is having a hard time making its mind up about it, too.   

What Does This Candidacy Say About America?

So how are Sanders and Trump similar? Well if it wasn’t clear before, it certainly should be now: a lot of Americans are unhappy, and most of them are pretty sure the President could do something about that. The Sanders campaign has revealed as large a fissure in the Democratic Party as Trump’s has for the Republicans, partially because Sanders is also considered an “outsider” candidate, but partially because there are equal differences in perspective amongst liberals. As usual, the divergence is not a question of type (government involvement or no), but degree. On the one hand, you have moderate Democrats arguing that we can’t expect everything to get better at all once, and that we need to advocate for incremental, realistic change in keeping with public sentiment and Congressional makeup. On the other, you have progressives making the argument — as one supporter being (perhaps unwittingly) mocked did in this Samantha Bee video (see 4:53) — “Do you ask for a loaf of bread and get half, or do you ask for a slice and get crumbs?” While the Democratic Convention — and thus the official nomination — is still a few months away, the Party is going to need to come to a relative consensus on things pretty quickly, because there are hundreds of other races up and down the ticket that depend on a unified party to help their chances in November. So the question on everybody’s minds now is: just far and how wide is this revolutionary fire going to Bern?