When I began writing this political analysis column, I explained that I believe in the fundamental equality of all people — and our government’s responsibility to protect and serve the public. I attempt to derive all my political decisions from this basic belief.
In looking at the world around me, I am sorely disappointed by American society’s failure to adhere to these values. Living in a society where the richest 10% held 70% of the wealth in 2018, where we are failing to address the oncoming climate crisis and where we have one of the most inefficient health care systems in the world has degraded my hope in politics and our future.
Thus, in choosing a candidate to support in 2020, I am ready for the radical changes Bernie Sanders is promising. His policies around providing universal college access, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal all appeal to my belief that government should work to serve all of the people.
Sanders’ policy proposals would devote government resources to many of the most pressing problems in America while embracing the ideal of the equality of people. His plan to make public colleges tuition-free would provide students nationwide with a pathway to success debt-free. He would revise our horribly inefficient health care system by providing everyone with access to health care and cutting out the profiteering insurance companies in the process. Furthermore, the Green New Deal endorsed by Sanders is exactly the kind of government investment in its people that America needs while also making the necessary radical changes to address the most pressing crisis of our time: our changing climate.
However, many Democrats (myself included) are far more worried about choosing a nominee who can beat Donald Trump than the policies of their candidate. Donald Trump is a racist, misogynistic plutocrat with authoritarian tendencies and no respect for the rule of law, and it makes sense that getting rid of him is a top priority. Some believe Sanders is not in a place to do that, and the reason for their concern is understandable. Yet assumptions that Sanders is not in the best place to do this are deeply misplaced.
Initially, we can see that Sanders has an extraordinary ability to connect to the broad coalition necessary to win in the general election and bring new voters into the fold. His ability to make a broad coalition was exemplified in his Nevada primary win, where he won in the majority among most demographic and issue groups, even winning some moderate votes.
Moreover, the significant increase in turnout in Nevada was suggestive of Sanders’ ability to encourage new voters. Given the relatively low levels of U.S. voter participation, a candidate’s ability to garner support from new voters can make or break a campaign. By excelling in this area, Sanders is setting himself up for success in the general election.
When thinking back to 2016, Trump gained support from voters who saw themselves as being abandoned by society. These were voters who jumped at a chance for real change that, in their view, was not being offered by Hillary Clinton. Trump, on the other hand, told those voters a story they were willing to hear: that they were the victim. His story was rooted in anti-immigrant sentiments and racism meant to divide and distract people from the larger issues at play, but it was effective.
While Trump offered a political outsider’s story of division in 2016, Sanders offers an outsider’s story of a unifying coalition — one that is actually rooted in the true cause of the plight of America’s working class. More than any other Democratic candidate, Sanders provides a message to people who feel abandoned or frustrated by the American political system: we will not settle for the status quo.
The Democratic Party needs to provide this kind of revolutionary message to succeed in the general election. They must provide it with Bernie Sanders, or many voters searching for it may once again succumb to the alt-right authoritarianism of Donald Trump.
Featured image (at the top of this post): Bernie Sanders public image from 2013. PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. Congress