I am not the only millennial voter who is “feeling the Bern” and vying for Bernie Sanders’ nomination as the Democratic candidate for the presidential election later this year. I am also sure that I’m not alone in being questioned about Bernie Sanders’ validity as a nominee, especially in light of his extremely-leftist views. I have been interrogated by a ridiculous number of friends, family members, and even teammates from my mock trial team on the topic of Bernie Sanders’ domestic policies. I have been particularly questioned on Sanders’ more extremist ideas, like universalizing college tuition for state-funded colleges and universities, his staunch pro-choice views on abortion, and his demands for reforms on Wall Street and corporate corruption.
Where there are extreme ideas, there are those who ridicule them. I’ve heard the reactions from conservative voters often enough to be able to write them down on a checklist. “If you can’t afford to pay for college out-of-pocket, you shouldn’t even be going.” “Bernie would only raise my taxes, and why should they go to help people who are too lazy to get jobs or work hard?” “I think we need to value the lives of our children more than our women’s right to murder!”
As a political science major who never knows when to end an argument, I’ve memorized the most respectful responses: My right to education is not contingent on my privilege, or lack thereof, and expecting me to be able to keep up with the ever-rising cost of college is part of the problem with America’s economy in the first place.* Most of Bernie Sanders’ proposed tax plans aren’t going to affect the middle or lower classes, but even if they were, your taxes would only support citizens who suffer from various physical or mental illnesses that keep them out of work, or solve problems posed by unemployment in ways that lack long-term sustainability, which is another problem in and of itself*. And lastly, as of the large numbers of people who have referred to abortion as “murder” to win a moral argument against me, they were quickly made aware of my staunch support for pro-choice arguments and women’s rights to privacy and bodily autonomy.* Basically, I’ve seen it all, and worse for them, I believe in it all, too.
That’s what makes me support Sanders, despite all the complaints that his vocal views have garnered. I love seeing a politician who actively hates corruption, especially when so many past presidents have been guilty of it. He rarely minces his words or goes back on previously stated opinions. Not to say that someone cannot learn and change their ideas over time, but it’s reassuring to see a candidate who used to picket for civil rights protests back in college and is fighting for those same rights now. Don’t believe me? Pictured below is Bernie Sanders during a college protest against segregation. Evidence like this appeals to voters like me, who are vying for candidates that speak their minds and stand by their convictions, despite influences like the costs of campaigning or the corruption of being bought off by sponsors. Sanders not only fights against these influences; he criticizes their role in the electoral process.
Aside from giving a lot of millennials a candidate they can understand and sympathize with, Bernie Sanders is important, regardless of whether or not he even wins the nomination, or the election later this year. It is precisely because of all those views that Sanders garners criticism so easily when compared to the Democratic Party’s other candidate for the presidency: Hillary Clinton.
Clinton has earned my respect by forging her own political career regardless of her husband’s time spent in office and the subsequent scandals. She made national headlines as a viable rival to Barack Obama in 2008, then 2012, and seems to be in the lead this election year. However, she has also made a name for herself with her centrist ideas, similar to Barack Obama. (Please see here for a great profile on Hillary Clinton and her policies, written by herself and her staff.)
Where Clinton falters, Sanders gains traction. While she is often prone to trying to appeal to as many voters as possible and makes her blanket statements stretch further during debates, Sanders is not willing to accept grey areas. During their debates, his strong stances with regard to domestic and foreign policies force Clinton to give the voters consolidated ideas about her policy agendas. While most elections feature candidates vying to be the most centered of the group, this year is different. Sanders is important because he is a candidate who is not letting the rhetoric of an election skew his image for the voters. Because of this, he’s not letting Clinton—or any previous candidates—get away with noncommittal stances or ambiguous speeches.
Bernie Sanders is important to me because he is a presidential candidate who is prioritizing the issues that I, and so many other American citizens, take personally. He is not letting any candidate get away with ambiguity on issues that directly affect social and economic policies, like previous years have seen. If Bernie Sanders loses the Democratic nomination, I still believe he will have been a game-changing aspect of this election because he will give the American people a much more intelligible idea about each candidate before us, based on his pursuit of truth and clarity in these debates and primaries.
Thank you, Senator Bernie Sanders, for supporting people like me with your agendas and policies aimed at achieving equality. You have my vote in the upcoming primary elections, here in my home state of New York. I hope your message will be as influential in these next few months as I believe it has the potential to be. Good luck, Senator Sanders, and may the most unambiguous candidate win.
*These are solely my personal views, and do not represent the views of everyone here at VocaLady Magazine.