Americans are Feeling the Bern

January/February 2016

BY ZEKE WESTON, SPORTS EDITOR ’17

With the primaries around the corner, the presidential hopefuls have been campaigning in full force. One name that has caught the attention of the nation is Bernie Sanders. So, who exactly is this guy? You may have heard of him as the crazy old socialist, but that’s not all there is to know about Bernie. The 74-year-old is currently a United States Senator representing Vermont, one of the most economically successful states in the country. It’s no coincidence that the “Green Mountain State” has one of the lowest unemployment rates and one of the highest median household incomes in the nation. Not only has Sanders pushed to make Vermont’s economic structure stable, but he has also contributed to making, what the Huffington Postcalls, “the Greenest state in the U.S.” -and that’s not just because of all the evergreens. With so much success and such a passion for what he does, the former mayor of Burlington has taken the reins as the only Democratic Socialist in the running for the presidency.

Many Americans believe that Hillary Clinton is bound to run away with the Democratic nomination, but in recent months that hasn’t been the case. All eyes have been on the Iowa Caucus, where Clinton squeezed out a 0.3% victory over Sanders. Although Sanders didn’t exactly win that Midwest state, virtually tying Clinton in the Caucus tells the nation that he’s not backing down from the fight for the democratic nomination. With polls underway in New Hampshire, Sanders seems to have taken a respectable  lead thus far. Most believe this is due to the fact that New Hampshire neighbors Sanders’s home state of Vermont, but his increasing national popularity begs to differ.

Much of Bernie’s success is due to his support from young, educated adults. This may seem ironic because of his older age, but in fact, most of his ideas appeal to younger generations. For instance, the Senator has some of the most liberal ideas on education ever to be proposed in this country, including free college tuition for public colleges. Sanders has proposed a way to implement a small tax on Wall Street that would cover the costs of tuition and enable students to attend public colleges and universities for free. What would be know as the College For All Act could possibly be one of most influential acts to date. Allowing youths to receive a college education at no cost will drastically cut student loan debt, freeing future generations from the heavy financial burden students face today.

Other areas Sanders pinpoints as issues that must immediately be addressed focus on the nation’s economy. Democrats are among the biggest supporters of restoring the middle class back in America. To make that happen, Sanders wants to increase  minimum wage to a staggering $15 over time (it is currently less than half that much).  He believes minimum wage should be enough to live on, especially for those who work 40 hours a week. Although it may seem like small businesses will have a tough time paying its employees such high wages, studies prove otherwise. If people all across the economic spectrum are making more money, they’ll be spending more. Therefore, sales will increase allowing small businesses to keep up with the rising wages.

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Photo credit to the Chicago Tribune

Aside from raising the minimum wage, Sanders wants to make a drastic change to big business regulation. His first steps would include ending all off-shore tax havens where major corporations hide millions of dollars to get out of paying taxes on their profits. Sanders would force these corporations to pay their share in taxes in order to help the economy, where the money could be invested in small businesses and the working class. In regards to financial business regulation, Sanders would attempt to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act originally passed during the Great Depression. Such an act would prevent banks from investing people’s savings in risky investments where the potential to fail is high. Many politicians and economists believe that President Bill Clinton’s repeal of the original Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 contributed to the recession in 2008 and re-implementing it will bring back the safeguard it once provided our economy.

In addition to reforming the economy for the better, Sanders has strong ideas on dealing with ISIS. Rather than leading the way in the effort to stop the terrorist group, Bernie believes we should collaborate with our Middle Eastern allies to defeat ISIS. He thinks countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have strong militaries and good relations with the U.S., should lead the effort. In particular, Saudi Arabia maintains one of the highest military budgets in the world financing a very large air force. However, they have yet to take charge in the fight against ISIS; encouraging them to do so could stop the terrorist’s expansion.

Apart from Bernie’s popular views on national and global issues, much of his success is due to the genuine intensity he brings to rallies and debates. He has a certain way of connecting with his audiences that’s like no other candidate, not even Trump. The comfort and assurance of his words, the passion and honesty in his tone, it all makes the underdog that much more appealing. Just by yelling the term “Glass-Steagall” and raising his hands in the air, Sanders can completely make an audience come alive. His supporters scream and shout, chanting “Feel the Bern” to the extent that Sanders himself has to calm them down. It’s a movement like never before, with people pouring in record numbers to his rallies just to feel the adrenaline he raises.

Although his supporters are turning out in record numbers, the most impressive factor of Bernie’s campaign may just be the contributions. Unlike Clinton and Trump, Sanders doesn’t have millions of dollars to spend, nor is he asking wealthy investors for that type of money, which could make him beholden to them.  Instead, he urges his supporters to make small donations in the amounts of $5-$50. No candidate has been able to fund a campaign with such small donations, but Sanders has done just that. The senator has been able to raise millions of dollars just by an average contribution of about $27! Such qualities in a candidate make Sanders a candidate to watch.

Despite the increase in followers of Senator Sanders, defeating Clinton in the Democratic primary is just the first task in the journey to inauguration. If he faces Donald Trump in the general election, many Americans believe Trump and his republican supporters will overpower Sanders. However, picking the right running mate could potentially give Sanders all the momentum he needs to win. For instance, teaming up with Elizabeth Warren, Senator of Massachusetts, may be the perfect solution. The New England duo share many ideas, including limiting big business, suppressing Wall Street, and helping the middle class. Warren, who many believe could’ve been a key competitor if she had joined the race for office, could make a great impact on Bernie’s campaign.

From here on out, this may become one of the most interesting presidential elections to date, with Sanders leading the charge.

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