Why I Will Vote For Bernie Sanders

America has a serious problem with inequality. The gap between the rich and the poor is one of the widest among developed nations and has reached levels last seen in the Roaring Twenties before the Great Crash. Although the productivity and wealth of the nation have grown rapidly, the wages of ordinary workers have stagnated. Average wages have remained more or less the same for forty years. While wealth becomes increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, more and more people fall into poverty. Unions have had their strength drained from them and adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is lower than it was fifty years ago. To be successful in America nowadays has less to do with your skill and abilities and more to do with where you were born and how rich your parents were.

This inequality is also having a damaging effect on politics. In fact the political system in America has become so corrupted that it often resembles little more than legalised bribery. In theory, a democracy should be open to everyone and all should have an equal say. In reality, America is being pulled away from its origins as a Republic and towards that of an oligarchy. Running for election has become enormously expensive and candidates must have millions in the bank before they can even consider running. It has gotten so bad that the first question reporters ask about a candidate is not about their vision for the country or whether their policies will benefit America, but whether or not they can raise enough money to run.

The people with the most money to donate to candidates are not ordinary people but the wealthy and corporations. Few of them donate as an act of charity, most of them want something in return. In fact, corporations look at donations as an investment and however much they donate, they expect to make a profit on it. To even consider running for office, a candidate must pander to the wealthy and tell them what they want to hear. Once elected, these donors want special access and influence to the politician. They often even draft laws and put huge pressure on how the politician will vote. A recent study showed that the ordinary citizen has next to zero influence on public policy, whereas elites have huge influence. In short, the votes of politicians are for sale.

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Few politicians are willing to challenge the system. Bernie Sanders is one of the few exceptions. He has been criticising economic inequality for decades. He has been making a strong stand against inequality and even goes as far as to call himself a Socialist. He advocates taxing the wealthy and strengthening the welfare state. He wants to end corporate welfare (where big business gets billions of dollars in subsidies from the government) and clamp down on corporate tax dodging. He has proposed introducing a Financial Transaction Tax to combat financial speculation. Nor are these recent stances of his, he has been opposing financial deregulation for decades. Not only does he wish to re-instate the Glass-Steagall Act (one of the main pillars of financial regulation) but he voted against repealing it in the first place. His warnings of the dangers of unregulated financial capitalism have been proven correct.

Campaign finance reform is a major part of Sanders campaign and he is committed to removing money from politics. He has warned that America is in danger of becoming an oligarchy ruled by a handful of billionaires. He wants to limit influence of money and take donations out of the hands of corporations, instead requiring that only citizens can donate. Instead elections should be publicly funded to provide a level playing field without the influence of big business. He is particularly passionate in his opposition to Super PACs which basically allow unlimited donations (and therefore influence). He has put his words into action and is the only candidate who does not have a Super PAC raising money for him. All his donations are above board and come from ordinary citizens.

A key force in the battle against inequality are unions and Sanders is by far the most pro-union candidate (he even received a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO). Unions are an essential in promoting the welfare and rights of workers, without which they have a far weaker bargaining position. The decline of unions in America coincided with the rise of inequality and the decline in the share of national wealth that labour received. Sanders has also promoted co-operatives that give their workers a say in how the business is run. This essentially brings democracy into the workplace. He is a strong defender of the rights of low paid workers and supports raising the minimum wage to $15.

Unlike the minor and piecemeal reform that most Democrats (unfortunately including Obama) offer, Sanders proposes radical change. Instead of merely tinkering with the healthcare system, he has campaigned for a complete overhaul. Instead of continuing America’s current healthcare policy which manages to combine incredibly high costs with inefficient outcomes and gaping inequalities, Sanders wants complete universal healthcare. This has proven a success in many European countries, providing equal healthcare to all people regardless of their income while still costing less. Healthcare should be a right for all citizens, not a luxury for the rich.

Another major proposal of Sanders is to make college free for everyone. At the moment college in America is absurdly expensive, costing roughly $9,000 a year on average. College is a gateway to further opportunities but many people are blocked from following their dreams and careers because they don’t have enough money. Or they end up taking on huge levels of debts that takes many long years to pay off. Education should be a right, not a privilege.

He has a good record on the environment and proposed bills to drastically reduce global warming. He co-sponsored a bill that aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and supported a carbon tax. He is one of the only politicians to recognise that the War on Drugs cannot be won and disproportionately harms the lives of young black men. In fact he supports the decriminalisation of cannabis and medical marijuana, which is an enormous step forward for any politician to take. He opposes the death penalty and attempts to make the justice system even harsher, referring to instead focus on rehabilitation. He also supports the separation of Church and State. Unlike most candidates he doesn’t wave his religion around like a sword, instead he keeps it to himself (he describes himself as a Secular Jew). He has a long history of supporting a woman’s right to choose.

He is a strong defender of civil rights (in fact he took part in the March on Washington when Martin Luther King made his “I Have A Dream” speech) in particular voting rights. He opposes voter suppression measures taken by the Republicans and the gerrymandering of electoral districts that rig elections. He supports extending the right to vote to ex-felons and even those still in prison, in fact Vermont is one of only two states where even current prisoners may vote. He aims to reduce the American two party system by introducing an Alternative Vote system (where voters can rank the candidates in order of preference and there is no such thing as a wasted vote).

It would be hard to match Sanders’ record in Congress. He has been on the right side of pretty much every issue for the last two decades and even when Democrats went wrong, Sanders stayed true to his convictions. He voted against the Defence of Marriage Act (which prevented same-sex marriage), the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the Bush tax cuts, welfare cuts, and the bank bailouts. He was a supporter of gay marriage long before it was popular and consistently opposed the War on Terror from the beginning. In contrast Clinton has only taken up progressive causes once the tide has turned and a clear majority support them.

Of course he isn’t perfect and there are areas where his views don’t fully match mine. His record on guns is mixed and he has voted against some gun control laws. However, there are other aspects of gun control such as bans on assault weapons that he supports. He is broadly pro-immigration, supporting the DREAM Act and opposing the fence with Mexico. However, he is not too positive on working visas, fearing that they might push down wages. But you will never find a politician with whom you agree 100%, so Sanders is as close as you can get.

Many say that Sanders has no chance of winning and that Clinton is guaranteed to be the Democratic nominee. This was constantly repeated when Sanders entered the race and the polls were 60-10 in Clinton’s favour. However, since then Sanders has been riding a huge wave of enthusiasm and shot up in the polls so that it is a much closer 42-27. He is even winning in New Hampshire and polling strongly in Iowa. Surprisingly, he has almost matched Clinton in terms of money raised last quarter, raising $26 million from ordinary people, compared to $28 Clinton raised with the help of a Super PAC and extensive fundraising among financial institutions who would surely prefer her over a Socialist. Sanders has even gotten over a million donations a feat Obama didn’t reach until after the Iowa Caucus in 2008.

But most importantly of all, Sanders has built a huge grassroots movement. He has held enormous rallies that are beyond what any other candidate can compare. Tens of thousands of people show up to hear him speak at stadiums all over the country. No other candidate can match him for the enthusiasm or passion of his base.

Just one of the many massive Bernie Sanders rallies
Just one of the many massive Bernie Sanders rallies

But judging a candidate solely based on their chances of winning is missing the bigger picture. Elections are not simply a horse race where the only thing that matters is who wins, they are also a national discussion in how we view society and which direction we want the country to go. Sanders is putting issues like economic inequality and campaign finance front and centre of the debate and preventing them from being swept under the carpet. He is mobilising huge numbers of people and getting them active in politics for the first time. Elections are not won simply by running to the centre, but by energising voters and giving them a strong reason to vote for you.

Hillary Clinton simply cannot match this. While she is better than any Republican, she is still part of the establishment. She is heavily funded by financial institutions, often the same ones who were responsible for the financial crisis. She is too embedded in the system to challenge it and has no fresh ideas. She has no vision or ideas that will change America, instead she offers more of the same. A Clinton presidency would be like a third term of the Obama administration, things won’t get worse (as they currently would under a Republican) but things wouldn’t get too much better either. Many people support Clinton because they believe she is the only Democrat who can win, but what is the point of winning if you don’t change anything?

So I am proud to say that when the New York Democratic Primary comes, I will vote for Bernie Sanders and hopefully, so will you.

To learn more about where Bernie Sanders stands on the issues, see FeelTheBern.org and On The Issue

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30 thoughts on “Why I Will Vote For Bernie Sanders”

  1. I thought you were in Ireland :)?
    Great post here. I don’t know if it is true everywhere but I think most people who vote, sometimes even vote for candidates whose goals are so diametrically opposed to theirs as long as they are told what they want to hear

  2. What do you think about his stance on trade? He opposes NAFTA and normal trade relations with China. Seems to me that he is opposed to free trade in general. Add that with his proposed tax increases on businesses, as well as the $15 minimum, it seems that fewer companies will want to do business in America. American businesses are already trying to relocate to other countries to avoid America’s already high corporate tax rates. Burger King + Tim Hortons in Canada comes to mind. Also I don’t see how he’ll implement the free college education. And even if he does wouldn’t the increased supply of college education decrease the value of a degree?

    Anyways, out of all the candidates, Democrat or Republican, Sanders seems like the most honest and trustworthy one even if I don’t agree with him on some issues. His civil rights record is very solid.

    1. There are no Black-White related “civil rights” issues in modern America. 95% of them were resolved by 1975; the rest were fully resolved before the beginning of the 21st century. Today, even the police treats everyone equally badly (or well).

          1. I feel like on that question you’re screwed no matter how you answer it. Black lives matter? Oh, so you don’t care about any other lives. All Lives matter? Looks like you’re racist against black people. Given how low he’s currently polling with blacks, he can’t really answer all lives matter and risk alienating that demographic even more. Although I will say, it’s funny he’s defending the Black Lives Matter movement when they actually attacked him at one of his rallies.

            1. Yeah; I know, it’s a mark of surrender. Trump doesn’t do that. I would have answered “Black lives is a subset of all lives” and then talked about sub-Saharan Africa and malaria the rest of the time.

              1. Huh, that’s actually a really good answer, “black lives are a subset of all lives”. I know I wouldn’t have thought of that in time.

        1. Not one large enough to hold back Black people in any substantial way. Looking at racism and Black people is similar to looking at child abuse and children: the evidence is highly anecdotal in nature and the behavior seems to be fairly rare, and certainly does not have a strong effect on the median life outcomes of children or Blacks as a whole.

          And, yes, credible. Racism is not an issue in the fifty plus Black-majority countries. Only one of them- the Bahamas- is a first-world country in the manner of Israel. And the Bahamas was well in the first world before its independence from supposed British racists.

  3. “America has a serious problem with inequality.”
    -I see the inequality; I don’t see the problem. Maybe it’s because I’m not a psychological communist.
    “Although the productivity and wealth of the nation have grown rapidly, the wages of ordinary workers have stagnated.”
    -Why should unproductive low-wage workers gain the benefits of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs’ productivity? It makes no sense. And I’ve never seen an analysis of AHETPI and GDP from an accounting perspective. Why is that?
    “Unions have had their strength drained from them and adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is lower than it was fifty years ago.”
    -But not 1994 or 2006. The optimum minimum wage is zero dollars.
    “To be successful in America nowadays has less to do with your skill and abilities and more to do with where you were born and how rich your parents were.”
    -That’s false. The Bell Curve demonstrated this two decades ago. The share of pure heirs among the richest people in the U.S. has plummeted since the 1980s.

    A recent study showed that the ordinary citizen has next to zero influence on public policy, whereas elites have huge influence.

    -The R2 was under .2. That’s not a very strong correlation.

    He wants to end corporate welfare (where big business gets billions of dollars in subsidies from the government)

    -I don’t believe it. Does he support abolishing farmers’ subsidies, as I do?

    He has proposed introducing a Financial Transaction Tax to combat financial speculation.

    -A terrible idea.

    His warnings of the dangers of unregulated financial capitalism have been proven correct.

    -Right, because the U.S. financial sector in 2003 was totally unregulated. Nope, no regulation on the credit ratings agencies at all. And no regulator ever supported the idea of expanding homeownership for illegal immigrants.

    He wants to limit influence of money and take donations out of the hands of corporations, instead requiring that only citizens can donate.

    -Corporations are largely composed of citizens. And I have a better idea: creating a third house of Congress in which members are drawn by nationwide lottery.

    Instead elections should be publicly funded to provide a level playing field without the influence of big business.

    -Boo. And there’s nothing wrong with Super PACs. They’re a fundamental part of Americans’ freedom of speech.

    The decline of unions in America coincided with the rise of inequality and the decline in the share of national wealth that labour received.

    -The decline of unions happened from the 1960s onwards; the rise of inequality happened from the early 1980s onwards; the decline of the labor share of income (not wealth) happened from 2000 onwards (or, alternatively, from the 1940s or the 1970s).

    He is a strong defender of the rights of low paid workers and supports raising the minimum wage to $15.

    -Terrible idea.

    This has proven a success in many European countries, providing equal healthcare to all people regardless of their income while still costing less.

    -Then why has no U.S. state tried it out?

    Education should be a right, not a privilege.

    -First, virtually no education goes on in college campuses that could not be done for free online. The value of a college degree lies largely in signaling. Fully funded college tuition for all students is a massive waste of money, especially for students with the least potential.
    And 9000 a year is only if the university offers you no scholarships for good test scores and grades. Realistically, it’s more like $4500.

    He has a good record on the environment and proposed bills to drastically reduce global warming.

    -No, even a 100% reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions will do absolutely nothing to “drastically reduce global warming”, especially if the fossil fuel revolution comes to Africa.
    http://www.cato.org/blog/current-wisdom-we-calculate-you-decide-handy-dandy-carbon-tax-temperature-savings-calculator

    He opposes voter suppression measures taken by the Republicans and the gerrymandering of electoral districts that rig elections. He supports extending the right to vote to ex-felons and even those still in prison, in fact Vermont is one of only two states where even current prisoners may vote.

    -Boo.

    He aims to reduce the American two party system by introducing an Alternative Vote system (where voters can rank the candidates in order of preference and there is no such thing as a wasted vote).

    -Yay.

    Also, Sanders voted for the bombing of Serbia. Anything to say about that?

    I support Trump. He’s the only Republican who is both financially independent and can win.

      1. That wasn’t an argument; it was an expression of disagreement. I don’t actually hope to convince a Democrat to abandon democracy for the benefit of the other side. And the Republican primaries are still months away. I haven’t voted for anyone yet, and my choice could easily change (but is unlikely to). I’m not going to support any actual Nazis like Christie.

    1. I haven’t much time, so I’m only going to address one item in your list.

      >First, virtually no education goes on in college campuses that could not be done for free online. The value of a college degree lies largely in signaling. Fully funded college tuition for all students is a massive waste of money, especially for students with the least potential.

      Yeah, that’s wrong. Look, I get the inside perspective. I hang out with professors. Hell, I sleep with one. Ironically, many undergrads miss what they’re actually paying for in college. It’s not the ability to take a course, or even to be graded on a course, it’s the ability to interact with a professor. (Advice to undergrads: go and interact with your professors.)

      My husband has made it quite clear: he’s not threatened by online courses; he’s even put his own courses online. What students are really paying for is the ability to discuss chemistry with him.

      1. No doubt there’s an element of that (especially for foreign language instruction), but that’s not how most college courses work. And even with foreign languages and chemistry and whatnot, if you spend enough time online, you will get all the answers you need. My original point fully stands.

        Caplan, a college professor, on why the signaling model of education works:
        http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/07/the_future_of_o_1.html

        Bryan Caplan will soon have his Case Against Education out. I really hope it sells.

        Also, you gay or something?

  4. I’m a Trump supporter, saying that, I can see why people like Sanders. He seems genuine. He has a real passion. And I enjoyed listening to him.

    I do not want the US to be a socialist country. I feel we have too many people for it to work the way it does in smaller countries. But I do respect Sanders for saying what he truly is, a socialist.

  5. Please note that the “decline of unions” was not by accident or by mis-management but by a concerted effort by conservative groups (see Scott Walker, WS for the latest efforts).

    Free trade? Free trade? Free trade is a joke. What the oligarchs consider as “free trade” is “we win” and their “we” doesn’t include “us.” The lastest efforts at free trade agreements are primarily crony capitalism woven into the fabric of international trade, disempoyering political states and empowering corporations against them. Since we are a “democracy” such agreements are anti-democratic (and anti-socialist, anti-everything).

    And Bernie Saunders is about as much a socialist as Donald Trump is. Bernie is a collectivist, one who says that the needs of the many are often greater than the needs of the few. If you look at his socialist policies, they are not far removed from what we have now. There is no argument that we have a socialist army or a socialist government, the country/state owns the enterprise. We have had a socialist post office until the radicals in the GOP decided to do away with it (I don’t know how much longer it can last).

    Democratic socialism is a proven economic system but is constantly painted with a brush of despotic socialism, which it is not. This is the economic version of playing the Nazi card: Socialism? Mao Tse Tung was a socialist! Hitler was a socialist! etc.

    1. Denmark has no minimum wage and a far greater degree of privatization of public services (in areas like police and fire) than the U.S. does today. As does Sweden (there is a strong government-funded private school system). Socialism?

      NAFTA was better than status quo. I don’t know if TPP would be better than status quo, as it’s so secretive.

      Sometimes, states should be disempowered, e.g., over speech and religion. You got a problem with that? Is the removal of blasphemy laws undemocratic?

      The decline of unions was due to non-union businesses gaining more employees than union-shop businesses. Simple as that. The power of the market.

    1. Scott Sumner is a terrible hack of a writer and that post is no exception. It would take too long to go through all the errors in his post, but some of the main ones is that he seems to be unaware that the Heritage Foundation index is absolutely useless and shouldn’t be used by anyone. His attempt at correlation=causation is something I would have expected from a 1st year student. Every European country has a socialist party and just because they exist, doesn’t mean they have any influence. Then he picks one anecdote to support himself.

      1. Scott Sumner is God, or, at least, the person who is closest to resembling the conventional view of him in the West. The Heritage Index does have its flaws, obviously, and I wouldn’t use it as a front-line go-to source, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it correlates well with other, more realistic measures of economic freedom (e.g., the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, which still contains some nonsense, but less than the Heritage Index). Sumner may well be fully aware of the index’s flaws, but still understanding it to be generally reliable for his purposes. Krugman is a hack, and Bob Murphy can be at times, but at least he tries not to be, while Krugman tries deliberately to be as hacky as possible.

        PASOK had lots of influence on the course of Greek history. On its economic history, not in a good way at all. On major Socialist parties, Sumner seems to be wrong on Austria, Sweden, and the UK. Or, perhaps, he knows more than I do about the relevant political parties. Labor, for example, certainly didn’t act socialist the last time it was in power.

  6. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is not primarily about free trade. It is an attempt to write a corporate wish list into international law. That is why its U.S. proponents are minimizing the time that the public has to examine it before it is voted on.

    1. Unless it affects internal American affairs (which it may well), the TPP isn’t really important. Only if Indonesia decisively joins in on the agreement can it be said to have a strong effect on U.S. foreign trade.

    2. The TPP and its sister proposals, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trade In Services Agreements, are an attempt to create international law that limits the ability of sovereign governments to regulate financial markets, pollution and health hazards, and lock in corporate-friendly legislation concerning patents, copyright and international property. Foreign corporations will have the right to demand compensation for laws and regulations that deprive them of expected profits.

      It will affect the internal affairs of every nation that signs it, not just the USA.

      I have written extensively about this on my own blog. A good summary of the problems can be found here—pretty vehement, but accurate.

      http://www.citizen.org/tradewatch

  7. Meh. Bernie Sanders clearly believes what he says, as flawed and unworkable as it is. So I give him that much credit. But seriously, most of the flaws you talk about stem from government interference in the market, not some kind of market failures that occurred. It’s less that the inequalities have affected government than it is that government interference has caused greater inequality. In spite of any intentions to the contrary, the results of government activity have often been undesirable.

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