Bernie Sanders has become an increasingly prominent figure in American politics as of late, with his presidential campaign garnering a huge amount of grassroots support, particularly from young people. Of course, if you don’t know much about Sanders, this may puzzle you, as Sanders is an old, admittedly somewhat crotchety-looking career politician who isn’t particularly charismatic or enthralling in his speech. What is it about Sanders that attracts so much support? In my humble opinion, the reason for this support is clearly the substance behind Sanders’s politics. He may not seem particularly presidential or employ attractive rhetoric, but the positions he holds politically and the frank honesty with which he speaks are a breath of fresh air when compared to other politicians, be they left- or right-wing.
Sanders is one of the few modern left-wing politicians who advocates for working- and middle-class families. One of his main goals is to broaden and strengthen our middle class, which is the core of our economy. However, the middle class is rapidly disappearing in our current economic climate, which breeds a great wealth divide.
Beyond his position on the American economy, Sanders supports classical liberal standards like universal health care, gay rights and a rather passive foreign policy, all of which I agree with to a considerable extent. Sanders even holds a rather controversial pro-Palestinian view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is rare in American politics. Most American politicians, like Obama and Clinton, are too blindly diplomatic to question Israel’s right to exist and expand.
On these points, I must digress. Sanders’s youthful support and energy was never more present than at his rally in Boston on Saturday, Oct. 3. Sanders made history—breaking records for attendance of a political rally. The convention center exceeded its 26,000 person capacity, leaving thousands of other supports unable to enter. Sanders’s speech was introduced by several speakers, including representatives of the nursing union and Bill McKibben, a prominent climate change advocate.
Following these speakers, Sanders began speaking about the grassroots nature of his campaign, which has been funded by the small donations of many different middle- and lower-class supporters. Despite this, however, Sanders is only just behind Hillary Clinton in terms of funding.
I would contend that Sanders is an infinitely better candidate than Clinton, who is corporatist, pro-establishment and really wouldn’t be much different than Obama- who has been a mediocre president at best (and subpar in terms of foreign policy).
In addition to being adept politically, Sanders is simply more frank and honest than any other politician running for president. At a different rally, Sanders came out and admitted that he wouldn’t be able to do as much as he would want to do as president, simply because of the inherent bureaucracy and purposeful sluggishness that comes with the position. For this honesty, I respect Sanders greatly, as most candidates make themselves out to be arbitrary enactors of change, ignoring the realities of the position. Obama is a good example of this; he made many promises he did not and could not keep.
Of course, if we’re being entirely honest with ourselves, we can’t expect Sanders to win. I predict that Bernie Sanders will have a grand old run, and that he’ll give Clinton and the establishment quite the scare with his campaign. However, I can’t say that I’m certain Sanders will win. Clinton simply has much more money and many more connections to utilize. Sanders is the underdog here, and, despite his support, he could succumb to Clinton in the primary.
However, even if Sanders doesn’t win, he will have changed things for the better. He has influenced the hearts and minds of our generation to care for the oppressed, and his spirit and ideals will live on — even if Sanders fails in his ultimate goal.
-Calvin Gil is a freshman journalism and political science double major.
Photo Courtesy Phil Roeder, Creative Commons