The Very Real Appeal of Bernie Sanders (And Donald Trump)

Marcus Chewning, Staff Editor

Bernie cannot gather a broad, diverse national coalition of voters. Bernie would not be able to pass anything in Congress. Bernie would be disastrous for the down-ballot. Bernie’s proposals are fiscally unreasonable. Bernie cannot defeat Donald Trump. Bernie is a Russian asset. Bernie as president would be a leader of a socialistic hellscape. 

If you have been paying any attention to the news cycle as of late, I am sure you have seen one or two of these above statements. While some of them are valid criticisms of Senator Bernie Sanders’ platform, and the logistic realities of its proposals, you would think, by some of them, that Sanders is the left’s version of President Donald J. Trump or some sort of Jewish mix between Joseph Stalin or Fidel Castro. For one, Sanders is a decent human being who, no matter how vehemently you may disagree with him, is at least consistently honest and cares about the welfare of the working-class people of the nation. Secondly, in terms of the socialism spectrum, he is quite tame. Sanders is not necessarily offering a revolution of systems, more so a revolution in how they work and who they work for. However, the idea of a Sanders nomination remains to stir feelings of mass hysteria among certain sectors of the voting populace, particularly with traditional Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans. 

Over the past couple of weeks, I have read quite a few articles about the possibility of Sanders’ nomination, from the likes of Jane Rubin of The Washington Post to Paul Krugman of The New York Times. The sentiments in these opinion pieces are often valid and understandable, but they, articles largely written by older white moderates, seem to miss the significant reason for Sanders’ popularity, particularly among younger voters.  

As a 21-year old black community college student, I will tell you. I am tired of waiting. I am disenchanted with the America I once read about in school textbooks. I am tired of the incremental “change” moderates are incessant on bringing back to the fore. We had it in ’08 and ’12 and the response in ’16 was visceral. People are suffering, dying, and have already died waiting for a future never to be met. Not all but many from my generation are tired, as well. We have had to grow up in the time of 9/11, never-ending war in the Middle East, constant mass shootings, the stock market crash of ’08, college tuition costs the size of down payments, mass incarceration, stagnant wages, increased housing costs, mass deportations, questionable public education standards, exorbitant medical bills and unreliable health care, and we have had little to no say in any of it. Even now, the future for us does not look too fruitful with a worldwide pandemic right around the corner, worsening climate conditions and heightened tensions between countries. With all of this going on, democratic socialism sounds better than whatever the little man under the boot of unrestricted capitalism is squeaking out. 

Whenever we do speak up and out, we are often told, by the older vanguard of politics, to shut up and listen to people who know what they are talking about simply because of their amount of time spent on Earth. Conversely, Sanders is doing quite the opposite. He is listening, actively listening to the oppressed and abandoned voices of the country and he has been doing it for decades. Sanders makes me feel the hope I thought I had when Obama first won the election. The only comparisons I will make with Sanders and Trump are how they both tap into unheard voices. While one does so genuinely consistently, the other cannot wait to leave supposed flyover states to play golf with, and give tax breaks to, his billionaire buddies. By doing this, they are not inciting anger among their bases, the anger is already there. It has been brewing for decades. People are angry, and we have every right to be. Even still, all of this energy means nothing if we, young people, do not go out to vote. In this respect, I would like to reiterate what Steven Hollies of this very same paper said in his article “Our Time is Ours.” Right now, the time is ours. But it is in our hands alone to take it.

For several decades, neither political party has truly been working for the people, and we are noticing it. It shows in the raucous support of two-party outsiders, Sanders and Trump. The difference between their strategies is, while Trump directs his base’s energy toward the mass media and the “other,” as in Latinos and blacks, Sanders instead focuses on whom I would argue is the more appropriate antagonist, the corporate class. Because no matter your age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, political or ideological affiliation, if you are below a certain income bracket in this country, you are largely left to your own devices. Even though you are way more likely to be left behind if you are of one or more minority statuses, there is a disproportionate amount of people struggling compared to those prospering.

Sanders is trying to unite the common people of America around that core idea. But will we realize that, or will we buy into what the mainstream media peddled in ’16 and again today? Will we choose a neutral, unchanging and stagnant peace out of fear or will we choose hope in the possibility of real, genuine change? Will we tune out the voices of our youth and tell them “we know what’s best for you” or will we lean in and say “maybe you know something I don’t”? In the words of my baby boomer father, if this is to be democracy’s final hour, instead of going up to bat with a “safe” bunt, I’d much rather lay down everything the American Dream should stand for on the line with a glorious and wide swing. I believe that is what it will take to truly win and not just attempt to remove the symptom of a much wider problem. Time will be the final judge.

Dr. King, Jr., a self-avowed socialist, once said it the best, “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” Not only do young people want some pieces of the pie, but we are starting to demand it, too. However, as a black voter, I cannot exactly afford a Bernie or Bust attitude. I will vote for whoever wins the nomination, but the Democratic National Committee should be incredibly careful in how they proceed. If at the end of this, Sanders does not win nomination and voters catch wind of any establishment intervention, not only may they be foregoing the presidential race but the Democratic Party itself. 

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