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Opinions

Volume 66 Number 6

Feeling the Bern: How Sanders ignited my political activism

by David Ding - 2016-04-27

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About 11 months ago, I was still a junior in high school, doing my daily procrastination on the website Reddit, a site that features the most popular links and news articles of the day. One of the biggest posts that day was from a user known as “bernie-sanders,” which said: “Reddit---I am running for President of the United States, and seeking the Democratic nomination. I need you to stand with me and organize an unprecedented grassroots campaign. Are you in? --B”

Shortly after this post, Senator Sanders hosted an “AMA” or Ask Me Anything, an interview-style post where users can ask questions directly to the host. During this session, I saw a video of Sanders formally announcing his campaign, which consisted of only a few reporters using Chadwick-quality microphones and speakers, held in some random park in his home state of Vermont.

Fast forward to today, and Sanders is filling up football stadiums and gathering mile-long crowds. But until that point, very few people--including myself--had ever heard of Bernie Sanders. The infamous “Feel the Bern” quote had not been developed, nor had his progressive logo “A Future to Believe In.”

I believe my own political activism started that day.

After reading the AMA, I looked into Sanders’ history and couldn’t believe someone like him actually existed. It was incredible: basically, every screw-up, every criticized decision America has made in the past 20 years, Sanders was there arguing against it. This is a man who was there during Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington in 1963, and who was arrested in Chicago for protesting segregation. This is a man who has spoken to empty Congressional audiences in opposition to the Persian Gulf War and Iraq War. In 1983, Sanders supported the first Pride Parade in Burlington, Vt., and he was one of the only senators in 1993 and 1996 to oppose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the “Defense of Marriage Act,” two bills that failed miserably.

I could go on for pages discussing Sanders’ history of support for the right solutions. Similarly, I could also go on for pages discussing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her past stances on related issues, such as supporting the Iraq War and fighting against LGBT rights.

And in regards to the most recent Panama Papers scandal, Sanders predicted the tax evasion outcome in 2011 in a speech to the Senate and president, whereas Clinton wanted to allow overseas countries such as Panama to continue operating as offshore tax havens. If you don’t believe me, do a simple Google search; it’s not hard to discover the truth.

When it comes to Sanders’ policies, there is definitely room for discussion, mainly for his economic visions. He hopes to achieve goals such as free public colleges, universal health care, and removing “super PACs” from politics. Sanders has already proven he can do the latter, as he has currently raised more than $140 million purely from individual contributions.

Many of my peers, and people in general, have called Sanders supporters crazy and unreasonable. They question his belief that college can actually ever be free, and wonder whether his tax program would destroy America’s economy.

I find it ironic that people in the middle and lower class tell me--someone in the upper class--that Sanders will take all of their money. That’s not how Democratic Socialism works...or socialism in general.

In reality, company owners such as my family should be the ones against Sanders’ economic policies. My parents’ income tax would be increased, and his minimum-wage plan will hurt our company. But that is not stopping me from supporting Sanders, nor my parents, who will vote for him--with me--in the California Primary on June 7.

There are also those who support his plans, yet find them unreasonable. If Sanders wants to make public universities free, he would need roughly $75 billion a year. But he’s had professional economists show that he would have enough money after taxing the 1% on Wall Street. Countries such as Germany, England and Switzerland have all adopted similar plans, and currently have free colleges. There are still skeptics, and I understand that.

But what’s wrong with him trying to benefit millions of students in America instead of settling for the idea that 40 million Americans will be plagued by student debt?

It cringes me to see people who would benefit from his policies tell me, someone who wouldn’t, that Sanders shouldn’t be our president. I read this quote from Jon Stewart that helps puts things in perspective: “The problem isn’t that Bernie Sanders is a crazy-pants cuckoo bird. It’s that we’ve all become so accustomed to stage-managed, focus-group-driven candidates, that his authenticity comes across as lunacy.”

In the end, what I see in Bernie Sanders is an honest man who has cared for the American people his entire life. He has never taken donations from big companies, and has always fought against the policies that would hurt America, no matter how little say he had. Everything he advocates for during this presidential election, he has advocated for his entire life. Not one politician has a more clean and honest record than Sanders. Sanders is the only candidate running a campaign based only on his own policies and ideas, not corporate interests. He is even being criticized by some of his own supporters for not being aggressive enough...for not calling out Clinton on her email scandal or her complete 180-degree flip-flops on policy positions.

If after all of this, you still don’t believe that Sanders’ policies will help America, I hope to have inspired you to become more politically active. This election season, there were record voter turnouts in almost every state, both Democratic and Republican. The United States of America, however, still has an extremely low voter turnout, considering how democratic we say we are.

Do the research, form an opinion, and stand by that opinion...while keeping an open mind. Start using less-biased sites such as CNN or Fox News and look for raw evidence such as Senate speeches and what companies support which candidate...to get a truer sense of who each candidate represents.

When you turn 18, or if you already are, exercise your sacred right to vote. American government ratings are at an all-time low, but who’s fault is that? The American people are the ones who elect the corrupt politicians into office… and the people should also be the ones who kick them out. The political revolution that Bernie Sanders ignited has only just begun; it’s time to “Feel the Bern.”


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