By Zane Dundon /// Staff Writer
Bernie Sanders is not just the most progressive and most honest presidential candidate of 2016. He’s one of the most progressive and honest presidential candidates in recent American history. I support Bernie Sanders because he is not afraid to point a finger at the most pressing injustices of our time and, more importantly, is not afraid to fight for real progressive change to combat these injustices. Many pundits have been caught off guard by the incredible swell of grassroots support that started growing when Bernie announced his candidacy. But it should surprise no one that, in a time of rapidly accelerating inequality and disillusionment with mainstream politicians, people would leap at the chance to campaign for a candidate who honestly diagnosed the problems of the country while proposing solutions that would truly have an impact.
For his entire political career, Bernie has been speaking loudly and critically about the perils of rapidly growing income and wealth inequality in the U.S. In my opinion, the fact that the top one-tenth of one percent in the U.S. holds almost as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent is not simply undesirable. It is a morally unacceptable crisis that must be addressed strongly and quickly with changes that truly address the problem. Bernie has proposed such changes. For example, he has long pushed for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour (a poverty wage even for full-time workers) to $15 per hour, an amount that is a good start towards ensuring that even the lowest paid workers have enough to survive.
Another of his proposals that has enjoyed large support, especially from young people, is to make college tuition free for every young person in the U.S. Not only does this help disadvantaged young people get an education without being driven into massive debt, but it also improves our entire society when more people receive higher education. Many developed countries, including Germany, Finland, Norway, and Sweden guarantee tuition-free higher education and it is a disgrace that, in the richest country in the world, we spend $600 billion annually on our military while thousands of children are either denied a college education or forced to incur massive debt to obtain one. An even more astounding national disgrace is the fact that, even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, 29 million Americans still have no health insurance. Bernie’s proposal for a single-payer, Medicare For All system, would guarantee healthcare for all people while lowering overall costs. It is a national embarrassment that, out of every major industrialized nation, the U.S. is the only one that does not guarantee health care to every citizen as a right.
All of these proposals from Bernie address the vast inequalities of income and wealth in American society. They also address significant inequalities produced through historical and contemporary institutionalized racism that have produced poverty and neglect for people of color in the U.S. People of color are more likely than white people to live in poverty, to go into large amounts of debt after college, and to lack health insurance. Bernie recognizes that these racial disparities did not occur by accident. They were created through centuries of systemic oppression and strengthened by contemporary racist policies that continue to disadvantage people of color. One particularly important area in which the gap between treatment of people of color and the treatment of white people is evident is the criminal justice system, from encounters with police on the street to prison policies. Bernie has proposed a number of important changes to fix America’s racist criminal justice system ranging from investing in community policing and demilitarizing local police forces to banning for-profit prisons and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.
In addition to these policies, Bernie has strong proposals for addressing the impending disaster of climate change, implementing a foreign policy that emphasizes diplomacy over intervention and regime change, cleansing our political system of the corrupting influence of big money, and much more. All of these are progressive policies that address the important issues afflicting our country and world in real, substantive ways. However, the corporate media seems to never tire of reminding people that “Bernie could never really do all of this. He’s just not being realistic.”
This attitude, frequently expressed by pundits, is ignorant of the very nature of politics. A presidential candidate should not compromise their goals before they even get the opportunity to fight for them. Bernie understands perhaps better than anyone else how difficult it will be to implement his numerous revolutionary changes in office. That is why he never stops reminding his supporters that real change requires a political revolution in which millions of people stand up and tell their government that they are done accepting lies fed to them by politicians bought by corporate interests before they are even elected. Bernie Sanders represents a different kind of politician and, if elected, he will mark an important step towards a different kind of politics, one in which democracy is not just a slogan and the people’s interests are put first.