Bernie Sanders poses a necessary and serious threat to the American status quo. The junior senator from Vermont has already reached one million unique donors faster than any presidential candidate in history, outraised all of his competitors in the last quarter and is rumored by The Washington Post to be receiving endorsements from congressional representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar shortly. Sanders and the popular movement behind him are the best chance that this country has to fix rampant inequality and environmental destruction that is already displacing millions of people around the world.
Concerns about Sanders’ health are understandable, but far from disqualifying. Following a heart attack last week, he received stent surgery, a procedure which many people, including former president Bill Clinton, live long, comfortable lives after. Sanders has already evidenced his renewed energy, returning to the campaign trail, performing exceptionally at Tuesday’s debate and making plans for a large rally in Queens Ocasio-Cortez this weekend. He’s done all this while also mourning the death of his daughter-in-law last weekend. Sanders’ ability to bounce back with a vengeance is not only evidence of his physical fitness, but of his dedication to the change he hopes to bring about.
No other candidate is proposing change on the scale that Sanders is. His health care bill would provide universal access at a minimal direct cost to patients for all necessary medical services, including mental health and dental care, two areas all of his competitors stop short of. His response to our environmental crisis is also unparalleled, earning him first place in Greenpeace’s ranking of candidates. These are ambitious proposals, but he has a strategy to overcome their biggest obstacle: corporate interests.
A HarrisX poll found that 70% of Americans support Medicare for All and a study from George Washington and Yale Universities found that 81% of Americans support a Green New Deal. Corporate interests are Sanders’ main obstacle, and he has the most comprehensive plan to fight the power of big money in politics and vows to take none himself. Even Elizabeth Warren has not ruled out raising corporate money for the Democratic Party. As long as politicians depend on corporations to win elections, the will of the people will never be the greatest concern in government. The popular movement that Sanders is spearheading will circumvent the need for corporate money altogether.
“Not me. Us” is Sanders’s campaign slogan because his vision of a political future is driven by a diverse mass movement rather than a popular politician. Sanders envisions himself as an “organizer-in-chief” while in office. His role will not only be to make speeches and then lament when they are not passed by Congress. As president, his plan is to mobilize his diverse base in mass demonstrations to ensure perpetual grassroots pressure to make public sentiment, not monied interests, the driving force in politics. This shift will endure as a tool for progressive movements long after he is in office.
Sanders’ ability to excite the disillusioned will fuel the Democratic voter base. Morning Consult polls have consistently shown that his voters, in addition to being composed of many independents and conservatives, are more likely to be young, make less than $50,000 each year and be minimally interested in politics compared to the supporters of other candidates. He excites those who have learned that politicians care more about satisfying their donors than everyday americans. The polling aggregation site Real Clear Politics shows Sanders beating Trump by an average of more than five points and his advantage will only increase as he inspires more new voters.
The key to a winning progressive strategy is to move beyond the usual appeal to the established electorate and to appeal to those who have felt unheard by the usual Democratic Party candidates.The way forward is not moderation. We need a radical change to our country’s policies and the way that our political system operates. If Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he will win the presidency and change the direction of this country for the better.