The United States of America is in an important election year that will likely determine its course for another decade. The incumbent president, Donald Trump, is seeking another term and, despite all odds, has a good chance of being re-elected. No other president has been so crude or disinterested in the conventional role of governing, and yet despite his dubious record and efforts to remove him he has never been stronger. Unfortunately, due to the two-party system, his only real challenge will come from the Democratic Party. This, as I’ve previously written about, has helped Trump immensely as they regularly fail to adequately oppose him. This is why impeachment failed and why he can largely get his agenda through a divided Congress because both parties are largely neoliberal imperialist machines with few major differences. Although this might not be reflected in the sloganeering of “vote blue no matter who,” the belief that getting rid of Trump will make things right, another stereotypical replacement as president will not make America great again in any way if ultimately nothing fundamentally changes. Particularly since the Reagan Era, all presidents have presided under a continual growth in inequality, with budgets and debt accumulation that do little to stop this, and with no reluctance to start, engage in, or continue, armed conflicts around the world. While the Democrats can rightly be concerned over the potential effects of a prolonged ‘conservative’ influence within the government, it may hardly matter if they do not find some true differential principles first. Enter Bernie Sanders, a septuagenarian Senator from the State of Vermont, once again running for president as a Democrat.
Bernie, who gained international prominence after challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, is a direct contrast to his rivals in this presidential race. He has a vision that understands fundamental issues to American society, what needs to change to improve these issues, and, most importantly, his political record shows he would address the failings of the previous administrations. His political ideology has been labelled many things, though he prefers ‘democratic socialism’ as a description reflecting his integrity and principles. His opponents have smeared him with century-old pejoratives or claims that he is not a ‘real Democrat.’ The last claim is true in one sense, as he has been the longest-serving independent congressman and senator in the nation’s history. However, that is hardly a real criticism when viewing his voting record compared to other Democrats. His commitment to the Progressive movement, which has a strand in many of the previous presidential administrations (like that of the Roosevelts), has meant he is not afraid to challenge and oppose policies of his ‘friends.’ For instance, he filibustered against President Obama’s compromise with the Republicans to make the Bush tax cuts permanent in 2010. This speech lasted eight hours, and even though the administration ultimately ignored it, it successfully brought to the public’s attention the negative impact on wealth inequality this would have on the nation and the dangers of compromising, especially when other spending issues in the budget went unsolved. This has led to critics claiming he has not achieved much while in government, on account of his opposition to an array of legislation. Again, this is not accurate as he was nicknamed ‘the amendment king’ congressman who passed more tweaks to laws to improve them while voting down bad proposals. While ideologically consistent, he remains a pragmatist nonetheless who is open about mistakes when he makes them. So, what would someone like a president Sanders do?
Well, his broad message is that conditions in America are dire and that ‘radical’ change is needed to correct course. Though this might sound familiar, some of his plans would truly be of the most ambitious undertaking of any administration since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Not mere small adjustments around the edges to improve matters, but through bold progressive structural reforms that ensure the integrity of the country for the future. Changes like using the disgustingly bloated military budget, which is approximately equal to the next seven largest countries’ defence budgets combined, for something like improving the education system for both young and old. Instead of allowing a predatory and soft-fascist economic environment to enrich and protect the wealthiest people, properly tax them to pay for 20th-century ideas like a universal healthcare system (Medicare For All) and promote and protect worker rights. Not doing the bare minimum on preventing environmental degradation, but punishing those who pollute while forming a framework for a new clean energy economy that will truly unleash the American dream into something more than a platitude. Whether it is electoral reform, group rights, housing policy, or finally having some movement on gun reform, a Sanders presidency would ensure that it was not all about him. Still, this is not to say all his policy proposals are gold as I think there are some small issues, like specific ideas in the economic feasibility of offering banking services at every post office. However, despite small disagreements, his plans and vision are by far the most comprehensive solutions to issues that his opponents mock or argue they are features, not problems, of the current system.
Critics will say this has already been tried before and point to the current president (and maybe his predecessors) as to why this approach will never work. I disagree. While there are clear problems in how Bernie could achieve a fraction of his proposed agenda, demonstrated ironically in the Democratic Primary where enough people are not voting for him to win despite agreeing with his policies, not fighting for honest change will lead to the worst outcome by default. Someone like Joe Biden, who has a history of compromising and changing (and now literally losing) his mind, cannot win this race if they fail to realize Trump won from anti-status quo fervour that he can utilize again (despite being a fake populist himself). Decency and electability are worthless if ultimately “nothing will fundamentally change,” as Biden and the previous Democratic nominee agree upon. When someone goes into negotiating with an already weak compromise mindset, only minute changes to grave issues will ever be produced, thus worsening said problems. Bernie’s age, the likely gridlock situation government would get into over his plans, and other outside forces will probably stifle his vision for a better America (and the rest of the world too in many respects). However, if there is not a real fighter at the top to plead, propose, inspire, and convince others that strong action is needed to weather the storms of this century, then it is hard to see why the United States would not soon sink under the growing weight of its maladies. Even one major policy success, like Medicare For All, would greatly improve the outcomes of Americans than the perpetual reluctance to reform much of anything.
A real leader is needed who will not be pushed around by special interests or multiply the cruel hostility which the country has waged on many other nations in the forms of conflict or economic war. This nation, which was founded on the belief that revolution was necessary to break away from a bad tyranny, should reaffirm what others around the globe have known for some time. Standing with the people, not the powerful, and fighting for them to have better outcomes is the moral and non-extremist position to take. Bernie Sanders is the best bet for this, whereas anyone else with a chance to become president does not come close to inspiring hope or change we can believe in.
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