Recently, Bernie Sanders announced his run for president. He quickly became the frontrunner, raising over $10 million in the first week of his campaign, with an average donation of $26. Of this, $1 million is recurring monthly donations; in perspective, the Trump 2020 campaign only has about $20 million on hand, after fundraising continuously since the 2016 election. However, Sanders faces many democratic candidates —Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and possibly Beto O’Rourke, whom I’ll discuss, along with why I think Sanders is the best candidate.
I don’t agree with all of Sanders’ policies, from overestimating the importance of the minimum wage to underestimating the benefits of free trade. However, Sanders does understand the problems of America today better than any other candidate: climate change, an entrenched oligarchy which hoards opportunity, racial and gender inequality, and disastrous foreign wars. No politician has been as consistent on these major policy issues over the years as Sanders.
As a University of Chicago undergraduate in the 60s, Bernie was arrested during a peaceful protest against segregated schools. He was also against the war in Iraq in 2003, foreseeing its pointless death and destruction. In 1995, he stood up for gay soldiers at a time when half of Americans thought that homosexuality, let alone gay marriage, should be illegal. There’s almost no issue where Bernie Sanders hasn’t been ahead of the curve of, sometimes by decades; in that time, he’s deviated little from his egalitarian principles. He makes decisions based on his beliefs, not just on what’s popular or what will get him the biggest paycheck from being a lobbyist. This means that, no matter what you think of his policies, you can trust Bernie to enact them.
In contrast, his opponents look hypocritical, untrustworthy, or politically foolish. Kamala Harris is an example of the first: she said that she smoked weed in college. That’s a pretty innocuous thing to do, but, apparently, Harris didn’t think so. While she was the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Attorney General of California, Harris had locked up countless people, mostly poor people with no power, for smoking marijuana. That shows incredible hypocrisy: she willingly ruined people’s lives for something that she did herself, all so she could look “tough on crime” and boost her own political power. Harris betrayed what she clearly believed to advance her career. This shows a clear contrast with Sanders, who often sacrificed political power to stand for what’s right.
Biden has problems of his own. He routinely stood on the wrong side of history, and can’t be trusted to make real changes for the better to the status quo in America. For one, he voted for the Iraq war, probably the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history. He also befriended southern Democrats who had been upholding Segregation. However, Sanders fought with the civil rights movement to end segregation.
Warren is mostly identical to Sanders policy-wise; a progressive through and through. However, she lacks Sanders’ political instincts. Her DNA test is one example. Instead of ignoring Trump’s childish name-callings, she indulged them, and released a test that put her at 1/1024th Native American. This prompted widespread mockery and angered many Native Americans, who are normally reliable democratic voters. Instead of letting the issue die down, she reignited it, and lost valuable allies in the process.
Moreover, another example of Warrens’s incredibly poor political instincts is her position on slavery reparations. Although reparations would likely benefit specific slave descendants, its constitutionality and implementation remain questionable. The point of reparations isn’t necessarily to make black Americans’ lives better, but to make past wrongs right. Many programs can accomplish this without necessarily being termed “reparations.” Unsurprisingly — the policy polls incredibly poorly: only about 30 percent of Americans support it while universal programs, like free college and Medicare for all, poll much better.
Although Warren, Harris, and other democratic candidates do not have an official “reparations” plan, they have called universal programs – like Harris’s lift act, which would lower taxes for low-income Americans, and Warren’s universal childcare program – reparations. This is a terrible strategy on two counts. Supporters of reparations will not support a universal program disguised as reparations because it doesn’t specifically benefit black Americans, therefore not delivering justice. On the other hand, calling a universal program “reparations” will needlessly make it very unpopular among average voters, who don’t like the idea of paying for a crime that they had no part in.
Warren and Harris appear to be trying to pander to leftists, at the expense of the popularity of any future universal government program which could help disadvantaged Americans. However, Sanders not only understands the specific disparities suffered by black Americans – and even risked his freedom to help end them – but he also knows that to solve them, one has to gain the trust of the voters, not deliberately alienate them over semantics.