“A political revolution is coming.” This is Bernie Sanders’ entire campaign message compressed into a five-word slogan. The seventy-four-year-old Senator from Vermont, running for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2016 Presidential election, promised a “revolution” that will bridge the gap in wealth among Americans.
Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, has emerged as an alternative choice for Democrat voters in the presidential race. His surge in ratings has caused worry in the Hillary camp that she might once again lose the party nomination to a relatively lesser known figure, like in 2008 when she lost to President Barack Obama.
Despite his socialist credentials, Sanders, however, is not a soapbox evangelist predicting doom for America. His campaign promises are firmly in touch with the problems faced by working-class Americans who pin for a better health care program and rise in minimum wages.
Sanders journey to the Senate began in the sparsely populated state of Vermont. He had unsuccessfully run twice for Senator and twice for Governor in the 70s before finally tasting success in the Mayoral election for Burlington city. He won the election as an independent against the incumbent Democrat by ten votes.
With a population less than forty thousand in 1980, Burlington city, which lies close to the Canadian border, had a foreign policy. The Guardian US unearthed letters from Sanders office that were dispatched to China, the Soviet Union, the UK and France urging military disarmament. “Burlingtonians cannot calmly sit back and watch our planet be destroyed – with hundreds of millions of people incinerated,” he said.
Over the years, his views on world conflict gave way to burning domestic issues that he felt more passionate about. Sanders became more vocal about corporate greed and the need to reign-in the Wall Street. In terms of policy issues, there are no major differences between the Sanders and the Hillary campaign. Both candidates strongly stand for abortion rights, gay marriage and expanding Obamacare. Their only glaring difference, however, is on foreign policy. Sanders strongly favours avoiding foreign entanglements while Clinton disagrees with him.
The Vermont Senator voted against former president George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq in 2003 and, also, criticised America’s role in bringing down former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Sanders never lost an opportunity to highlight Clinton’s role in both the American interventions on foreign soil. Clinton, when she was the New York Senator, voted for the war in Iraq that ended disastrously for America, and was the US Secretary of State when the country conducted airstrikes against Libya. Both international conflicts created a vacuum for Islamic extremism, Sanders said, speaking to the Guardian.
Thirty years after he fired letters to world leaders asking them to abandon the arms race, Sanders policy to avoid conflict resonates in his push for the Iran nuclear deal. He believes that the deal would ensure that Iran will stop stockpiling nuclear weapons and, also, de-escalate tensions with the middle-east country.
“It is my firm belief that the test of a great nation, with the most powerful military on earth, is not how many wars we can engage in, but how we can use our strength and our capabilities to resolve international conflicts in a peaceful way,” Sanders wrote in an article published by Huffington Post.
According to a recent survey conducted by pew research, 41% Democrat voters backed the nuclear agreement with Iran, and 61% said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who offers programs similar to the Obama administration.
President Obama had in the recent past urged the Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. This is a challenge that Sanders aims to take forward by promising to raise it further to $15 an hour. Among other things, Sanders had also promised health care for all and tuition-free higher education. With America’s student debt crisis spiralling to over 1.3 trillion dollars, Sanders promise of free education in colleges and universities should strike a chord with the country’s first-time voters.
Political analysts in the US, however, don’t think that Sanders has a chance of winning the Democratic Party nomination. Sanders is firmly leading in poll forecasts in the Iowa and New Hamshire primaries, which will go to vote begining from February 2016, but he might concede ground to Clinton as the election shifts to primaries with a homogenous mix of voters from different backgrounds. Pollsters feel that black and Hispanic voters, who constitute a significant portion of the Democrat pie, don’t lean towards Sanders.
#BlackLivesMatter activists have accused Sanders of not addressing the rise in racially motivated shootings in his campaign speeches. Sanders has, in fact, spoken on the issue after a few activists disrupted his speech at an event. He said that the economic inequality in the country, which his campaign is trying to address, is the root of the problem.
The other disparity, which analysts feel that would give Clinton campaign an edge, is the ability to raise funds. Clinton has been backed largely by private donors and Super Political Action Committees (PACs) while Sanders has solely relied on small donors. According to InsideGov, Clinton raised $101 million dollars, $23 million from Super PACs alone, while Sanders raised $41 million dollars. Sanders is against Super PACs funding his campaign as he is against the rich influencing the presidential election.
Sanders, now in the pinnacle of his political career, is a man who unwaveringly stuck to his democratic socialist principles since he first assumed office in 1980. He cuts across as a honest figure among the working-class Americans, whose interests he aims to further. Already popular among white voters, if Sanders can turn around the minority votes in his favour, the Oval office isn’t very far for the son of a polish jew who migrated to the US in the years of the Great Depression.