Sanders Promotes Realistic Solutions to Fundamental Problems


Photo by Anna Dawson

Olivia Gilbert, Columnist


Illustration by Luke Hampton.

Many people believe Bernie Sanders is a far-fetched dream, a too-good-to-be-true liberal fantasy. Hillary Clinton, conversely, is regarded as the rational choice, a pragmatic, no-nonsense candidate. Someone who will get things done. Bernie remains the choice of the dreamers, the idealists, and the young people who’ve all been accused of falling for his rhetoric of political revolution. A revolution sounds wonderful, Establishment Democrats say, but it’s just not realistic.

The Washington Post article, “Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect,” lays out the line peddled by pundits: “If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.” It’s an observation that even some Bernie supporters reluctantly concede. However, upon closer examination, this mode of thinking simply doesn’t align with reality.

At the root of America’s problems, the article argues, “is inequality, both economic and political. The United States has become a plutocracy—one in which, as Sanders puts it, ‘we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality.’ ”

Promoting Hillary as the rational choice asserts a continuation of the status quo as the rational response to the institutionalized problems America faces–among them, the largest wealth and income disparity of any developed country in the world, according to CNN. While Bernie proposes solutions that promote fundamental changes to the political system, Hillary offers little in the way of systemic change.

As The Nation’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders (only their third endorsement of a presidential candidate in a primary in its 150 year history) explains, “the limits of a Clinton presidency are clear. Her talk of seeking common ground with Republicans and making deals to ‘get things done’ in Washington will not bring the change that is so desperately needed.”

The Washington Post article, “Bernie Sanders’s fiction-filled campaign,” accuses Sanders of “selling his own brand of fiction” and promoting “a tale that starts with the bad guys: Wall Street and corporate money. The existence of large banks and lax campaign finance laws explains why working Americans are not thriving, he says, and why the progressive agenda has not advanced.”

Granted, Sanders is a politician running for public office. Campaign rallies and stump speeches lend themselves to oversimplification of a candidate’s platform. But his overall critique of American government as a rigged system which benefits the few at the expense of many is not a “brand of fiction”–it’s reality.

In the United States, one tenth of one percent of the population owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-eight percent of all new income after the 2008 Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent. Citizens United opened the floodgate for corporate money to pour into campaigns—largely through the existence of Super PACs—and pour it has: the Koch brothers announced their intention to spend close to a billion dollars this election, more than either the Democratic or Republican Party will spend. A group of 158 families have contributed nearly half of the early money raised in the 2016 elections. These are not falsehoods; they are incontrovertible truths that require radical solutions grounded in common sense and born out of the recognition that the fundamental rules of the game must change. Why is it that the candidate “of the heart” is the only one presenting solutions?

It is not rational to support a candidate like Hillary who does not offer an alternative to a seriously corrupted system of American politics that breeds inequality and consolidates power in the hands of few. I’m skeptical about the plausibility of the political revolution that Sanders promotes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to happen. I support and applaud journalists who criticize Bernie’s agenda of socialized health care, campaign finance, and Wall Street reform, free college tuition, etc., not because I don’t support these things but because healthy democracy must include challenges to politicians’ stances, forcing them, in the process, to create and elucidate comprehensive, applicable solutions.

Let’s keep questioning Bernie, Hillary, (and every other candidate from both parties) and their ideas, and force them to engage in open and honest debate about their principles and solutions. We must lend Bernie and his ideas the serious consideration they merit—to do otherwise would be to do ourselves a grave disservice.

In the words of The Nation, Sanders’ campaign “has already created the space for a more powerful progressive movement and demonstrated that a different kind of politics is possible. This is a revolution that should live on, no matter who wins the nomination.”