VIEWPOINT 1: False God – Logan Stack
VIEWPOINT 2: A Positive Leader for American Society – Caleb Foster
Note: The views expressed in these articles are not necessarily the personal views held by the authors.
BERNIE SANDERS: FALSE GOD
Bernie Sanders: the legend, the hero, the God. Sanders has proven to be an undeniably passionate speaker, and counting the number of times he says “millionaires and billionaires” may be an exciting drinking game, but behind his surface of puritanical progressiveness, he has been a detrimental and destabilizing force in American politics. As a liberal, it is my fundamental belief that Sanders – based on precisely the character traits used by his supporters to justify their admiration – has proven to be harmful to the national discourse.
Firstly, Sanders supporters will tell you that he is principled. I readily agree that that is the case. However, I also believe that a man bound far more by rigid ideology than by facts does not possess such an admirable trait. Indeed, in Trump’s post-truth era, we need politicians who will base their opinions on evidence, rather than by cherry-picking case studies to suit their opinions; Bernie Sanders falls squarely into the latter category. He has continually criticized free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, despite clear evidence that increased trade has created 14 million new jobs, and increased the American GDP by $80 billion (McBride and Sergie). Indeed, should the US withdraw from NAFTA, the American economy would be devastated, and would include serious damage for the working class Americans Sanders claims to represent (Gurdus). Sanders has also maintained his support for socialist regimes, even as countries such as Cuba and Venezuela fall into disrepair. Human rights abuse cases and economic devastation do not fit into his narrative, and they have therefore been ignored by Sanders when offering support for such systems (Mazzei). Furthermore, principles mean nothing if one cannot get anything achieved. Bernie Sanders’ record leaves much to be desired. Over his decades in Congress, his approach has always seemed to be, “I’m right on these issues. I’ll wait for you to eventually come to me.” However, great American leaders were successful because, at their core, they were pragmatic. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society reforms were successful because he listened to others’ concerns and incorporated them (Woods); Ronald Reagan’s tax reforms were successful because he compromised with Democrats to get them passed for the greater good (Norris); Barack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act by recognizing that a single-payer system would never pass (Ray and Norbeck). Especially in today’s polarized society, we desperately need a politician who can negotiate and compromise to make gradual reforms, not someone who asks for the moon and walks away from the negotiating table when offered the stars.
Secondly, Sanders supporters will tell you that he is honest and transparent. However, that is far from the case. A thorough analysis of his media interviews points to a clear conclusion: if you ask him about a topic he likes, he will happily talk about the 1% and climate change, but if you ask him a question he does not like… he will deflect until the conversation turns back to a topic he likes. For example, when pressed by Bill Maher about campaign promises that were clearly misleading Americans by vastly overestimating the revenues gained from taxing the rich and failing to account for the costs of free education, single-payer healthcare, pharmacare and more, Bernie Sanders simply said “that’s not true” before attempting to detour back to familiar rhetoric (Stern). Later, he avoided answering straightforward questions on the consequences of breaking up the banking system (Capehart). The feasibility of his proposals is as fraudulent as the banks he rails against. That is not the image of honesty; integrity demands that you not only express your beliefs, but that you provide truthful answers to tough questions – no matter how hard-hitting. With crumbling infrastructure and soaring debt, the US needs someone who will be truthful about the details of their policies; Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that he is unfit for this role.
Third, Sanders supporters will tell you that he is engaging youth in the political discourse. However, the type of engagement that he has encouraged has been dispiriting, to say the least. People have flocked to him as a quasi-savior, soaking in his sweeping rhetoric while ignoring the small print. Responsible citizen engagement requires informing the population, which Sanders has failed to do. Rainbows and unicorns are far better Snapchat filters than standards for American government. Indeed, Sanders has instilled an all-or-nothing mentality among his supporters. First there was the Bernie or Bust movement, where a significant number of supporters chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton because she did not agree with Bernie Sanders on 100% of issues (Sainato). Even after the election, Sanders supporters have demanded that progressives launch primary challenges against those who do not agree with the left on every single issue (Carney). For those who believe that Sanders has not played a role in this, look no further than his choice to fully support only absolute progressives in Democratic races, while shunning anyone who does not fully agree with his ideology (Marans and Grim). Sanders may have engaged a broad swath of people, but he has engaged them on a foundation of misinformed radicalism. The very fact that Bernie supporters feel so adamantly about him is harmful: being too attached and loyal to one politician to the point of shutting down any criticism of him weakens political discourse and prevents any meaningful discussion of policy.
In the end, Bernie Sanders’ rise has put ideology over fact, rhetoric over policy, failed principles over successful compromise and divisive purity tests over bridge-building. By making the impossible seem possible, he has rejected what is truly possible in his quest for a utopia. While his motives are genuine, the path to an uninformed citizenry and the dumbing-down of the public discourse is steeped in good intentions. There was a time when I, too, had fallen for the heroic persona projected by Sanders. However, I have realized that America does not need a hero; it needs a politician with realistic policies who will elevate the national discussion and inspire people based on fact, not fiction. Bernie Sanders is not that politician. During his campaign, Bernie Sanders spoke of “A Future to Believe In”; I would rather a present to succeed in.
Now that would be a real revolution.
BERNIE SANDERS: A POSITIVE LEADER FOR AMERICAN SOCIETY
Although we only hear about one flamboyant populist in the news these days, it would be hard to forget the one that ran on the other side of the aisle: Bernard “Bernie” Sanders. He captured the enthusiasm and support of thousands with his message of economic equality and socialist ideals. Although Sanders was unsuccessful in winning the Democratic nomination, he has had a lasting, positive effect on the country.
Indeed, his most noticeable impact has been the introduction and legitimization of left-wing ideals in the American political conversation, which have long been avoided or shoved under the rug. Sanders used his platform to popularize ideas that heretofore had been relatively unknown. A simple examination of Google trends data for a term like “Single Payer Healthcare” shows a remarkable correlation with trends data for the term “Bernie Sanders”, with the popularity of each term spiking at the same time. While it might be tempting to point to previous spikes that had no possible association with the senator from Vermont as flaws in this argument, interest in the term has only gone up since he declared his candidacy, and has continued for considerably longer than ever, even following his concession of the win to Hillary Clinton. Essentially, because Bernie, as a semi-successful candidate, made single-payer seem possible, it lived on in the popular consciousness, and when the time came for another healthcare debate, interest in the system was considerably higher than it had been during the Obamacare roll out, which was the last time interest in this idea and discussion spiked. Similarly, Bernie Sanders helped remove some of the stigma from the word “socialism”, with trends data spiking during his campaign. Even for those who disagree with these ideas, greater awareness and understanding of them can only be positive. First, greater awareness and the impossibility of dismissal allows for learning experiences that would otherwise be nonexistent under different circumstances. Second, more information on a point of view can make even the most entrenched ideologue begin to see the other side as the intelligent human beings that they usually are. By making left-wing ideas better understood, the U.S. can round out its political spectrum, and hopefully find solutions to its problems, on average, somewhere in the middle.
Another one of Bernie Sanders’ thickest platform planks was his opposition to the corporate money that flows in molten rivers through the halls of power, corrupting everything it touches, and drowning out the voices of the “working people” whose interests Senator Sanders was proud to champion. It is undeniable that the power corporate interest wields in American politics is excessive in a way that is detrimental to the interests of the average citizen. Issues such as net neutrality and even low-level environmental protections – things like, “don’t dump oil in rivers”-, which are almost certainly in the best interest of nearly every person in the country and are routinely dealt with in a way that appeals directly to moneyed interests. All this is done to curry favor with the rich and powerful in the hopes of securing much needed campaign donations to seek re-election. Until the Sanders campaign, it was hard to imagine how a politician could collect enough money for the increasingly expensive endeavor that is running for office without moneyed interests to back them. Bernie showed that, with enough energy in a campaign, it was perfectly possible to raise as much money as the politicians deepest in the pockets of big money without selling one’s soul to corporate interests. It remains to be seen how much his example will be followed by other politicians, but just knowing that it’s technically possible is valuable in cases where future candidates make crucial and course-altering campaign decisions, without even mentioning the important message Sanders’ success conveys: that ideologies can be more influential and important that giving into greed, corruption and bias.
In the end, Bernie represents what is best about democracy: attacking corrupted institutions, standing as a voice for the disenfranchised, as well as doing so independently while truly representing his constituents. No matter what you think about his failure to win the Democratic nomination, I think it is undeniably clear that Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and life in American politics has had incredibly positive impacts on society as a whole. Although times may seem bleak at this moment in time, America can take heart in the knowledge that the 2016 election process lead way to the propagation of new ideas as well as a plethora of other positive impacts overall.
Capehart, Jonathan. “9 things Bernie Sanders should’ve known about but didn’t in that Daily News interview.” The Washington Post, 5 April 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/04/05/9-things-bernie-sanders-shouldve-known-about-but-didnt-in-that-daily-news-interview/?postshare=661459873700590&tid=ss_tw.
Carney, Jordain. “Sanders supporter to run against red-state Democrat.” The Hill, 18 April 2017, http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/329321-sanders-supporter-to-run-against-red-state-democrat.
Debenedetti, Gabriel. “Democrats sweat Clinton vs. Sanders rift.” Politico, 16 January 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/democrats-clinton-sanders-dnc-233648.
Gurdus, Elizabeth. “Withdrawing from NAFTA would be Trump’s gravest economic mistake, says Bush 41 trade chief.” CNBC, 13 February 2017, http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/13/dismantling-nafta-may-be-trumps-gravest-economic-mistake-carla-hills.html.
Marans, Daniel and Ryan Grim. “Finally, Bernie Sanders Says He Hopes Jon Ossoff Wins.” The Huffington Post, 21 April 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/finally-bernie-sanders-says-he-hopes-jon-ossoff-wins_us_58fa47b3e4b018a9ce5b033f.
Mazzei, Patricia. “Bernie Sanders traveled to communist Cuba and urges a ‘political revolution.’” Miami Herald, 29 February, 2016, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/election/article62748002.html.
McBride, James, and Mohammed Aly Sergie. “NAFTA’s Economic Impact.” Council on Foreign Relations, 24 January 2017, http://www.cfr.org/trade/naftas-economic-impact/p15790.
Norris, Floyd. “A Starting Point for Tax Reform: What Reagan Did.” The New York Times, 22 November 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/business/a-starting-point-for-tax-reform-what-reagan-did.html.
Ray, Walker, and Time Norbeck. “A Look Back At How The President Was Able To Sign Obamacare Into Law Four Years Ago.” Forbes, 26 March 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/physiciansfoundation/2014/03/26/a-look-back-at-how-the-president-was-able-to-sign-obamacare-into-law-four-years-ago/#40234672526b.
Sainato, Michael. “‘Bernie or Bust’ Movement Grows as Clinton Polls Tank.” Observer, May 26, 2016.
Stern, Marlow. “Bill Maher Stuns Bernie Sanders: How Will America Pay For Your Radical Agenda?” The Daily Beast, 16 December 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/16/bill-maher-stuns-bernie-sanders-how-will-america-pay-for-your-radical-agenda.
Woods, Randall B. “The Great Society: the forgotten reform movement.” The Conversation, 30 January 2015, http://theconversation.com/the-great-society-the-forgotten-reform-movement-35727.
Zanotti, Emily. “Bern-exit: Bernie Sanders Leaves the Democratic Party High and Dry Again.” Heatstreet, 18 November 2016, https://heatst.com/politics/bernie-sanders-democratic-leadership-independent.