Bernie Sanders, the longest-standing Independent congressman in United States history, announced earlier this year that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president. At first the senator from Vermont seemed like a longshot, but now he is polling at or above Hillary Clinton in the first two primary states.
What is it that attracts so many to support Bernie, a man who for most of his career has gone unnoticed by national political discourse?
The answer lies not only in his political views, but in his historical track record and honest campaign tactics.
For his campaign, Sanders raised more than $15 million without the help of Super PACs. This isn’t because there are no Super PACs willing to back him, it’s because he is running on the platform of getting money out of politics. Sanders has spoken out about the need to eliminate Citizens United, which has created an unfair campaign system that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions as a form of free speech.
Sanders has also proposed a plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free by levying a special tax on Wall Street speculation. Such speculation only serves to increase instability in financial markets, which caused the recession in 2008 and the Great Crash in 1929, lining big bankers’ pockets in the process. This plan would mean greater stability in the economy and greater availability of higher education to all Americans.
But Sanders isn’t just helping future students. He has said, “If you can refinance your home today at 2 or 3 percent, you should not be paying 8 or 10 percent interest rates on your student debt.” He believes that helping us repay our student debt more quickly helps everyone, and he’s right.
While some politicians feel they may need to test the waters on certain issues, only stating their opinions after polling numbers have come back, Sanders has stuck proudly to his beliefs, never backing down or compromising on what is right.
This makes him easy to trust — a rare trait in today’s politics. In fact, he was heavily involved in the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, even leading students at the University of Chicago in a multiweek sit-in to desegregate housing. Social equality is a goal Sanders has worked toward since he was a young man and is still working toward today.
These are just a few of the reasons that support and excitement for Sanders is spreading like wildfire.
He has many progressive stances that we need, such as the elimination of private prisons, raising the minimum wage to $15, funding better care for veterans (500,000 of whom have returned from the Middle East with post-traumatic stress disorder or neural trauma), working to reduce and reverse climate change and guaranteeing health care as a universal right.
Please, Google Bernie Sanders. Talk about him. Research him. Find out for yourself why so many young people are suddenly registering to vote.
If you would like to learn more about Bernie, get involved in supporting him or register to vote, stop by the Knights for Bernie table outside the Student Union. Support Bernie in the primaries and #feelthebern!
Stephen Beale is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.