As of Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders has emerged next to Joe Biden in a two-man race for the 2020 Democratic candidacy. Sanders, a senator from Vermont who also ran for president in 2016, envisions drastic economic, social and environmental shifts for our country. His left-wing beliefs and stance as a self-described ‘democratic socialist’ have faced pushback from not just right-wing politicians, but those on the left, too. Certainly, Sanders as our president would mean changes to America. So what is the America that Sanders envisions, and how would it affect you?
First, let’s unpack that buzz word: democratic socialism. As the term circulates Sanders’ campaign, “socialist” often brings connotations of Karl Marx and failed governments. Though statistics are higher for Sanders’ general support, his idea of democratic socialism is opposed by 76 percent of Americans, including 64 percent of Democrats. By its definition, democratic socialism does not support capitalism and seeks to more evenly distribute wealth. Sanders has addressed this, saying, “When I use the word socialist–and I know some people aren’t comfortable about it—I’m saying that it is imperative that we create a government that works for all and not just the few.” This view is woven throughout his policies.
Perhaps most relevant to students at Hope College is Sanders’ apparently student-friendly policy visions. His proposed plan would make college tuition free for students. Instead, the government and states would pay for students’ education. Sanders also has radical plans for student loans: canceling the 1.6 trillion dollars of student loans owed by Americans to the government.
Another part of Bernie’s envisioned America? Lots of solar panels and metal straws. Well, maybe not all that, but at the core of Sanders’ campaign is an extreme addressal of climate change. With the Green New Deal, Sanders wants America to cut all carbon-emissions by 2050. He desires to lead America to be completely clean or renewable energy reliant in the next decade. In the process, he’s declaring war on fossil fuels and fracking.
Sanders’ proposed America also has widespread public healthcare. He suggests “Medicare for All” and no private insurance. What would this mean for us? Sanders says that all Americans will have health insurance, covering the 44 million Americans who currently don’t have insurance. However, Sanders would also eliminate private insurance providers, and Americans might have less control over their healthcare providers or experiences.
Some of the positive implementations of Sanders’ plans sound ideal. However, he plans to steer America into a more radically-left territory than the country has ventured before. People question the possible implementation and implications of his ideas. At the top of the list of questions is this: how will he fund it? Reforming a system not only likely requires much political support but financial excess as well. Sanders says that tax increases would cover many of his plans. His proposed tax plan would increase by income bracket. In fact, the top 1% of America would be taxed six times higher than the middle class. Sanders also would plan on slashing the defense budget, defunding the Mexico border wall and pulling resources out of places like Afghanistan. Still, some are unsure that these measures will produce proper funding for Sanders’ dreams.
It’s not surprising that Sanders’ supporters come from mainly younger and less wealthy demographics. Sanders’ goal of “democratic socialism,”carried out through ideas like Medicare for All and free tuition, does not benefit the wealthy. But for lower income brackets, an assurance of healthcare, as well as many other of Sanders’ policy proposals, are appealing. His radical stance on climate change also pulls voters who see the urgent need to address the future of the environment. Often, this has included voters from the younger generation, many of whom support Sanders with the hashtag #feelthebern.
Even though Sanders has sought out the votes of the younger demographic, this past Tuesday proved disappointing for his campaign. In his words: “To be honest with you, we have not done as well in bringing young people into the process. It is not easy.” As Sanders fights to stay in the presidential race, many votes could be impacted by his choice of potential vice president. The ideal candidate could be a younger woman of color. Beyond the extremely important matter of representation, Sanders would benefit in drawing voters from each of these demographics. Nina Turner, who fits each of these demographics, has been beside Sanders so far as his national campaign co-chair. Tulsi Gabbard, 38 year old combat veteran and Hawaiian senator, is another potential option. These are only two options, but it is most likely that a Sanders ticket would boast a younger woman of color as a vice president.
“Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” Sanders has said. Despite the diversity of personal opinions on Sanders’ more extreme beliefs, the opposing sides seem to agree that America would be reformed under a Sanders presidency. Therefore, it is important to weigh the potential implications of this presidential candidate’s vision for America.