OPINION: The candidate will bring much-needed leftist ideas to american politics, even if he doesn’t win the nomination.
Bernie Sanders has always been a bit of cult figure in United States politics. Despite a political platform that seems reasonable and straightforward to most Europeans, hearing an American politician suggest that raising taxes might be a good thing is a shock, not to mention one actively campaigning to tackle income inequality and the growing influence of billionaires, start programs for free healthcare and education, and fight global warming in a genuinely effective way. He has considered a presidential bid on and off for years, but even the true Bernie believers never thought he would get this close to becoming the Democratic nominee. Now, as the Republican party unravels from the inside, Donald Trump dominates the headlines, and Hilary Clinton continues to inspire almost no one, those who believe that the United States can finally make this huge step toward respectability cannot let the opportunity slip away. Bernie will have a long, difficult road ahead, but getting him as far as possible is absolutely critical for the future of the country.
The Sanders fan base is rooted in working class rural liberals and young people, two demographics who would gain the most from the policies that he has proposed. His recent primary losses in Massachusetts and across the South highlight that he still struggles to win over minorities and wealthy Democrats, which may ultimately cost him the nomination. However, that Sanders has made such important inroads into the national political scene shows that the United States may finally be taking an important step forward, away from its individualistic roots.
The hesitancy of American voters to embrace democratic socialism often confuses people in places like Norway, where nationalised healthcare, free college, and a robust public infrastructure have been in place for years. Even in the United Kingdom, which is generally more conservative that Scandinavia, the United States’ rejection of a welfare state comes across as baffling. This can be explained, to come extent, with a look at the collective psyche of the American people. Americans are taught from an early age that hard work will bring success, and the “American Dream” is a powerful ideal that, for many years, actually seemed possible. In recent decades, however, as income inequality has grown, it has become clear that these ideas no longer hold.
It is becoming obvious that many Americans are not as opposed to radical ideals as they once were, and are finally realising that significant changes need to be made for the country to function properly in the modern world. Although Hilary Clinton has shifted her platform to the left in response to the Sanders campaign, she is still very much a moderate, and will not enact any significant progressive policies as president. This, ultimately, is the real reason that voting for Bernie Sanders is important even though his chances of winning still seem slim. Even if Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate, a strong pro-Bernie message in this election season may pave the way for a general leftward shift in the Democratic Party, as other politicians see that a large percentage of the population is ready to embrace what have been thought of as fringe positions.
Although most people in Norway obviously can’t vote for Bernie Sanders, those who can should do so, and everyone else should attempt to convince their American friends that making the United States a bit more like Norway would be a good thing. Anyone registered with Democrats Abroad can vote this Tuesday, March 8th at the American Lutheran Church in Oslo, as well as other polling locations around the country and across Europe. Although his chances of nomination are still remote, it is important to send the strongest message we can that a significant portion of Americans are in favour of his policies. Plus, he is the only presidential candidate with his own folk album!
Photo Cred: US Dept of Defence