By Perry Fein
The charismatic Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently made headlines by announcing that he will seek the bid for President from the Democratic National Committee. Although a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist”, his decision was still surprising, as he hasn’t affiliated with any political party since the late seventies.
When asked why he decided to pursue the Democratic nomination, Sanders explained that it was a pragmatic choice: It just would’ve been too hard to get on the ballot as an independent in all fifty states. His campaign
Photo credit Memphis Democratic Socialists of America offers hope to Americans who want real, comprehensive reform in 2016.
Sanders has been involved in politics almost all his adult life. He has been labeled a “radical” for his far-left platform, but he is also beloved by liberals for his steadfast demeanor and consistency on issues. He has long been considered a “fringe Democrat”; his unwillingness to compromise his values has yielded him frequent mockery from both sides of the aisle.
On the other hand, he has also captivated millions of financially frustrated Americans with aspirations of a new era of socioeconomic equality. Sanders gained acclaim when he delivered an extraordinarily long filibuster against the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. His eight-and-a-half hour diatribe, eventually published under the name The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class, included Sanders exclaiming, “Enough is enough! […] How many homes can you own?!”
Sanders has also championed the causes of universal health care, media reform, education, and veterans’ affairs—among a number of others—during his tenure in the Senate. What is truly inspiring, however, is his track record regarding the big questions that have challenged U.S. legislators over the past three decades.
Senator Sanders has always been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) as a congressman, as well as to repeal the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy introduced to the military under the Clinton Administration.
He has also been an outspoken voice of concern regarding the consequences of climate change. In 2007, he co-sponsored the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions and set a new “renewable fuels requirement for gasoline beginning in 2016.”
Sanders has invariably addressed the complex issues of the day during his time in the House and Senate. The main issue for his Presidential run, however, will be vast economic restructuring. As a “democratic-socialist”, Sanders
stands for increasing taxes on the wealthy and making corporations “pay their fair share”.
He also recognizes the threat that moneyed interests present to the United States’ political system. Sanders has been outspoken about the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which ruled that a corporation is analogous to a person and a political contribution is really just a form of “free speech”. Thus, corporations are free to donate any amount of money to any candidate. The Senator has courageously opposed the billionaire class who have hijacked our democracy and seeks to overturn the Supreme Court decision that gave them this unprecedented influence.
His willingness to take on the wealthy and powerful interests that pull the strings in the theatre of U.S. politics, sets him apart from the main Democratic Party frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, who is considered by many to be the “darling of Wall Street”. While his Presi”dential campaign may be more idealistic than practical, his presence in the race will significantly shift the conversation to the left. His staunchly socialist platform will force Clinton to answer to issues of economic disparity, which will make for excellent debate and an exciting primary.
The starkest difference between the two Democratic frontrunners is indubitably their conception of what the United States’ foreign policy should look like. While Clinton has always been considered “hawkish”, Sanders consistently opposed the invasion of Iraq since the very beginning. Both candidates have supported President Obama’s endeavor to secure a safe, stable nuclear deal with Iran.
While they both recognize the threat that ISIS presents in the region—and to the world—they differ greatly in what they consider the most effective approach to confronting the menace of radical Islamism. Clinton would most likely support further U.S. involvement in the region while Sanders has expressed his desire for Arab governments to handle the problem themselves.
Sanders was born to Jewish parents, but when asked about his religious views he has said, “I find myself very close to the teachings of Pope Francis” who he went on to describe as “incredibly smart and brave.” He spent a few months on an Israeli kibbutz after college in the Sixties, but doesn’t maintain the same unwavering, knee-jerk support for the Jewish state that is the norm among Republican
While he has voiced
concerns for Israel’s precarious national security, he has also critiqued the conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Sanders was the first senator to publicly condemn Netanyahu’s speech to Congress as inappropriate, in light of the fact that the head of state lacked any formal invitation from the President.
If you’ve been waiting around for the first “Jewish President” in the traditional sense, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer. Bernie Sanders isn’t your guy. He probably won’t have mezuzahs
installed in the doorposts and you can bet there won’t be a sukkah on the front lawn of the White House for Sukkoth—as was suggested during the Gore/ Lieberman campaign of 2000—if Sanders’ presidential campaign miraculously ends in victory.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a liberal, meticulous, and experienced statesman—one who can make a claim to integrity and ideological consistency in a time when very few other politicians justifiably can— well, I may just have the perfect candidate for you.