By Rose Sauvage de Brantes, BA English and Japanese
In the past weeks, an unlikely candidate has propelled himself into solid frontrunner status among the Democrats in the U.S. presidential elections. Since his overwhelming victory in Nevada. Bernie Sanders has morphed into the most likely rival to Donald Trump in the upcoming November duel. However, his popularity is less far-out than meets the eye. While he carries the reputation of a deluded communist, his past actions suggest otherwise. During his tenure as a mayor, he was not trying to abolish businesses or advance any outlandishly radical measures, but instead pushed for tax reforms and an increase in social services. Bernie Sanders’ political leaning is inspired by European socialist governments such as Sweden or France, which does not make him a communist fanatic, but rather an experienced social democrat.
His policy has, more or less, been consistent throughout his lifetime, advocating free education, public healthcare and fair taxing on the American elite for a little over 30 years. His appeal is not merely limited to American progressive youth (faced with a lower standard of living than their parents, crushing student loans, over-priced housing and low-paying jobs) but to at least 40% of all Americans. Compared to the conservative tally of 37%, only 24% of Americans identify as liberals. However, the overwhelming majority does support liberal ideas like higher taxes for the billionaire class and stronger regulations on the financial industry. In addition to all this, he is the only candidate who openly addresses environmental issues, promising the end of the fossil fuel industry in what he calls the New Green Deal.
Furthermore, many aspects of his egalitarian manifesto are to be commonly found in the policies of his democratic opponents. Elizabeth Warren focuses on rebuilding the electoral system and calling out Trump for being the emblem of political corruption. Nonetheless, she too seeks to regulate the free market. So do Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. What sets Sanders apart from his more moderate opponents is, first and foremost, his inclusivity and determination. Bernie Sanders doesn’t settle for a compromise. He redefines the term “populist candidate”. By taking it away from Trump and his avoidant rhetoric and manipulative hate speech, he unapologetically demands a level of acceptable basic living standards for all, regardless of their religion, sexuality or ethnical background. Thus he attracts voters who are not necessarily Democratic supporters, forming a unified anti-Trump front.
Compared to other candidates that either benefit from corporate sponsorships or in case of billionaires like Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyers, completely self-fund their electoral campaign. Sanders relies on public funding, donations and support from his grassroots followers. This creates a discrepancy between him and his opponents when it comes to media coverage. Whilst Bloomberg can afford to spend hundreds of millions on PR, TV ads and positive messages from Twitter influencers, Bernie is pretty much at the mercy of mass media outlets. Which, even if allied with the Democrats, constitute a corporation, and therefore tend to paint Sanders in a negative light. A Stalinesque figure about to bring public executions to Central Park. Paradoxically, this has in some cases had the opposite effect on previously undecided Democratic voters.
America’s ongoing monopoly crisis manifests itself in the political realm. Since the 2016 elections the general public has grown cautious of big money and the ability of outside factors to misinform and misdirect people’s voices. In other words, this year’s election outcome rests on the American aptitude for media literacy.