This election cycle is easily the most politically charged and polarizing candidate run that our country has seen in recent history. Compared to the fierce and nail biting conclusion of the 2016 campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the 2020 campaigns are gearing up to be even more offensive and divisional. Not only that, but this election year holds the potential to revolutionize the way in which our democratic political system functions, specifically when observing Bernie Sanders campaign.
The two party front runners (before Super Tuesday), Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have completely opposite stances on many of the countries most controversial issues, such as gun control, health care, and climate response. Having attended rallies for both candidates (Trump in 2016, Bernie in 2020), I can see they are steadfast and very passionate about their ideas. Both of these men also have a widespread, and vehement grassroots base supporting them, members of which adamantly believe that they are supporting what’s best for the country, and saying otherwise means you want to harm the country’s future. This sort of “if you aren’t with me you’re against me” mentality is slowly but surely degrading our esteemed democratic system.
The Leap Day Bernie Sanders Rally on the Boston Common was a fiery show of passion, love, and concern for those surrounding us, both friends and strangers. With a constant shouting of the campaign slogan “Not me, US!” the crowd displayed cheery smiles, and genuine excitement and concern for those around them. However, this campaign of compassion is marked by a distinct area of hatred toward the other side, specifically Donald Trump and his supporters.
Having observed this overt kind heartedness, I was surprised to hear Bernie begin his speech with a series of repugnant attacks on Trump himself, assertively calling him a racist, homophobe, xenophobe, and bigot. Whether or not these accusations are true is impossible to confirm, and I find it to be an extremely harmful practice, even if the accusations are based on behavioral evidence. By associating these terms with President Trump, Bernie and others in similar positions are unintentionally assigning these traits to Trump supporters as well. While this may not be their goal, I have seen firsthand the hatred and judgement my youthful peers are capable of displaying towards those that support Trump. Being young and supporting Trump seem to be mutually exclusive, at least in accordance with social standards. As a result, I believe many people are more concerned about what the groups they associate with believe, rather than what they themselves truly feel. Among youth at least, the massive generalizations made about Democrat vs Republican often comes down to either being for social change or against it, which is extremely toxic to our political climate. It alludes to an overall undereducation on the complexities and layers of political science, and how real policies affect real people in real ways. Political loyalties are not black and white, they are not single issue choices capable of summarizing you and your opinions. They are essential facets of our democracy because they serve as grounds for debate, which is the foundation of our country’s ability to deliberate important issues, and make societal progress. If people fear social judgement in regards to their political affiliations, true democracy cannot blossom because true representation of ideas is being suppressed.
Despite this qualm, I will say that Senator Sanders’ campaign is, as he claims, a true “movement.” From his election practices, to his ideas, to the people that support him, Bernie is resolutely spearheading a “political revolution.” Never before has our country seen such a massive campaign funded by nothing but the working class, as Bernie proudly emphasizes. Democracy as we know it in the past has been largely influenced by big corporations, powerful lobbies, and massive banks funding the politicians that will do what THEY want done, not the majority of American citizens. While this is not true universally, there is no doubt that the 1% hold immense power in the political system. That is not true democracy, but it is our democracy. Contrary to this status quo, in Bernie’s vision he sees medicare for all, forgiveness of student debt and free college, and a massive amount of cheap public housing for those who need it. While the question as to whether or not these goals are feasible is up for debate, their mere introduction and fervent support is the sign of a massive shift in approach to the role of the federal government in people’s lives. Traditionally, America has been a country of working your way up the ladder, and getting by on your own hard work and determination: The American Dream. This increasingly obsolete vision is being replaced by a system of indiscriminately supporting Americans in need. From today’s social perspective this may seem like a necessary step in the direction of equality, but when put in historical context these ideas are truly revolutionary. The success of Bernie’s campaign is a sign of an erosion of the One Percents’ form of democracy, and a revolutionary step towards governing and providing for all people and by all people, despite race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.
The American Democratic system is a longstanding and constantly evolving one. With every leap year bringing the potential for a new president, there comes potential for a new approach to the governing of this nation. After his radical campaign in 2016, Donald Trump undeniably transformed the Republican party. Bernie Sanders, fueled by his radical ideas and large loyal base, is positioning himself to be the next leader of a revolutionary political movement. Not only is he calling on a traditionally dormant generation to become active in politics, he is also changing the way politics works for the people, by proposing radical ideas such as free higher education and medicare for all. While many fear this country is not prepared for his socialist ideals, he is undeniably scaring an establishment of well financed corporate powerhouses who are accustomed to buying their agendas into law. Whether he is elected president or not, Bernie’s mere prevalence in the conversation is telling of the impending political revolution in the United States.