Bernie Sanders gets a lot of bad press for taking on more than he can achieve, but there may be more merit to his campaign than he gets credit for.
Known for his anti-establishment views that has remained consistent for nearly five decades, Bernie Sanders is currently the leading Democratic hopeful for the US 2020 elections.
His platform correctly claims that Sander's views — that once seemed radical— are now accepted by most Democrats. This includes “Medicare for all”, tuition-free public universities, cancelling student debt and a $15 minimum wage.
But even as he runs for President a second time, and in spite of being a household name, Bernie Sanders remains an outsider to the very Democratic party he aspires to lead.
The jury is still out though, on how realistic Bernie Sander’s platform is. The biggest criticism leveled against him is his use of revolutionary statements like “political revolution” that is at best, utopian. In reality, Sanders intends to work within the system, instead of overthrowing it.
What’s in a revolution anyways?
With his rise in public polling and his top ranking for fundraising among Democrats, the question becomes more pertinent: what does Sanders mean when he repeatedly calls for a “political revolution”?
Rare as they are, most revolutions involve violence and death. But Bernie Sanders’ supporters say it's evident that what he really means is a social revolution.
Sanders consistently maintains that his political platform “is not utopian" and can be accomplished as it existed "in a number of other countries.” He hasn’t named the countries however.
The Republicans say that Sanders’ praise for leftist autocratic regimes throughout South America and even China are sign enough of the kind of countries he has in mind.
Sanders has gone on record to say that China has done more to address extreme poverty “than any country in the history of civilization”, and praised Cuba for making a significant “progress in improving the lives of the poor and working class.” But that in itself doesn’t mean his political plans seek to emulate them.
One may suggest that Sanders is following the example of Scandinavian social democracies. If so, he neglects to mention the lack of revolutions that went into creating such countries. Instead, they relied on long-reforms favored by center-left Democrats.
Sanders keeps calling on people to “stand up and fight.”
What does he stand for?
“There will never be any real change in this country unless there is a political revolution. That means that millions of people have got to stand up and fight,” he says.
“We need millions of people, working class people whose lives have been decimated for the last 45 years, to stand up to Wall Street, to stand up to insurance companies and the drug companies.”
But it's only here that Sander’s campaign finds light, and even relatability judging by his polling numbers. For Bernie, it’s all about class inequality and fixing what’s broken. In one of the few rare opportunities Bernie had to speak at length about his platform, he actually answered most of the questions his statements provoke.
Here’s how they can be summed-up:
- “You can’t explain the complexity of American healthcare in 45 seconds. Nobody can,” he says. For Bernie, unregulated media coverage allows for unhealthy representation of the ultra-rich. This means candidates should get an equal amount of allotted air-time, instead of 5-second soundbytes.
- He wants to reverse the shrinking of the middle-class, quoting that “3 people own more global wealth than the bottom half”, or “over the last 20 years, the top 1% has seen a $21 trillion increase in wealth, and the bottom half has seen a $900 billion decline.” That means taxes for the wealthy.
- “We’re the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare as a right to all people,” he adds. Bernie clarifies that healthcare is about serving people, “not making tens of billions in profit for the drug and insurance companies.”
- He wants to crack down on lobbying and the role of big money in politics, stating that over 20 years drug companies have spent $4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions.
- He wants to regulate pharmaceutical price-gouging: “We’re the only country in the world that doesn’t negotiate with the drug companies,” he says as he drops that the cost of insulin in 10 times higher in the US than Canada.
- He wants to solve student debt, by cancelling it and making public universities free. He admits this would cost $2.2 trillion over 10 years, and would be paid in a less than 0.5% tax on Wall Street speculation that would bring in $2.4 trillion alone. Would it Wall Street? Probably not, he says. It would reduce high-frequency trading however.
But even if Bernie Sanders get the majority of votes in a traditional electoral college, and somehow sees the Democrats to a majority in the Senate, while holding onto their majority in Congress; he’ll arguably still have as much difficulty passing radical agenda items as Obama did even passing moderate bills with majority-support.
At the end of the day, Democratic Senators who represent red states or pivot states are unlikely to take risks, and the very nature of democratic cycles and re-election logic could be the undoing of his grand plans, even if they aren’t exactly utopian.