Cushman: I Still Believe in Bernie

Thousands+of+people+came+to+support+Democratic+Presidential+Candidate+Bernie+Sanders+at+his+rally+at+This+is+the+Place+Monument+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Friday%2C+March+18%2C+2016+%7C+Chronicle+archives%0A

Thousands of people came to support Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders at his rally at This is the Place Monument in Salt Lake City, Friday, March 18, 2016 | Chronicle archives

By KC Ellen Cushman, Opinion Writer

 

On Monday, March 2, 2020 Bernie Sanders held a rally in Salt Lake City, drawing huge crowds and loud applause. Utah support for the populist candidate has always been strong — Sanders won Utah with nearly 80% in the 2016 Utah Democratic primary. Sanders also won Utah’s 2020 primary despite the increased number of candidates.

This year was the first time Utah voted on Super Tuesday and it was also my first time voting. Like many other Utahns, I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders. I felt lucky to vote for a candidate I truly believe in rather than casting my ballot for a candidate I felt was the “lesser evil.” I believe in Sanders’ campaign because I think he has integrity, I believe his policies are important and disregarding him as a candidate will damage the Democratic party.

 

Integrity Matters

I learned how much integrity matters to me in 2016. Policy is always important, but seeing Donald Trump run for president taught me that I cannot support a candidate who does not have good character. I admire Sanders’ strong, consistent record — I think it shows courage and integrity.

Sanders voted against the Iraq War. In 1985, as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he signed a proclamation protecting LGBTQ+ people from housing and workplace discrimination — legislation that Congress cannot even get passed in 2020. It makes sense that LGBTQ+ Americans have shown strong support for the Sanders campaign. Bernie also has a history of fighting to protect and expand important social programs like Social Security.

It is important to support a candidate who, for so long, has been anti-war, pro-LGBTQ+ rights, and has fought for social programs. It shows that Sanders is not afraid to stand up for policies he believes in regardless of their popularity at the time. Part of Trump’s appeal was his lack of establishment ties, but that was only because he did not have much political history at all. Sanders has a political history, and one that shows consistent dedication to important progressive policies and steadfastness in his beliefs.

Not only does Sanders have a strong political history, but he does not take big donor money to fund his campaign. His campaign is run with small, grass-roots donations. His willingness to turn away the advantages of large donors and Super-PACs as a matter of principle  shows a strength of character that other candidates do not have. In the same way many people admired Mitt Romney for using his voice as one of Utah’s senators to vote yes on an impeachment charge against President Trump — despite the potential damage to his political prospects — it is admirable that Bernie Sanders is willing to forgo campaign support despite the consequences.

 

Strong Policies and Better Results

Sanders has more extensive plans than other Democrats. His initiatives are certainly far more progressive than Joe Biden’s moderate proposals. For example, Sanders advocates for Medicare for All, while Joe Biden only wants to build on the Affordable Care Act.

I am not naive enough to believe that Sanders’ plans will go through the legislative process without changes, even significant changes. Sanders’ plans for Medicare for All, tuition-free college and a Green New Deal seem like distant goals, but it is vital that there are political leaders advocating for them in our government. A president willing to push for the ideal policy on health, economic and climate issues will yield better policy results than a president who starts off with halfway compromises.

 

Disregarding Voters Will Damage the Party

The 2016 primary revealed that there are, in some ways, two Democratic parties — one that leans further left and one that is much more moderate. The rift between Democrats was embodied by the race between Hillary Clinton and Sanders in 2016, and now we’re seeing it play out once again between Biden and Sanders. In 2016, Sanders supporters felt that they were being ignored, their voices silenced and their votes disregarded. Following the 2016 Nevada primary, many were concerned that establishment Democrats had rigged it in Clinton’s favor. Even Elizabeth Warren believes that the DNC rigged 2016 in favor of a Clinton nomination.

From the perspective of a Sanders supporter, I can tell you that as Super Tuesday results came out in favor of Biden despite polling showing Sanders leading in many areas earlier in the week, there was a similar frustration. One Twitter search of the #BernieorBust hashtag shows a flurry of tweets from Bernie supporters frustrated with the Democratic establishment’s efforts to stop Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination. One user expressed that if Sanders did not win the 2020 nomination she would switch to the Green Party or register as an independent. Another said that they would never be able to cast a ballot for Joe Biden. Those are only two tweets among many from frustrated Sanders supporters, and I cannot help but share some of their frustration.

I do not want to have to vote for a candidate who does not support truly progressive health care reform. I want a candidate who will take action against climate change and stand against the GOP on important issues like avoiding war or protecting Social Security. To see Democratic leaders once again disregard Bernie Sanders would be demoralizing so many of his voters, many of whom are young and new to the party. It also would pit young people and other Democratic base voters against the Democratic establishment. Stopping Bernie Sanders is not worth losing the support of his voters.

I support Bernie Sanders because he is a candidate worth believing in. His consistent record and campaign financing show an unrivaled strength of character. His bold policies are an important step in passing the legislation millions of people desperately need. Trump ran as an outsider promising to drain the swamp but has failed in almost every way. Sanders is running to actually root out the corruption in Washington, without pitching a phony populism laced with anti-semitic, misogynistic and racist rhetoric. Instead, Sanders appeals to the economic needs of working families through a unifying message of solidarity that can bring voters together and defeat Trump.

 

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@kcellenc