Bernie Sanders, the hero we need but don’t deserve

The former presidential candidate is popular not because he is a populist, but because he addresses the real economic and social issues voters care about

And so, to thunderous applause, Bernie left the Sheldonian. As he went about his business, the people took to the streets in his wake. The people sought just to catch a fleeting glimpse of the man himself. They knew that when they cast their eyes upon this man of the people, they would see a hero and a great leader to light the path for the future. In the dark four years that we must live with, the hero of the times is he who does not surrender his beliefs just to win elections. That man is Bernie Sanders.

A populist? A demagogue? No, Bernie Sanders is adored because he provides the ideas and policies that mainstream Democrats and Republicans have utterly failed to provide. Accusations of “polemic” or “empty rhetoric” are bizarre as Sanders laid out a plan for activists on both sides of the Atlantic to create positive change in both minor and major ways. One of the least accurate and most damaging accusations levelled against Senator Sanders is that he is somehow still selling himself. Indeed, Our Revolution is not just the name of his book but of his organisation, an alliance of grassroots organisers and progressive legislators to influence the next generation of Democratic lawmakers and to take the fight to the Republican party. He is also a patron of Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, similar progressive groups focusing on Congressional races. If Bernie Sanders is one thing, it’s a man of action.

The audience was not provided, “Polemic, platitudes, and empty rhetoric” as claimed in one Cherwell piece, but instead practical ideas: he praised and encouraged the actions of Governors and State Legislatures in committing the states, in defiance of Washington, to universal healthcare and climate change policy. He talked about building broad coalitions both in Congress and across America to oppose, modify and moderate Republican legislation. He emphasised the continued role of protests in keeping the Trump administration on their toes and reminding the American people just how abnormal this current Presidency is. Sanders interwove proposed solutions and observed problems. Let us remember, Sanders was talking to a broad, foreign audience not about a theoretical presidency but a broad movement.

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Given that we are only a few months into Trump’s Presidency, it’ll be at least three years before Democrats are making policy again. Sanders is not here to lecture us on specific solutions but to rally a global movement and to spread an ideology, one of hope and unity. If you came to him looking for tax plans and infrastructural programs, you came to the wrong place.

The reasons Senator Sanders gave for Clinton’s loss might be old news but the reason they are so often circulated is because they are absolutely true. Poor industrial whites turned desperately to Trump as they felt their prosperity slip away and anger at Clinton’s links with Wall Street and Big Business fuelled the populism of Donald Trump. You might see them splashed across Facebook or hear them over hashed at dinner but a repetitive truth is still a truth and, if we neglect these key issues out of boredom, the Left is sure to lose again.

The potential of a Sanders candidacy is not simply an off-hand counterfactual, it is an essential element to consider running forward. Sanders isn’t the most popular politician in the country because he said so or because Baroness Kennedy announced him as such; Harvard-Harris has been running polls on the perception of US Politicians for years and since his rise to prominence nearly two years ago Senator Sanders has consistently topped the list. In polls of Clinton vs Trump, the former held a lead of approximately five per cent, for Sanders vs Trump the lead shot up to approximately twenty per cent. In Indiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia and across the Rust Belt—the states that handed Trump the keys to the White House—Sanders consistently trounced both Clinton and the entirety of the Republican line up. If the Democrats want to win back these regions and the White House come 2020, they should look to Sanders’ example and build upon his successes.

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Just because politicians like Bernie Sanders hold ideals and values—an idea so alien to those valueless opportunists politics is plagued with —does not mean that those ideals and values are blindly idealistic or incapable of engaging with real politics. Sanders’ home state of Vermont was staunchly Republican when he entered politics but by cooperating with various left-of-centre groups such as the Liberty Union Party and the Vermont Democrats, Sanders worked his way up against the odds and turned the state blue.

Bernie Sanders was, perhaps, ahead of his time in 2016 but history vindicates him every single day that Trump is in the White House. The Senator is building a movement, spreading the word and providing the solutions for a new age of Progressive politics. He has inspired a generation and brought into politics both old and young who had long since lost their faith. a torch held up in an ever darkening world and a call to arms for a global people feeling ever more abandoned.