“Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.” This week Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving independent in the history of Congress, finally announced his candidacy for President. Just as his older brother Larry stands for Parliament here in Oxford West and Abingdon, Bernie will seek to mount a challenge to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
Senator Sanders brings a refreshing integrity to the race. He has never relied on the backing of big money and has announced that he will not accept contributions from deep-pocketed donors in this race. He has promised to not run a single negative ad. Most importantly, he has never had trouble balancing power and principles.
Asked how the voter might distinguish his policies from Clinton’s, Sanders takes pride in pointing to his past. “I voted against the war in Iraq… I voted against the Keystone pipeline.”He even voted against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), where Clinton backed her husband in signing it. “I’m not evolving when it comes to gay rights, I was there!”
Sanders is as resilient as he is honest. Before becoming Mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981, he lost two senatorial races and two gubernatorial races in which he gained 1-2 per cent of the vote. The ultra-progressive manifestos from those races will reappear in his bid for the presidency.
But Sanders’ populist economics now find broader audiences than ever before. In a much celebrated speech on the Senate floor in 2012, Sanders laid out the heart of his politics. “There is a war being waged by the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country against the working families, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country.”
The senator’s principled attitude and narrow domestic focus, however, make his candidacy the longest of long shots. A self-described democratic socialist, the senator has proposed to invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure, health care, and raising the minimum wage. A modern type of New Deal politics could help America create jobs and capture the 2.3 trillion dollar renewables market. However, these radical proposals prevent him from garnering support outside the thin liberal strait to the left of Clinton.
On foreign policy, the senator’s own underdeveloped views and lack of experience are out of step with rampant conflict and global humanitarian crises. A Sanders presidency would mean the return of American isolationism. Sanders does not want the United States to lead the fight against ISIS, telling CNN in 2014, “I’ll be damned if kids in the state of Vermont have to defend the royal Saudi family, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”
With small donors giving $ 1.5 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign, he outperformed all the Republican candidates. “I am in this race to win,” Sanders maintains. 40 years ago, an unknown Georgia Governor by the name of Jimmy Carter had little more than that going for him.