by Atif Qarni
On March 1, Virginians will be voting in the 2016 Presidential Primary. This election in November could be the most pivotal election of our generation. Since the Republicans gained control of the House, they have made it increasingly difficult for President Obama to govern. Despite all of the protests and rancor in Congress over the Administration’s policies, President Obama has made significant strides on issues like affordable health care coverage, marriage equality, and repairing relations with foreign nations like Cuba and Iran.
However, on the domestic front, there are several issues that the current Administration has not fully recognized or addressed, including income inequality, inner city violence, and institutionalized racism. Turning a blind eye to racial and socio-economic inequalities is creating an environment in this country that is ripe for discontent, which if left unaddressed, will lead to civil unrest.
I support Bernie Sanders because his message of economic justice will expand the Democratic coalition to include more support from working class voters. We need a nominee who will inspire the youth and disenfranchised to come out and vote in November. Sanders has demonstrated courage in demanding significant change in fixing our rigged economy, cleaning up our corrupt political system, and giving the younger generation a better fighting chance to shoot for the stars. There is very little upward mobility if a person comes out of college with over $100,000 in debt. This is not the American dream, it is the American nightmare.
Let us not forget that Democratic socialism is the same set of ideas that created the New Deal coalition that gave us Social Security, Medicare, the GI Bill, and the great public works projects of the 20th century -- all policies that led to a steady rise in the middle class standard of living.
I support Sanders because he has a long record of being on the right side of issues and on the front lines for civil rights and social justice for women and minorities. His view on marriage equality did not evolve over the years, but remained steadfast over the years. In this regard, Sanders has proven himself to be a true leader and visionary, as opposed to a follower of popular sentiment.
Some Democrats are concerned that if Sanders is our nominee, then Michael Bloomberg may jump in, costing Democrats the presidency. Bloomberg is progressive on social issues, but is a creature of Wall Street and the investor class that has a lot at stake in electing Hillary Clinton.
Many Democrats like Sanders’ position on the issues but still believe that Hillary is a “safe” bet. Instead of demanding what they actually want, they are willing to settle for what they believe they can get. Instead of allowing for the democratic process to fully transpire, political pundits and establishment Democrats have rallied to anoint Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee, painting Sanders as a disruptive outsider who wants to undo all of the programs that Obama and Clinton set in place.
Our party has to stop preselecting nominees—it doesn’t serve our interest well and it circumvents the very democratic principles that we hold as sacred. It is disappointing that almost all of the Democrats elected in Virginia endorsed Hillary without giving Sanders a fair shot.
A major theme from both primaries is establishment v. non-establishment. Sanders and Clinton are not very different on most issues. However, one fundamental difference is that Clinton is going to be influenced by special interest money. That is the Dark Side of politics. We need a nominee who will not feel indebted to special interest groups, but rather to the people who put him into office.
If Sanders wins the nomination and Bloomberg enters the race, this will only accentuate and amplify the Sanders message that the United States is no longer a democracy, but rather an oligarchy, where a small group of people (namely, billionaires) are actually running this country.
I support Sanders because I am worried about Donald Trump winning the presidency. Even with all of her establishment support, Hillary has not been able to inspire many new voters. In order to win, we need an Obama-like turnout in the general election. If Hillary is struggling with her own base, she will struggle even more during the general election. Only Bernie Sanders, with his message of hope and political revolution, will be able to inspire the masses and accomplish an Obama-like turnout.
Some may call me naïve or optimistic for supporting Sanders. George McGovern’s failed election in 1972, however, should not be used as cautionary tale against supporting Sanders. Pessimists generally have short-term memory and tunnel vision – if we listened to them, we would never have elected the first Black President of the United States in 2008.
History is full of messages of hope and optimism and leaders who have pushed for peaceful yet revolutionary social, economic and political changes. America is more than just a place, it is an ideal that we all abide by and believe in.
I believe Sanders is a positive and inspirational figure who can transform our society in ways that only a true visionary can imagine. Sanders is proposing transformative changes in our society – free college, raising the minimum wage, regulating big banks, Medicare for all, and taxing the billionaire class. This may seemed farfetched to many, but it is also necessary if we want to progress as a nation and people. How can we believe in the American dream if we aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to achieve it? Don’t we want to leave our kids better off than we are today? We must first work to unravel the knots before we can weave a new pattern for the fabric of our society.