On the 30th of April 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (I) announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. In the race, where Hillary Clinton is the accepted favourite, Sanders was considered the underdog since day one. Surprisingly, Bernie Sanders managed to raise $1.5 million within 24 hours of his official announcement. After four days, Sanders raised $3 million, with the average individual donation being $43 dollars. By the 2nd of July, his campaign had raised an incredible $15 million from 250,000 donors.
Senator Sanders is the only nominee who runs a grassroots campaign, rejecting the use of a Super PAC (political action committee). Sanders is very outspoken against the use of Super PACs and the Citizens United court ruling, which allowed unlimited donations to be made to the campaign. Other nominees, such as Jeb Bush (for the Republican nomination) raised a staggering $103 million through his Super PAC, with only 3 per cent of that coming from small donors.
Sanders is enjoying a large support base, but what is his vision of America? Let’s take a look at his ’12 steps forward’:
1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
Senators Sanders proposes a $1 trillion dollar investment into infrastructure, which would create over 13 million decent-paying jobs – in comparison, the Iraq War cost the country $3 trillion.
2. Reversing Climate Change
While the Republicans, like Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz, continue to deny human influence on climate change, Senator Sanders proposes a transformation of the US energy system towards wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other sustainable sources of energy, which would help decrease human effects on climate change and create more jobs.
3. Creating Worker Co-ops
Instead of tax breaks for corporations, which ‘ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries’, Senator Sanders proposes the creation of worker-owned cooperatives. According to him, ‘when workers have an ownership stake in the business they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs’.
4. Growing Trade Union Movement
The Republicans and corporations in general oppose trade unions and Senator Sanders proposes legislation that would make ‘clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union’.
5. Raising the Minimum Wage to a Living Wage
Currently, the minimum wage in America is $7.25 an hour. As Sanders notes, this is what he calls a ‘starvation wage’ and nobody who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
Women in America only earn ‘78¢ on the $’ – Sanders is a strong proponent of ‘equal pay for equal work’ and would work towards pay equity for women.
7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
Senator Sanders was one of the most notable opponents of the TPP, noting that since 2001, 60,000 factories and 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs were lost as a results of trade agreements such as NAFTA or CAFTA. Sanders proposes developing trade policies that would ‘demand that American corporations create jobs here, not abroad’.
8. Making College Affordable for All
High tuition fees in America are a major concern. Obama himself was repaying his own student loans ‘not so long ago’ – he is 53 years old. Sanders sees education as a right and would work towards making quality education, ‘from childcare to higher education’ affordable for all, so that young Americans can compete globally.
9. Taking on Wall Street
This is a major policy of Sanders, one for which he was criticised by the Republicans repeatedly. The reality is that today, six Wall Street financial institutions ‘have assets equivalent to 61 percent’ of the American GDP: over $9.8 trillion. It is these institutions that have caused the financial crisis in America and Sanders believe they are ‘too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up’.
10. Health Care as a Right for All
Senator Sanders often uses Scandinavia as a role model, where healthcare is free and available to everyone. According to him, ‘more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, while America spends twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation’. He proposes the establishment of a ‘Medicare-for-all single payer system’.
11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans [seniors and children]
‘Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country’, notes Sen. Sanders. As a response, he vows to expand the ‘safety net’ of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
12. Real Tax Reform
Senator Sanders states that it is ‘absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue, because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens’. Sanders seeks to reform taxes in a way, that would be based on the ‘ability to pay’. This means higher taxes for corporations and CEOs, who make millions of dollars a year.
Sanders is certainly the progressive candidate in the 2016 nomination, with many of his policies being very appealing to the American lower and middle class. However, Secretary Clinton is still the accepted favourite for the Democratic nomination, despite Hillary’s scandals involving her and the Clinton Foundation, as Jon Stewart noted in his show.
Whether Senator Sanders will receive enough support to beat Hillary in the nominations is questionable, he is, however, certainly the more consistent and transparent candidate for the democratic nomination.