In what will be my first chance to vote in a general election, I never would have believed that I’d be actively supporting an old white guy, especially one who has called himself a socialist. Even more incredibly, I’m not the only one.
Bernie Sanders has captured the hearts of millions of Americans, coming from seemingly out of nowhere to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. What once looked like a shoo-in for the former First Lady only a few months ago has turned into a competitive race.
As a Democrat, I’m not supposed to like old white guys. I’m supposed to be all about progressiveness, and what’s more progressive than a woman in the Oval Office? But Bernie Sanders does not embrace the typical ideology associated with his appearance, and has proved repeatedly to be a more progressive candidate than his opponent.
It should come as no surprise, then, that as the months go by and Sanders is given increased publicity, more and more people have rallied to his cause. This has been especially true among millennials, from whom he received tremendous support in the recent Iowa caucus. According to an NBC exit poll, 86 percent of Democratic voters between the ages of 17 and 24 supported Sanders in Iowa.
Of course, you shouldn’t vote for someone just because other people are. Doing so would be almost as silly as thinking $1 million dollars constitutes a small loan or denying that climate change exists. What you should do is vote for someone whose policies you agree with, and for the majority of others in our demographic, that person happens to be Sanders.
So what is it that attracts the masses to the Vermont senator? In addition to his rugged handsomeness and bad-boy attitude, Sanders has run on a platform with which the youth of America can identify. One of the more popular points is his promise to raise the minimum wage to a livable $15 per hour. This would help out not only the many students working their way through college, but also those who don’t receive a salaried position upon graduating.
Simply raising the minimum wage would already make education more affordable, but he has no plans of stopping there. Sanders has announced his intention to make public college and university tuition-free for everyone, citing the success of many other countries around the world that already employ this system.
Before you say anything, I’m aware that Lehigh is a private institution. My parents – those people I call once a week so that they continue paying for my education – are even more aware of it. Many of us know or have heard of someone who has transferred to a different school solely because they weren’t able to afford tuition here.
While Sanders can’t make Lehigh tuition-free, there are other ways that he intends to make college more affordable. He plans to cut the interest rates on student loans to make them easier to pay off, and wants to expand the federal work-study program more than threefold. For those relying on significant financial aid, these changes could make all the difference as to whether or not they’re able to continue pursuing a degree here.
Also proving popular among his supporters is his position on women’s rights. Sanders has long supported equal pay for women, and plans on making that a reality when he’s in office by signing the Paycheck Fairness Act. He has denounced the Republican intention to defund Planned Parenthood, and will work to expand funding for the organization as well as to improve access to contraception and extend paid maternity leave.
Sanders strives to help not only women, but any group that is treated unjustly. In response to the wrongful deaths of so many black Americans, he has called for a complete overhaul of the law enforcement system, including requiring that all law enforcement officers wear body cameras and that police departments collect and publicize data on deaths of those in police custody. He has been a strong voice for the LGBT community as well, working toward equality over his decades in office and pledging to end the prejudice against those who suffer from it.
I understand that Bernie Sanders can’t fix all our problems. The past few years have been a demonstration of just how ineffective our government can be when we have a Republican Congress and a Democratic president. But electing Sanders is just the first step – what follows is the political revolution.
Brian Reiff, ’17, is an assistant sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]