A way back, before Sanders was winning states and the race for the white house had really begun, I told a friend of the family’s (a female minister) that I was voting for Sanders. Her face dropped as she responded with “But he’s a socialist.” I responded with “I know.”
I could see the utter shock on her face and in her body language. I am, after all, a Christian, and it seems in this country being Christian equals being firmly in the GOP camp. Now I’m also a Christian, who went to the most liberal college in the country, Warren Wilson College, and it was my time at Wilson that allowed me to come out from the shadow of a lifetime in the church and truly define my own opinions and moral compass. This is also my first election and the first vote of my life. I was too young to vote in the U.K before my family left and on a visa/green card I was not allowed to vote (which is taxation without representation, but that’s another story). My family earned dual citizenship back in January 2014 and thus this, at 24 years old, is the first time I have ever voted.
I say all of this to provide some background on myself and the seriousness of this vote for me. I voted for Sanders this morning, and I could not be prouder. However, I would like to let you know that why as a young, white, Christian female I voted for an old Jewish democratic socialist.
Let’s begin with that word socialism. I came from a socialist country, and we didn’t leave the U.K to run away from socialism, no we actually rather liked it. Yet in America, the word socialism is synonymous with communism and dictators and bad people, etc. Merriam-Webster defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”
Essentially socialism comes from the viewpoint of certain things should be evenly distributed to everyone from a collective pot of money, i.e., taxes. I would like to point out that America already has elements of socialism, driven on a public road lately?
I would also like to point out that the top ten happiest countries in the world (this list of countries comes from the 2015 better life index report released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD. This report is based on several factors including education, employment, life satisfaction, income, health, and the environment) have governments that have socialist ideals.
The top ten happiest countries are (from #10 to #1) are the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Iceland, Austria, Denmark, Canada, Norway and Switzerland. All of these countries have a very high full-time employment rate ranging from 73% to 98%. They all have extremely high literacy rates, between 99% and 100% – which stems from all of them having free or heavily subsidized education systems. For example, in Iceland students only have to pay the initial registration fee for their undergraduate education. They all have free or partly free healthcare systems. For example, in Norway all citizens get free access to emergency/basic health care, children under 16 receive free care and all costs related to pregnancy and giving birth are covered by the government. Beyond emergency, essential and pregnancy-related care adults in Norway pay an annual deductible before becoming eligible for an exemption card. The card entitles one to free healthcare for the remainder of that year. All of these countries also have a very high life expectancy, ranging from an average of 81 to 87 years.
On the other hand, the USA’s employment rate is the only thing that is even close to these countries. The US employment rate is currently at a high with 95%. However, this includes all part-time workers and workers on unemployment benefits. A US news article back in 2014 stated that researched show (at that point in time) the full-time worker rate was actually at 49.9%. America’s literacy rate is a dismal 86% with 21% of that reading below a 5th-grade level. Our education system is far from free with the 2015 graduate (graduating from a four-year college) averaging $35,000 in debt. A sobering statistic on top of that is that the combined debt of all 2015 graduates is estimated near $65 billion. As far as healthcare goes despite the USA being an insurance based system, we spend more on healthcare than any other developed country with poorer results (as far as life expectancy, etc.). Here’s a direct quote taken from a CNBC article from October 2015
“The U.S. spent an average of $9,086 per person on health care in 2013, which translated to more than 17 percent of gross domestic product, the fund noted.
That level of health spending relative to GDP is about 50 percent more than any of the countries studied for the report, which are Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The Commonwealth Fund said that in the U.S., the life expectancy in 2013 was an average of 78.8 years. By contrast, in Switzerland, which had the second-highest health spending per capita at $6,325, life expectancy was more than four years higher, at 82.9 years.”
As you can see these countries, which have some socialist ideals (many of which Sanders wants to implement) are doing quite a bit better than the USA currently. I hope the figures speak for themselves but here’s this awesome video about socialism, which is better than anything I could write.
Now onto the reasons I voted for Bernie:
A Completely Independent Candidate: Super PACS are, in my opinion, a horrifying part of the American political landscape. That and lobbyists but lobbyists don’t come into play too much during the election, or we could say Super PACS are the lobbyists of the election period. Anyhow Super PACS became a thing in 2010 and essentially is a group of people and or corporations/unions creating a fund that is then poured into a candidate’s campaign.
PAC’s (Political Action Committees) have been around for a lot longer, but the term Super PACS relates to the landmark Super Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case was decided in a 5-4 vote, and the decision argued that, under the First Amendment, the government cannot prohibit independent spending by corporations and unions for political purposes.
Therefore, all of a sudden mega corporations, businesses, and unions, etc. could band together to support and subsequently influence a nominee. Unlike traditional PAC’s, there is no limit on who contributes to Super PACS and how much they contribute. The Koch Brothers alone (who are despicable in their unapologetic abuse of the planet, you can find out more about them through this Rolling Stone article http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924?page=5) contributed over $400 million to the Republican party through Super PACS in 2012 and are estimated to spend over $290 million in this election.
As much as Super PACS are not supposed to influence candidates can you guess who benefits from Republican ideologies and policies concerning fossil fuels and climate change? Oil barons like the Koch Brothers who pour money into Republican candidates to keep policies that benefit them, not the people or the planet, alive. Also, fun fact the Koch Brothers were major backers of George W Bush and profited quite a bit from the Iraq war.
Every candidate apart from Sanders and he who shall not be named has received support from Super PACS – thus meaning every candidate has backers with millions of dollars and very particular interests. Don’t you think that might come into play during the White House years? On another level Super PACS have created an American Oligarchy that has made it nearly impossible for people without prior political connection and or fame to run.
See what Jimmy Carter had to say about it:
Sanders, however, is beating the odds. He has raised all of his funds through individual donations – averaging at $27 a person. As he raises support from individual donations, he is proving that not only can a grassroots movement take a candidate all the way to the White House it can support a candidate who owes nothing to any major corporation or special interest. Sanders policies and plans are his own, and no one can come back at him at a later point and try to use their Super PAC mega millions to influence future policy.
A Man for the Family: There are many issues Sanders brings up in regards to the family, creating a living wage, streamlining healthcare and education, but, in my opinion, one of the most important issues Sanders is bringing up is paid maternity leave.
Now I could quote so many statistics here but as most people respond to visuals better, here are some cute videos.
The sweetest and shortest one:
The hip/Infographically fun Buzzfeed one:
The Super in-depth and hilarious (in a really depressing way) one:
Did you see in the Buzzfeed video that Estonia gives 108 weeks of paid leave? Estonia is kicking America’s butt, which never happens any other time. Women and men are losing their jobs and their income so that they can stay with their babies after birth!
Now here is a really sobering fact: under the Animal Welfare Act in 17 states (including Nevada, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Illinois) it is illegal to sell a puppy before eight weeks old (Virginia also has a law banning puppy sale, but it’s before seven weeks). This law is there because it is deemed cruel to separate the puppy from its mother while it is still adjusting and feeding from the mother.
To put that in contrast, a puppy (and I love puppies) is better protected by the law than a human baby! After all, there is no law requiring human mothers to stay with their babies for eight weeks to adjust/be adequately nourished. Yet a puppy has that protection in 17 states. If you cannot see why this is not only an issue but morally wrong I would implore you to think about your own mother and your future children. Don’t you think your mom/your wife/sister/yourself (if you are planning on having a baby) would be much happy and more rounded and content and healthier if they could spend the same amount of time as a puppy is allowed to spend with its mother?
I would also like to point out that the last legislation to even come close to providing maternity leave was in 1993 and merely provided job security (i.e., you can leave, but we’ll keep your job) for women with full-time salaried positions. This did nothing to provide funding for new mothers or anything for the millions upon millions of women who are self-employed or work part-time.
If that does not convince you, please watch the below Buzz Feed video of men experiencing childbirth pains:
Now imagine going through that and being told to get your ass back to work, if you know you want to keep your job, or maintain your level of income to you know, provide for your child.
Sanders has a plan to bring about a paid 12 week period of maternity leave and has cosponsored a bill called the FAMILY Act with Senator Gillibrand that is currently in review. This would be covered by a small tax (two-tenths of one percent), similar to social security, coming out of a check and an amount matched by the employer – which amounts to about $1.50 per week on each end (employer and employee). I would gladly pay $1.50 a week to contribute to other women’s ability to stay home with their children and eventually my own.
It is an absolute disgrace that the USA has no coverage for mothers, and we should be ashamed that we are so far behind. Again we care more about puppies and Estonia is kicking out butts. Remember that.
A Protector of the Environment: I live in a state that has Rick Scott as a governor. There are many many things I could say about this snake of a human being. However, I will just say this Governor Scott has banned the words ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ being used in any official Florida reports. Despite the fact that we are in a state that if sea levels continue to rise will be half sunk.
If you want to learn more about this real thing, please read this informative Huffington Post article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/12/rick-scott-climate-change_n_6855006.html
As a resident of one of the most vulnerable states I am tired of living under a government, both locally and nationally, that continues to deny the existence of climate change and its effect – despite the mountains of evidence for it.
Again people tend to respond better to visuals, so here are some nifty videos.
The Leo Finally Gets his Oscar/ Don’t Take the Planet for Granted One:
The Bill Nye Gives You the Basics One:
The Why Your Brain Wants to Fight Climate Change One:
BONUS: What It Means for US Cities
If we do not begin to work towards creative solutions to the climate change issue, soon the results will be disastrous, and the USA is embarrassingly far behind the rest of the world when it comes to policies that combat climate change.
Sanders’ plan to combat climate change includes reclaiming democracy from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby (Koch Brothers anyone?), accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels (solar in Florida anyone?), investing in clean and sustainable energy (again solar in Florida people), revolutionize electric and transportation infrastructure (you know like building better public transport, trains, etc. like the rest of the world has), and lead the international community to solve climate change and prevent international combat (fewer resources = more wars over those resources, unless we work together to solve the problem globally).
I believe Sanders has the best plan for combating climate change and has the guts to implement it. The thought of having someone like Rick Scott in the oval office terrifies me because every minute the government chooses to be ignorant is another minute we are blinding marching towards destruction.
We have the resources to move towards a clean, sustainable future, and Sanders can take us there.
A Life Long Champion for Justice: Sanders has been politically active since the 1960s when he was a student in Chicago. In 1962, he organized a sit-in at the University’s Presidents Office at the University of Chicago because the college dorms were segregated. This was done with UC’s chapter of Congress of Racial Equality. Sanders went on to become the president of that chapter in his junior year.
The same year he protested a local restaurant chain for their discrimination toward African Americans. In 1963, he attended the March on Washington and later that year he was arrested. He was arrested for protesting segregation of schools, in this protest he was chained to an African American woman and was arrested for resisting arrest.
CNN recently reported on the video that was found proving Sanders was at the event and was arrested (as some people have doubted it)
There was also a newspaper article written back in 1963 that covered the event and listed Sanders as one of the four arrested.
This whole period of his life shows that Sanders was standing up for what’s right from a young age. Sanders stood up for people who were being oppressed by the government and culture of the time. After all, Sanders was a white Jewish boy standing with African Americans to protest segregation; this was a not a popular thing to do in that period, but he did it anyway – because it was right.
Thanks to this history many African Americans have come out in favor of Sanders including Spike Lee, Erica Gardner, and Harry Belafonte. His latest ad is highlighting that record.
Sanders became mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981 and from there he began his political career.
Now if I am being honest, the first video I ever saw of Sanders and got me #feelingthebern was the one below. In 1995 – when LGBT rights were a far off dream – Sanders stood up to Duke Cunningham (who in 2004 pleaded guilty to taking 2.4 million in bribes during his time and spent a few years in prison before disappearing to Arkansas) who felt the need to bash gay men and women serving in the military.
When I saw this, I essentially saw a good man standing up to a bully. A bully that felt the need to make one group feel smaller so he could be taller. Whereas Sanders, rightly so, saw the overt disrespect to people that give their lives to their country simply because of their sexual orientation.
This video showed me what kind of man Sanders is. A man who has been fighting for justice for underrepresented groups since he was younger than me. The fact that he has spent a lifetime fighting the fight that was never popular or easy but was always right should be enough to earn him your vote.
The Most Consistent and Ethical Politician I’ve ever Seen: We all know that as we grow and mature our opinions and stances on things change or evolve. So one would expect a politician to change a little over 30 plus years in politics. Sanders has not. His message of equality, wealth distribution, taking care of the less fortunate, avoiding world conflict, providing education, protecting the American middle class and fighting for what’s right has been the same since he began his journey.
Allow Sanders own words to confirm this:
I’ve never seen a politician with such a consistent and committed message. Sanders has also been at the forefront of issues, again standing up for what’s right when it is not popular. Sanders was one of the very few that voted against the War in Iraq and voted against the beast that is the Patriot Act (an act that essentially lets the government do whatever it wants when it comes to surveillance and interrogation under the guise of suspecting terrorism). Here is his speech from 2002 when the invasion of Iraq was on the table.
Sanders has also been an opponent of unnecessary warfare for years, check out 1992 Bernie:
Sanders also famously filibustered for eight and a half hours against the Bush Tax Cuts in 2010. The whole video is on YouTube – if you want to look it up.
Moreover, if you are wondering about Sanders political experience here it is. Sanders served as the Mayor of Burlington, VA for eight years (1981-89) and during that time he was voted one of America’s best mayors and Burlington has consistently been ranked as one of the USA’s most livable cities, Sanders was then elected as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont (Jan 1991-2007), then as the United States Senator from Vermont (Jan 2007-2015), and as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Jan 2013-Jan 2015). In 2012, he was reelected as Senator with a 71% approval rating.
Another thing I would like to point out is Sanders saw the 2008 crash coming thanks to the set-up of the American Economy and for years has been attempting to show the corruption of Wall Street.
This video was recorded in 1998:
If you look at Sanders opponents on both sides, no one has the voting record that he has. No one has such a consistent message like he does. Sanders knows his message; he knows that the middle class is suffering, and he is for the people. He has always been for those who are being persecuted, and even when he was on the wrong side of the popular opinion, he was on the right side of morality.
I have researched all the candidates, and no one comes remotely close to Sanders years of truthful and persistent message. His record and his stance on many issues for years almost make it seem like the USA is catching up to him as far as morality.
He protested segregation and fought for the rights of African American’s when it was not popular, he fought for LGBT rights and respect years 20 years before gay marriage became legal, he opposed the Iraq war and the Patriot Act while everyone was in post 9/11 war fever, he saw the recession coming and tried to motivate the government to monitor and keep big banks in check for years upon years, and he has fought for the rights, especially the medical benefits, of Veterans for years.
Sanders is the most consistent and authentic politician I’ve ever seen or heard.
In Closing, there are many more reasons that I could go into as far as Sander’s stance on issues (like healthcare, education, Veterans, gender equality and wealth inequality) that make me want to vote for him, but then this would be an even longer essay so please check out http://www.berniesanders.com and read the issues section.
Regardless of the issues, I will say this I know I used my first vote ever to vote for a man that has been consistently ethical, consistently for the people and consistently opposed to corruption and immorality.
This country is at the precipice – we can continue forward seeking to create a better life for our citizens, or we can give into old mindsets, prejudices, and fear – which may be pleasurable in the short term but will eventually hurt far more than help.
We have an opportunity to elect someone that genuinely cares about the people of this country and wants to move us to a healthier, more sustainable and peaceful future.
Please don’t let party lines and old rhetoric come between that. I am not saying that Sanders will fix everything, indeed, there will be many hurdles for him to overcome, but I believe Sanders is our best shot at a future that we can all be proud of.
However, this future can only happen with votes. The right to vote is something people were beaten for, something people bled and died for. A hundred years ago I would not have been able to vote because of my gender. As an immigrant, I was not allowed to vote. Be thankful for your ability to vote and take a stand.
I am honored to use this, my first, vote for Sanders. I chose Sanders as a woman, a Christian, and a first-time voter.
As a woman, Sanders fights for my right to be treated equally – to be paid the same as my male co-workers and to be able to provide for my children, through healthcare and maternity leave, when I chose to have them.
As a Christian Sanders allows me to back a candidate that values the good in life – through his desire for peace, through his, believe in human equality, through bringing corruption to its knees, through his fight for those living in poverty and through a respect for all religions that is rare in politics.
As a first-time voter Sanders gives me hope – hope for a future where we work together to fix the issues facing the planet and the people on every level. But more than this he gives me hope that someone can run who is not a puppet of any corporation, Super PAC or political elite and actually make a difference. He gives me hope that good men, who have dedicated their lives to the protection of the less fortunate, can succeed and can fight the bias and inequality within a broken system.
He gives me hope, and I believe soon I will have the honor to call him my President and actually be proud to say such a thing.
The political revolution is on.
Are you in?
• P.S – Thank you for reading and hearing what I have to say. I have sources for all my information, which I will be more than happy to share if you’d like, and please don’t forget to vote.