Why we should beware of the “Bern”


Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

Let me preface what I am about to say with this: I will support whomever the Democratic party chooses as its nominee regardless of ideological tilt or origin. With that said, all eyes should be on Iowa. With only three days remaining until the Iowa caucuses, socialist firebrand Bernie Sanders is in a statistical tie with former vice president Joe Biden. In recent weeks, the Sanders campaign rapidly rose nationally as more progressive voters from the socialist left of the party begin to unite behind him rather than his rival Elizabeth Warren. This began following their recent spat, a “he said/she said” wherein Warren alleged that Sanders stated over a year ago that he did not believe a woman could be president. Sanders has confidently denied this allegation.

As a result of it all, Warren’s attack backfired and she is now losing activist support at the worst possible time. Bernie is nipping at the heels of Biden in national polls and is slated to do well in future contests. This change of events could be an early indicator of what is to come. The tea leaves are predicting that this presidential primary might play out as 2016 did: a battle royale with Bernie Sanders and the anti-establishment socialist left versus Joe Biden and the party’s more moderate establishment wing.

If you should know anything about the Democratic party, it is that we are a diverse bunch with many competing factions ranging from centrists to progressives. The newest faction to emerge with the most momentum (I would say) is the insurgent left, composed of democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders. I am aware that there are those on this campus who would welcome their rise and the emergence of socialism as the dominant leftist current in this country and within our party. But, I must caution against anointing Senator Sanders as the standard-bearer of our party for the 2020 presidential election. The last thing we should do is stop being the Democratic party and become Bernie’s Democratic Socialist party.

Now I am also aware many who might be reading this quite possibly will chalk off my opinions and concerns as “neoliberal bullshit” or “uninspired centrism.” However, my qualm is not with socialism, but rather Sanders himself. Do I have an issue with the notion of Medicare for all, free college, universal basic income and other socialist promises? Sure, but not with the principles or ideology behind them. I am still a leftist after all, albeit a pragmatic one. My fears stem from the lack of policy detail and foresight from the voices supporting them. Sanders embodies a leftist version of the many things that I view to be most problematic with Trump. Both of them subscribe to a conflict theory of politics, painting a pessimistic worldview of an “us” vs. “them” dichotomy.

I do not believe that what we should offer the American people is the leftist mirror image of the corrosive nature of Trumpism. I do not see how as a party we can credibly condemn Trump’s onslaught on our institutions whilst Sanders and his cadre of Bernie bros incite divisions and hypocritically stoke the flames of sexism, anti-Semitism and racism. They attack the media and demonize those who disagree with them as being corrupt and ignorant.

Furthermore, for as much as Senator Sanders speaks out about “our revolution” and that the campaign is about the people and not himself, he seems quite pleased with fostering a cult of personality around himself. He appears to be in this fight, to some degree, for himself. Countless critics have rightfully decried him for insufficiently being blind to concerns about party and national unity. His trigger-happy quickness to lash out at critics and his exceptionally thin skin indicate to me that he is temperamentally unfit for the office, just like the man-child we have in it now. He seems not that much different from Trump in any fundamental way besides ideology, and so it begets the question of why we should rationally choose him to replace Trump.

Again, I will say that I will support whomever our party chooses as its nominee regardless of ideological tilt or origin, because priority one is removing the devil we have in charge now. However, I believe we have time to truly reflect and realize that the replacement should be someone of true integrity and principle. Someone with a proven record of accomplishment. Someone with a positive message of unity and reconciliation. Someone like Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden I believe are what we need as a nation to endure the crisis of Trumpism. I implore Iowans to make the right decision and choose a candidate cut from their cloth that has policy plans detailed, experience in passing legislation and the message that can unite Americans in November and after.