Bernie Sanders, too pure for the presidency


To be honest, at the beginning of the Democratic primary, I was going to vote for the former Secretary of State. There’s no way the Jewish dude from Brooklyn, the crazy-haired Vermont Senator, the former folk singer and current/future college lecturer could win in a national election. Then, early in their respective campaigns, something changed. My head gave way to my heart (and later when Sanders was, according to polls, a more viable candidate than Clinton, the two combined). I agreed with the guy on EVERYTHING, and it was a primary, so “voting your conscience” did not have drastic ramifications.

The earliest event that changed my mind was Sanders’s speech at Liberty University on Sept. 14, 2015.

Going to a conservative Catholic college as a Democratic Socialist Jew takes guts, but the speech Sanders delivered that day remains the best of any this election cycle. Connecting his candidacy to Jesus’ life and themes within the Bible, Sanders was able to produce “civil discourse” with people he fundamentally disagreed with on multiple issues. The balance was struck when Sanders vehemently questioned the morality of a country where the top one tenth of one percent of the population owns the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent. He used Bible passages and quoted the Pope. He received a standing ovation from an originally skeptical crowd.

This is when I became a Sanders acolyte, when he stood up in a room full of 12,000 people that diverged from him and told them that, while they couldn’t find middle ground on abortion and gay marriage, “there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and, in fact, to the entire world that maybe, just maybe, we do not disagree on.”

One candidate refuses to interact with Spanish news networks. The other is notoriously guarded. But Bernie Sanders wanted to have the conversation. He wanted a free exchange of ideas.

Sanders was a protester during the Civil Rights era. He applied for conscientious objector status when it came to the Vietnam War. He stood with Verizon workers on strike during his campaign for president. This man has had the same philosophy – and followed through on it – for over 30 years. Everybody knows who he is; nobody can question his convictions.

Two of the biggest liars in American political history are the major party candidates for President, although the orange one’s nose is longer, his heart more Grinch-y.

There is a video of Bernie Sanders comparing his rhetoric to that of the Pope’s. Presidential candidates have aligned themselves with influential religious leaders before, but this may be the first time one of them was actually right. Both Sanders and the current Pope harp on the issues of income inequality, poverty and, most striking, “the idolatry of money.” When you speak of culture, rather than its individual components, you grasp the whole; you elevate the dialogue.

What’s frustrating is that when the Pope talks, bemoaning poverty, accusing the wealthy of greed and so on, people nod their heads, but when Sanders growls from his pulpit, from the perch of politics, he is shouted down as unrealistic, too idealistic. We as a country do not want to walk the walk; most of us are excited by wealth, and when Sanders’ assault of the cult we’ve created happened – this religious quality we’ve attributed to building capital (aka “stacking cash”) – it made us uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because, as President, he could actually do something about it. As Pope, well, you’ll have plenty of chances to pray.

Voters missed out. We didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing the antithesis to that flat basketball. What we did get was a continuation, which is a helluva lot better than rampant racism/anti-intellectualism. We didn’t get Hell’s opposite, we got limbo; we didn’t get unmitigated light, we got dimly lit.

Why? For one, we erased a diverse population of Sanders supporters by stereotyping every one into a “Bernie Bro.” Really, how many women and people of color had their voices completely expunged from the record by that characterization? When Sanders, who is using the language of the oppressed in stump speeches, actively supporting Black Lives Matter and never wavering in his defense of LGBT rights, is looked at as a leader of white men, it misses his message of inclusivity, which is stronger than any presidential candidate’s to date.

I will be voting for Hillary Clinton over the child she is running against in November. Still, I will forever lament this opportunity we balked on, until just about when the polls close.

Let them say he couldn’t do it, that he was naïve, that he was boring, that he was arrogant, that he never had a chance, that his supporters just wanted handouts. Bernie Sanders is a political prophet, and should be remembered as such.

Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at He tweets @SSpinella927.

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