“I’m feeling great.”
This was Senator Bernie Sanders’ response at the Oct. 15 Democratic debate when asked about his health. Only two weeks ago, Sanders was hospitalized for a heart attack, which required him to have a stent put in place. At the debate, Sanders seemed in good health as he continued to pitch his long-held proposal of Medicare for All while he rallied against billionaires. He was Bernie Sanders as we, the American public, have known him for decades.
Even in light of his health issues, Sanders has remained a frontrunner for the nomination, raising over $25 million dollars in campaign contributions and polling at around 17.1% in national polls.
In addition to these numbers, Sanders has a legion of supporters dating back decades from when he was first elected to public office in 1981 as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. These supporters, who chant slogans such as “Feel the Bern” at rallies, praise Sanders for sticking to his signature brand of liberalism throughout his life in public office. To them, Sanders is their champion, advocating for free college, the Green New Deal, democracy and fairness in the workplace and removing corporate money from politics.Throughout his career as a public servant, Sanders has touched issues even those who define themselves as “liberal” don’t dare to comment on.
However, for some, Sanders is too far left: His visions can be complex or impossible, and each of his proposals would cost billions. On this issue, Sanders is proposing that the taxes of middle-class families be raised. Yet to all Americans, there is little question of how a Bernie Sanders presidency would go. His points have stayed steadfast for decades, and his platform has rarely wavered.
To be clear, it is not his politics that have me asking for him to end his campaign, but his health. Not for my own politics, not for my own choice of nominee, not to have a more central Democrat in the Oval Office, but for the health of this country.
When Americans go to the polls, they vote for the top of the ticket. Sometimes vice presidential candidates can help swing voters in positive directions, such as a young Barack Obama choosing an older and well-known Joseph Biden. Or, they can do a great deal of damage, such as the late John McCain choosing former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.
It is the late McCain’s example that has caused me to argue this point. At 72 years of age, McCain was certainly on the elderly side when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2008. It was his age that made so many voters concerned as to who his vice president would be, as McCain would have been approaching 80 should he have served two terms in office. Sanders is currently 78, making him 79 if he were to win the nomination. There is validity in questioning whether Sanders is physically able to take on the highest office in the land.
Sanders is an icon of American liberalism. He has remained true to his policies and positions, whether you like them or not. It is possible he could become president of the United States, and there is little question that he could execute the duties of the job. But his age is no laughing matter. On March 15 of this year, Sanders cut his head on a glass door, receiving stitches. This would make his heart attack his second major health issue this year.
In an electoral cycle such as this one, when so much is on the line, Democrats do not need their candidate to be fielding questions about their health. Instead, Democrats need a candidate who can be focusing on the issues, on the election, and on the country. Americans need to be confident in their president’s ability to withstand the taxing nature of the job. I am not asking Bernie Sanders to step aside for his politics, but for the wellbeing of the United States. We have survived a president, Donald J. Trump, whose fitness for office we question daily. Although the type of fitness is different, we do not need to ask these questions of the 46th president.
Julia Markfield is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.