“Not Me. Us.”: The Legacy of Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders at a presidential campaign event, with an audience of young adults asking him about various issues and his thoughts on them. The event was at Creative Visions in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Phil Roeder.

In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, many candidates fought to be the nominee to run against Donald Trump. Most of the candidates bowed out quickly, but some kept going until the bitter end: Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders. It eventually came down to two, Sanders and Biden. But after Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8, and then endorsed Biden on April 13, Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee. Bernie may not be president any time soon, but his career has been highly impressive nonetheless. 

Bernie Sanders has been fighting for social issues for a long, long time. When he was a student at the University of Chicago in the 1960’s, he was an organizer for a campus organization, the Congress of Racial Equality. He was involved in a lot of activism work, and during a protest against school segregation in 1963, he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest. Sanders getting arrested for fighting segregation shows how dedicated he was, and still is, to the issue. In 1981, he became the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, serving until 1989. Then, in 1991, he was elected as Vermont’s congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives as an Independent Socialist. Sanders was a representative for 16 years until 2006, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He is still in the Senate, now in his third term. He ran for president in 2016, but lost the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton.

Sanders has been in the political world for a while now, but his goals of fighting for working-class families and equality haven’t changed. For working class families, he focuses on expanding the middle class, and minimizing the growing gap between the middle class and the rich. He’s very passionate about extending healthcare to everyone and stopping pharmaceutical companies from overcharging on prescription drugs and medicine. 

For education, he wants to have tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions, and trade schools for everyone. And for the students who have already gone through college, he wants to cancel all student loan debt. Many of his ideas are ones he wanted to implement as president, but even though it doesn’t look like he’ll get there, he still approaches many of the same issues with these same bold proposals. A lot of his ideas are on his campaign website, where he goes into more depth on how things would get paid for, and more recently, how he believes the U.S. should be handling the COVID-19 crisis and what he’s doing to help.

Bernie Sanders has also made a significant impact on the Democratic party’s views on healthcare. With Sanders pushing Medicare For All so heavily, it has made the topic more mainstream and discussed between the Democratic candidates. In a New York Times article, “How ‘Medicare for All’ Went Mainstream,” Robert Draper writes that “In addition to Harris, two other presidential candidates have offered health care plans that pilfer from Sanders in name if not in substance: Pete Buttigieg, with Medicare for All Who Want It; and Beto O’Rourke, with Medicare for America…” But healthcare isn’t the only topic Sanders has gotten into the Democratic mainstream policy debate. With Sanders also fighting for raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, more people are aware of how near impossible it is to live off of anything lower. In 2019, when the Raise the Wage Act was introduced in the Senate, Sanders commented, “Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was ‘radical.’ But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour.” He has continued to emphasize that the $7.25 minimum wage is unlivable, and his consistent argument has finally caught the attention of millions of Americans.

One junior from Franklin, Stella Orr, talked about why she supported Bernie Sanders. “Unfortunately I support Bernie because he’s the first candidate I’ve seen care so much for the people. We can look back on any president and talk about what they did for the economy and how they were only semi-corrupt, and those are our standards.” She continued: “Our standards have lost humanity, they have forgotten the very people of color that built this country, the very women that fight so strongly for the bare minimum, our standards have forgotten to check in on the planet we’re destroying. I support Bernie because his policies were better than the standards that many of us are privileged enough to have.” Orr’s views mirror a lot of people’s current thoughts on the Democratic candidates: that Sanders was the only candidate to aggressively fight for the people, and do so without being tempted by corporate money and power. 

With the upcoming 2020 presidential election, and Bernie out of the race, many mourn the president the U.S. could have had; a president who cared so much for the people, and stopped at nothing to fight for what he believed was right. However, if Bernie has shown us anything, it’s that this isn’t going to make him stop working. He’s going to keep fighting and make sure that everyone Feels the Bern.

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