Feel the Bern: Bernie Sanders offers authenticity, clean record

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You may not have heard about Bernie Sanders before now, but rest assured, Hillary Clinton is keeping a close eye on him.

Sen. Sanders is the longest-serving Independent member of Congress in U.S. history. Before he was a senator, he was a representative and before that, the mayor of Burlington, Vt.

Now he challenges Clinton for the presidential democratic nomination.

Clinton is the front runner, but a recent New Hampshire poll shows that only eight points separate her and Sanders. Sanders could potentially win the New Hampshire primary and cause serious damage to Clinton’s campaign.

Sanders has something to offer Americans that they have not seen in a while: authenticity. Rarely is a no-nonsense, steadfast progressive with a consistent record stretching over 40 years, seen.

He also refuses to have a super PAC, and his campaign funding is almost solely through individual donations averaging $40 each. This shows his genuine desire to fight for campaign finance reform, one of Sanders’ key issues.

Dismissing Sanders as a fringe candidate is inadvisable. Sanders should not be dismissed as a fringe candidate so early. Nearly 10,000 people showed up at a Wisconsin rally, and while it’s a little early to say if this means much, Clinton certainly hasn’t seen a crowd that big.

And that’s probably because she’s charging people thousands of dollars to attend her fundraisers.

But U.S. citizens may not be so willing to accept someone who declares himself a democratic socialist.

A political curse word, right next to ‘communism,’ Sanders defends his socialist label by saying that the American government should look at countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which guarantee healthcare, have free higher education and work hard to combat climate change.

“When people understand that these governments work for the middle class rather than the billionaire class, I think we can get our message across,” Sanders said.

Many probably see his ideas as radical, but polls show that a majority of Americans agree with a lot of his ideas, like taxes on the super wealthy.

One problem for Sanders is the media. So many news outlets shrug him off as a ‘long-shot candidate’ that he doesn’t get good coverage. Whenever he gets interviewed, all they do is ask him about Clinton.

“I think his best bet here is to be seen as the alternative to Clinton,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, associate professor of political science. “Although he doesn’t present himself as a polished candidate, he’s able to not be involved in the kind of scandal games that plague Clinton.”

In terms of a record, Sanders runs circles around Clinton. He has been in favor of gay rights since the 1970’s. Clinton was against gay marriage as early as 2004, and now she’s campaigning as the civil rights candidate. Sanders voted against the war in Iraq, Clinton is still apologizing for having voted for it.

What’s clear is that this coming election Americans want more than change, they want progress. It’s been a long time since anyone in this country has seen a candidate with a clean record and a consistent message.

Let the American people decide.

Opinion editor Anthony Torres is a political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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