Tomorrow, June 7th, Californians will go to the polls to vote in one of the final primaries of what has been at times exciting, at times infuriating and an all-together unpredictable primary season. I’m not generally one to wear my political preferences on my sleeve, but in this primary we have a real choice, and I haven’t seen my reasons for supporting Senator Sanders fully reflected in media coverage of the race. For my own posterity as much as anything else, this is my attempt to comprehensively outline my own reasons for supporting Bernie. Some will be familiar to anyone who’s been following the election. Some are perhaps more unique — issues I care deeply about, like the lives of people in Mali and Haiti — that have been hardly touched by mainstream news outlets.
Why am I voting for Bernie Sanders?
1. For the climate & future generations.
Planet earth — our mother and our only home — is suffering on a level unknown in human history, and for the first time this suffering is due in large part to human activity. Since I was a little girl I could not understand how adults — namely those in power — could continue to prioritize short-term economic gain over the future of life on the planet. It seemed the definition of insanity, and the injustice of it is one of the driving forces in my life and in my work.
Now we are beginning to experience the effects of climate change, and more and more people are calling for a shift. Yet Bernie Sanders is one of only a few elected officials in this country willing to advocate for the full measures necessary to ensure the future of life on this planet. From banning fracking to supporting a transition to renewable energy, Bernie’s environmental policy is the number one reason I will vote for him.
2. Because I am voting FOR, not AGAINST.
Bernie is a candidate I believe in. And I’m not alone. He’s engaged a huge movement of people — across economic, ethnic, religious, gender and age lines. He’s inspired us by standing FOR something, for a future that we all can be a part of, rather than playing the tired game of being better than the alternative. For too long Democrats have pandered to minorities and women rather than boldly standing for what we need to have a thriving society. Bernie’s policies from healthcare to education to immigration represent what I want to see coming from the executive office. People argue that his ideas are unrealistic, but history shows that every change worth fighting for seemed impossible until it wasn’t. From the abolition of slavery to the New Deal to the Civil Rights Act to Obama’s presidency, none of those things seemed possible, until enough people worked to make them a reality. Bernie Sanders isn’t running because he’s a man who can make those things a reality, he’s running because he recognizes that there is a huge movement of people who TOGETHER can make real change a reality. We’re in a time of great change and one thing that is clear from the primaries & caucuses of the past few months is that the status quo will not hold. I’m voting for the candidate who has articulated the best vision of how we can all work together for something better.
3. Because Neoliberal policies have failed us & we need to build an alternative. Now.
From international trade agreements which have trampled our human and environmental rights to corporate tax evasion and devastating income inequality, even the International Monetary Fund is beginning to recognizethat neoliberal policies have failed us. Bernie’s platform advocates for sane and practical changes we can make to our economic system to return public goods to public control. These are policies that will benefit working families, small business owners, students and society as a whole.
4. Because Bernie is the strongest candidate to stand against Donald Trump in the general election.
Poll after poll, Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate to oppose Donald Trump in the fall election. The reasons are many, but at the core of it, Donald Trump is a candidate who is uniquely poised to attack Clinton’s weaknesses, while Trump’s weaknesses play directly to Bernie’s strengths. In my estimation this article from Current Affairs does the best job of summarizing.
5. Because Bernie stands up for voices that are marginalized & ignored, not because he has to, but because he knows they matter.
He may not always get it right, but I have seen Bernie as a politician and a candidate to be deeply committed to racial justice, healing and reconciliation. I don’t forget his missteps at Netroots Nation, but I also see the way he has learned from making mistakes, and the way he has truly listened to constituents. He also listens to young people — and I don’t take that for granted. Across the board I’ve seen him truly committed to diverse voices and honoring the best of our differences, rather than exploiting them for cheap political gain (here I am not referring to his Democratic opponent, but to some other candidates you may have seen the media occasionally cover, once or twice). I believe Bernie firmly advocates for working class people of all ethnicities as well as specifically for African-American and Latino populations. As all Democrats should — because without them, they will never win an election. But Bernie has also taken the time and effort to significantly amplify the voices of groups of people who are even more marginalized in US society, groups of people who do not have the numbers to ever win an election for any candidate, particularly in a National race. I’ve always believed that people’s voices count no matter how big and powerful their constituency. From Muslim-Americans to convicted felons, Bernie Sanders has advocated for marginalized groups not because they can win him votes, but because it is the right and just thing to do.
6. Because Bernie is calling to honor the treaties and respect the sovereign rights of Native Americans.
According to the 2010 US census, Native Americans represented less than 1% (.09%) of the US population. Their population is too small to be a voting bloc. They will never deliver an election for a candidate. And yet here is Bernie Sanders, holding a community meeting at Pine Ridge Reservation.Making a passionate call for justice for Native Americans in Navajo Country.Appointing Native American activist and former Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker to the Democratic Platform Committee. Most importantly, he is promising to honor the treaties and respect the sovereign rights of American Indian nations.
7. Because we desperately need a new approach to foreign policy.
My university degree is in international relations. I have lived and/or worked on five continents. I run a nonprofit organization (which does not take political stances and in no way is connected to this personal piece) that works across international borders with grassroots human rights activists. I have seen firsthand the ways in which US foreign policy devastates and literally destroys the lives of people living in other countries. As I stated at the beginning of this piece, I respect Secretary Clinton as a leader, but I cannot condone the results of the policies she implemented at the State Department, nor can I stay silent about their impact. I am not an isolationist, but the more I have done work in the world the more I have become convinced that we best serve the people of the planet — who truly are our global family — when we address political, social and economic injustice in our home country. In my opinion Bernie Sander’s approach to foreign policy is one of his greatest strengths, not weaknesses, and a Sanders presidency is the one that all my study and experience tells me would have the greatest impact on people all over the world. We need a president who will turn away from our failed policies of regime change. Below are just a few of the reasons why.
Exhibit A: Iraq War
I would write more, but more than 10 years since the fateful invasion I still feel devastated and betrayed by all the politicians who voted to authorize what has been a terrible war of horrible and ongoing consequences. Bernie was against the war when it was not popular, but it was right. Tulsi Gabbard’s endorsement of Bernie says it all.
Exhibit B: Haiti
Haiti is a country I care deeply about and know intimately. And Haiti is a country that has suffered from US meddling and support of capitalist interests over the lives of Haitians since the Haitian revolution. Unfortunately this trend continued during Bill Clinton’s presidency and Hillary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State. I do genuinely believe that the Clintons care deeply about Haiti and had the best of intentions, according to their worldview. But I disagree vehemently with the way the US State Department interfered with Democracy in Haiti, and the consequences for average Haitians have been devastating. As journalist Jonathan Katz said in regards to Secretary Clinton’s disastrous policies in Haiti:
By now I’d imagine she was expecting to constantly be pointing to Haiti on the campaign trail as one of the great successes of her diplomatic career. Instead it’s one of her biggest disappointments by nearly any measure, with the wreckage of the Martelly administration she played a larger role than anyone in installing being the biggest and latest example.
By opposing privatization efforts & trade agreements that supersede human rights and national sovereignty, by addressing climate change at home and focusing away from regime change abroad, Senator Sanders will do much more for people who are suffering in Haiti and elsewhere.
Exhibit C: Libya & its aftereffects — including the coup in Mali
In 2012 there was a military coup d’etat in Mali, which overthrew the democratically elected president and has resulted in years of conflict, struggle and pain for the local people. This coup was a direct result of US intervention in Libya, which has been a disaster on many fronts. To me the coup in Mali was personally heartbreaking, because I lived there as an undergraduate and know firsthand how much my friends and host family have suffered. To me what happened in Mali is a reminder of the law of unintended consequences, and how critically important it is to shift away from a foreign policy of regime change.
Exhibit D: Honduras
In 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras, one which has had devastating consequences on the country and been one of many factors that have led to large numbers of young people fleeing violence in Central America and seeking refugee in the US. The coup was widely condemned by the international community but tacitly supported by the US State Department, resulting in widespread human rights abuses and the weakening of democratic institutions. Once again, this event has had long-term consequences, including the murder of environmental activist Berta Carceras this March, who was listed under threat of murder since the coup in 2009 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. When I look at Berta’s picture and hear her story, I am reminded of so many indigenous activists with whom I work in Latin America. All face threats I cannot imagine, and the US’s influence in either forcing governments to honor their rights or turning a blind eye to official and paramilitary violence cannot be understated.
8. Because Bernie proves you don’t need corporate financing to win.
How will we break the hold that corporate interests and Citizens United have on our democracy? By electing candidates like Bernie and the many congressional candidates who are allied with him who are running on small dollar donations that they are able to command because they have a message and platform that people believe in. A quote from Senator Sanders himself, from his Rolling Stone interview:
“We have to deal with the way that the party raises money. … We have proven in this campaign, having received 7.6 million individual campaign contributions, more than any candidate in history at this point, it can be done. Last night, we were in Sacramento. We had 16,000 people, OK? How many Democrats are out there talking to thousands of people as opposed to being at some rich guy’s house talking to 10 people and walking out with $30,000? This has got to be the goal: to communicate with people, bring people into a political movement.”
9. Because the US prison system is one of the greatest human rights travesties in the world, and we need to dismantle the prison industrial complex.
Mass incarceration is one of the greatest human rights issues of our time. To dismantle it will take serious effort and vision, and Bernie’s policies are off to the right start — beginning with decriminalizing marijuana and taking on the for-profit prison industry. Last week the Sanders campaign released this moving video that profiles why we need so desperately to change this system.
10. Because Bernie brings out the best in people. Bernie brings people together.
I’ve seen this firsthand. Deep kindness at rallies. Unlikely alliances. I’ve seen white rural voters stand next to urban Latinos, I’ve seen Bernie introduced by transgender activists. By formerly-Republican small business owners. In an election season when Trump is gaining traction by playing on people’s fears, Bernie is his opposite — fueling his candidacy on calls to all of us to be our best selves, and showing it’s possible by leading by example. I can’t wait to vote for someone who represents the many.
(Cross-posted on medium.com)