If Bernie Sanders Is Your First Choice, That's Allowed

Politics Features Bernie Sanders
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If Bernie Sanders Is Your First Choice, That's Allowed

Paste is not a unified monolith of political thought, and I want to make it clear that in this essay I’m speaking only for myself, and I’m speaking as a progressive, democratic-socialist, leftist, etc. From that perspective, the field of Democratic candidates (both declared and potential) holds no suspense for me: if Bernie Sanders runs for president, I’ll support him in the primary. If he doesn’t, I’ll support Elizabeth Warren.

This is allowed. I want the candidate with the most progressive policies, and I want the one who has been advocating for those policies his entire career. I also want this person to have a measure of authenticity and not commit the kind of silly political errors that are based on naive, obsolete assumptions about what Americans want to hear. That’s why I’m scared of Elizabeth Warren, who, despite having the second-best policies among the current candidates (her “vision of change,” as Bhaskara Sunkara put it, hinges on regulatory tweaks to capitalism rather than a broader Sanders-like overhaul), seems to stand on shaky ground when she’s challenged, and clearly needs some smarter advisors and a few sharper instincts of her own.

Again, this opinion is allowed. “Bernie Sanders is my preferred candidate because his policies most closely align with my own, and it’s not even that close,” is a fine sentence for someone like me to say. I don’t need to pretend to the kind of milquetoast “objectivity” or “balance” that allegedly marks the serious political mind. I don’t need to succumb to the pressure of liberal-center groupthink, which advances the notion that recognizing Bernie Sanders as the only feasible candidate makes me close-minded or inflexible. I don’t need to feel pangs of insecurity when words like “Bernie Bro” get thrown in my direction. There’s no merit or sophistication in dithering when the facts are painfully clear.

There is no value to me in considering Sherrod Brown, who I keep hearing is progressive, but who won’t even support Medicare for All unambiguously despite the majority of Americans wanting it badly, and who still lives by the myth of compromise to the extent that his big healthcare idea is…Medicare for cops and firefighters.

I am not a more thoughtful person if I spend even two seconds on Kamala Harris, whose abysmal record as a prosecutor and AG is immediately disqualifying, to me, and who gives woeful answers like this when asked why she wants to be president:

This remains true even as the predictable people trot out the predictable argument we heard during Clinton’s two primary runs—she had to make bad decisions because [insert identity politics excuse here]. Sure, maybe it’s true, but I’ll still leave that kind of psychology for the psychologists and continue not voting for someone whose principles are clearly different from mine.

I don’t have to carefully weigh the candidacy Cory Booker and his big pharma ties, or Kirsten Gillibrand and her Wall Street connections. It doesn’t matter to me that they’ve both been pressured into supporting Medicare for All—there’s no reason for me to believe they’ll follow through based on how they’ve conducted their political careers to date. There’s already someone better running, and feigning an act of careful consideration on their behalf would not make me prudent and reflective; it would make me a phony.

Amy Klobuchar is more conservative than almost every other candidate, and won’t sign on to Medicare for All. That’s one of the two most important issues to me, along with a green new deal, so, no thanks.

I am not, for God’s sake, going to waste a single moment thinking about Joe Biden.

There is no amount of time that would change the essential facts of the upcoming primary. A year from now, when it’s time to vote, nothing I have seen or heard will dissuade me, because nothing can alter what these people have stood for and accomplished. If I could be swayed by campaign rhetoric, it would not mark me as virtuous or intellectual; it would mean I’m a sucker whose basic political principles are lightly held.

This opinion will make some people uncomfortable—even some people who will end up supporting Bernie Sanders anyway. It will seem rigid and dogmatic. In fact, it’s neither. We live in the information age, and the politics of the principal players are extremely available. I don’t need jostle my way through a large crowd at the local train station to hear a politician’s stump speech in order to glean his or her positions. The months between now and the Iowa caucus will be long and unpleasant, but the fundamental truths won’t change. One man will remain a democratic-socialist in one year, and everyone else will remain something else. As Amber A’Lee Frost put it, it’s still Bernie, and it will still be Bernie in 2020.

Some people think that a more centrist candidate stands a better chance at winning an election against Trump. I think that is woefully misguided and a proven philosophical failure. Therefore, I have no need to adjust my preferences for practical concerns, since I think the establishment consensus on practicality is embarrassingly wrong and has been for years.

Bernie Sanders ran a campaign in 2015 and 2016 that opened my eyes, and he started a movement. He’s still around, there’s nobody else in the presidential race who comes close on the most important issues, and there’s nobody with his same authenticity. I don’t care that he’s old—I want to elect the best candidate, and until I see evidence that his age is an actual detriment to his mental state, I’m not concerned. Since I trust him the most, I also trust that he’ll choose the best running mate to execute his policy goals faithfully in the unfortunate event of his death.

This is all okay. It’s not brilliant, it’s not radical. In fact, it’s actually pretty simple. But as those who strive to keep Sanders far away from the nomination exert their pressure in various ways, hoping to sow doubt and discord while propping up some wholly uninteresting and uninspiring candidate, it feels important to say—if only to myself—that yes, Bernie Sanders is my first choice because he has the best politics and the best record, and that means he stands the best chance to make America a better country. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.