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How Bernie Sanders Changed America

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2016 is a year of political history. In different ways, and to varying degrees, everybody made history.

Hillary Clinton is the first woman to ever be nominated for the presidency by a major political party.

Donald Trump received more votes than any republican candidate in the history of the republican primaries.

So yeah… Clinton and Trump are making history.

But they aren’t changing history. They haven’t changed the country itself.

Yes, Trump got a bunch of votes. Yes, Trump is “shaking up” the republican party. But 4 to 8 years from now, nothing will have changed. The republican party will be exactly as it is today. At most, there might be some superficial changes, but nothing with any amount of depth will have changed.

That’s because, underneath all the Las Vegas glitter, Trump is pushing the same sexist, bigoted agenda the republican party has been pushing for at least a decade. Mr. I-Don’t-Take-Donations-…-Please-Donate certainly hasn’t changed the way politics is played. If anything, he actually found a way to lower the bar when it comes to how politicians behave. Before Trump, I didn’t think that was possible.

Ultimately, the country hasn’t changed one tiny bit because of Donald Trump. As soon as the Trump phenomenon has passed, republicans will go right back to being republicans.

When it comes to Hillary, to her credit, her accomplishments are historically significant. Being the first female nominee from a major political party is a truly incredible accomplishment, and she has every right to be proud right now. And if she becomes the first female president, she will have moved this country forward in some very important ways. She’ll have played a major part in making America… well… greater.

But improving the country is not the same thing as changing the country. After Hillary, women will still face all the same obstacles they face today. Women will still have trouble getting the respect they deserve in government. An aggressive or ambitious woman will still be seen as “a bitch” by far too many people. Hillary’s success will certainly help in the fight to bring equality to women… but it won’t change the obstacles women face. She has achieved a major victory in the battle of the sexes… a victory that might help women eventually win the war. But she hasn’t changed the battlefield. She hasn’t changed the game. She’s just helping women to win it.

Ultimately, women will still be facing the same obstacles they face today. They’ll be facing them with a new level of strength and resolve, thanks to Hillary Clinton’s success, but they’ll still be facing them.

So Hillary and Trump have made history (with one achievement far more significant than the other), but they didn’t change the way the political game is played.

But Bernie Sanders did change the game. He has changed the political landscape as we know it. Sanders has changed this country, and I fully believe he’s changed it in ways that will forever alter the way the political game is played.

The way I see it, Bernie Sanders changed this country in two very fundamental ways…

  1. Sanders has shown us just how far left the country really is.

    At first, this doesn’t sound like a change. It sounds more like exposure than change. But make no mistake, knowing this has changed this country’s politics in some very fundamental ways. Let me put it this way: Because of what Bernie Sanders has revealed…

    The left is now the center, the center is now the right, the right is now the far right, and the far right is now… insane.

    Okay, okay, the “insane” part is just my own personal opinion, but the rest of that statement is true. Bernie has revealed that what we thought was liberal is actually moderate, by definition. And that moved everything to the right. What we thought was moderate was actually a little conservative. And what we thought was conservative (The Tea Party, etc) is actually ultra-conservative. And on the flip side, what we thought was ultra-liberal is now just liberal.

    This has changed how politicians will behave from this day forward. From now on, politicians will begin to inch to the left. The impact of this will be tiny at first. It’ll probably start with more and more republicans softening on same sex marriage (or something similar). But over time, this will cause some major changes to American law. We could even see things like the legalization of marijuana or true universal healthcare. When left becomes normal, these things become more reasonable to the public, which will make it more reasonable to the politicians.

    I definitely think that’s changing the world. And if that happens, it will trace right back to a birth year of 2016, when Bernie Sanders showed the world that Americans are actually more like our European cousins than even we thought. Turns out, we’re not the money-grubbers many people thought we were. We care about the things that the rest of the world cares about. Our polls just don’t always reflect those beliefs accurately.

    The problem is that our politicians answer to people with more power than the voters, which leads me to number two…

  2. Bernie Sanders has proven that politicians don’t need Wall Street.

    I’ll just say it… I think Hillary, along with most liberal politicians, deserves a pass when it comes to accepting money from Wall Street. Not a free pass, mind you. People should still consider that when deciding on a candidate. I just don’t think that alone is worth disqualifying a candidate, and I’ll tell you why…

    What else could they do? What other option was there?

    If they turned down Wall Street’s money, then republicans would be able to outspend them by tens of millions of dollars. This absolutely would make the difference in most congressional elections.

    So are they supposed to do that? Are they supposed to say no, then let the country fall into the hands of the people they think would bring it to ruin? Or should they suck it up, take Wall Street’s money, then get elected and do as much good as they can do?

    For these candidates, it really was a lose/lose scenario. So I personally give them a pass… but it’s a pass with baggage.

    More accurately, I gave them a pass… until now.

    That excuse ended in 2016, and it ended because of Bernie Sanders.

    Before Bernie, politicians could use the exact excuse I just gave. They could defend themselves by saying, “Yeah, I took money from Wall Street to get elected. But if I hadn’t taken that money, I wouldn’t have been elected. Then the healthcare bill I got passed for this state wouldn’t exist. I think the good that has come from my decision to accept those donations far outweighs the bad.”

    You may disagree with me about giving politicians a pass until now, but it no longer matters, because, moving forward, we’re in total agreement that they cannot use that excuse any longer.

    Now, when they try to say that, we can say, “Bernie Sanders did it.” We can chant it, over and over, until those politician hear the words in their sleep.

    Because the fact is, Bernie did it. Bernie proved that a politician with the right message can raise very large sums of money from the people. Bernie proved that Americans are more than willing to financially support a candidate if that candidate has a message they believe in.

    So if politicians say Wall Street is the only way they can raise enough money to compete in an election, we’ll know it’s bullshit. We’ll know the problem isn’t that the system is working against them. The problem is their message. The problem is the fact that their message doesn’t inspire Americans enough to donate.

    So what does this mean?

    It means, moving forward, politicians are going to put more time and effort into raising their own money. At first, they’ll still take money from Wall Street as well, but as time goes by, and as the idea of raising money directly from the people becomes a legitimate option, the impact of Wall Street will steadily weaken. This means politicians are going to be free to – once again – listen to the voters instead of Wall Street.

    When you think of the eventual ramifications of this, it’s impossible to feel anything but… optimism. Profound optimism.

    And that’s a pretty good feeling.

So it boils down to this: Thanks to Bernie Sanders, America’s voice has finally been heard, and it turns out, our voice is a little more liberal than many people thought. He’s also caused this country to take its first step towards a political system where the candidates are not beholden to Wall Street.

Those are changes that – if not permanent – will last a very long time.The impact of these changes won’t even be felt for another 4 years or so, at least. But once they are felt, they will be significant. And they’re changes that will improve this country’s political system.

Any way you slice it, I feel like this county is now better off because Bernie Sanders decided to run for president.

So I think it’s safe to say… Bernie may not have won the presidency, but his candidacy was a success in all the ways that matter.

Take care, folks.

–Jerry

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4 responses »

  1. I agree that Bernie changed politics, both funding and activism. I hope you are correct that these changes will last. I’m just not so optimistic that they will. I expect Hillary will give lip service to Bernie’s progressive ideas and then go back to the same old business as usual pandering to Wall Street and big money. Good post Jerry.

    Reply
    • That’s a very valid concern, Bill. I have the same misgivings, but I think she’ll follow through. Interestingly, this is the exact subject of the blog I’m writing now. It’ll be the next one to come out. I’ll be curious to see what you think when you read it.

      Reply
  2. It is a fact that elected officials spend outrageous amounts of time raising money to get re-elected. Campaign finance reform is key to alleviating that issue.
    Yes, Bernie did an amazing thing.

    Reply
    • Jim
      That likely won’t happen until “Citizens United” is reversed, of course depending on who is elected and the subsequent SCOTUS appointment.

      Reply

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