By Jack M. ’23
Disclaimer: The analysis contained in this article is not intended to be a reflection of the author’s point of view but rather an explication of the political viewpoints of those opposed to Senator Bernard Sanders’s candidacy for president.
While Bernie Sanders has garnered immense support and enthusiasm in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, he has a number of significant policy and personal flaws which overwhelm the positives and fuel the argument of unelectability against him. To begin, Mr. Sanders has been a champion for progressive causes, most notably Medicare for All. Medicare for All consists of universal healthcare coverage for every American, but results in the eradication of private insurance, which 67% of Americans currently rely upon, including the 156 million Americans who receive health insurance from their employers. The governmental control of healthcare will result in long lines and can invite excessive use, clogging the system, while giving patients no choice over their healthcare provider or pathway, as has been seen in countries with socialized medicine including Canada, Denmark, and Spain. It is worth noting that, according to ProPublica, doctors in the US are paid 3x the salaries of doctors working in Canada and Denmark and 5x the salaries of those working in Spain, rendering the applicability of the successes of other socialized medicine systems moot due to the extreme discrepancy of the economics of this much-needed profession. Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All plan would more than triple government expenses, and would cost $30 to $50 trillion over the next 10 years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Sanders has said that he plans to pay for it by, among other things, raising taxes on the middle and upper classes, a proposal which has been unpopular among past candidates for President and which would result in the biggest tax expansion since WWII. According to a Marist Poll reported by FiveThirtyEight, universal health care is supported by 64% of Democratic voters, however, it is only supported by 40% of Americans, which certainly cannot help Mr. Sanders win a general election. While Mr. Sanders’s health care plan would certainly not pass a Republican majority Senate, its financing and implementation are out of touch with reality.
Alongside a candidate with significant policy shortcomings is a candidate with more historical baggage than any other Democratic candidate in this race. As Mayor of Burlington at the height of the cold war, Mr. Sanders attempted to form a sister city relationship with Yaroslavl, USSR, suggesting a proclivity towards and admiration for Communist governments. His outreach was, according to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, “one of the most useful channels for actively carrying out information-propaganda efforts” in the US during the Cold War. To this day, he has continued to praise dictatorships in Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, Russia, and Cuba, whose leaders brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, actions which are ethically incomprehensible and inappropriate for a US Presidential candidate to support. Mr. Sanders’s attraction to these Socialist and Communist dictatorships brings to mind the attitude of the Republican incumbent, given that both have expressed an odd and un-American appreciation for governments that rule with an iron fist and that lack the essential freedoms that are so inherent in American culture and consciousness. As further liabilities, Mr. Sanders has been videotaped at a rally in Nicaragua alongside those shouting that “Here, there, and everywhere, the Yankee will die,” and stated that while China is “an authoritarian country” it has “taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history,” which ironically was the result of China’s embrace of a capitalistic open market during the 1990’s, a policy opposed by Mr. Sanders as a democratic socialist.
Mr. Sanders’s background further fuels the electability argument against him. Only 45% of Americans would consider voting for a socialist, while 69% would vote for someone over 75, though the fact that a 78 year old who sustained a heart attack while campaigning is still a frontrunner is astounding, emphasizing the desperation of Democratic voters to defenestrate the incumbent. According to political research conducted at UC Berkeley and Yale, as reported by the New York Times, “When parties nominate candidates further from the center, it actually inspires the other party to turn out to vote at a significantly higher rate.” This reactivity which would result from Mr. Sanders’s nomination as the Democratic nominee would therefore jeopardize the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the election. Some Democrats have questioned Mr. Sanders’s ability to authentically represent the Democratic Party, as he identifies as a democratic socialist and only registered as a Democrat 5 years ago, when he was 73. Mr. Sanders has also failed to significantly expand his base since 2016, losing high percentages of African American voters and those over the age of 40, both of whom are key to a Democratic victory in November. These ideological fallibilities and background blemishes explain why Bernie Sanders is a poor candidate for the Democratic Party to rely on to defeat Donald Trump this November.