My life revolves around politics. I wake up in the morning and digest the breaking news, I debate the issues with my friends, and I tend to put my political work at the top of my priority list, sometimes to a fault. While my energy and time has focused on the important issues facing Missouri, I have been watching the Presidential race play out. I have not officially endorsed a candidate until now. I have defended Hillary on some issues, I have supported Bernie on some issues. I even still think Martin O’Malley is an incredible candidate and would make an incredible Vice-President or Cabinet member. I have also changed my mind on who I will cast my first Presidential vote many times. But, after hearing the candidates on a number of issues, sitting through the first Democratic debates, and looking inward on where I stand on the issues, I am ready to officially declare my support for Bernie Sanders. In this post, I will illustrate what pushed me to endorse Senator Sanders, as well as offer a challenge to the Sanders’ campaign.
The three issues that I base my endorsement off of are campaign finance reform, racial inequality, and the environment. Campaign finance reform is a very important and personal issue to me. One of the first campaigns I worked on is the John Wright re-election campaign for State Representative here in Columbia, Missouri. For those who don’t know, John was a strong representative who did phenomenal work on early childhood education, as well as worked across party lines to make government more efficient. I was inspired by him and his work, and campaigned to make sure he was re-elected to the 47th district.
His opponent was Chuck Bayse. To be fair to Mr. Bayse, he is a proud American who served our nation in the US Marines, and is very passionate about the issues he supports. However, Mr. Bayse has also been a problematic figure in his first year in office. One of his only filed bill in the last legislative session was a political favor to his brother, and he also saluted a confederate flag at a ceremony late last year. Obviously both of these points are highly contested, but one point is clear: Bayse is not qualified to represent the 47th district, and should never have beat John. However, he did. One of the biggest reasons for Bayse’s success was a generous donation from Rex Sinquefield. If you live in Missouri, this name is all too familiar. If you live outside of Missouri, he is equivalent to the Koch brothers who purchase their ideal candidates and fund their super PACs.
Because of Sinquefield’s generous donation to his campaign, Bayse was able to defeat Wright by a mere 263 votes. That was a first hand lesson that money DOES play a role in politics. Money is the reason why the champion for early childhood education was replaced by a political novice with rich donors. Ever since that race in 2014, I have been bi-partisan in my skepticism of where candidates get their money. Most candidates do have big donors or groups backing them; and I have continually been told that money is as much a part of politics as baby kissing and hand shaking. But a unique aspect of the Sander’s campaign is the absence of a major Super PAC backing Bernie. He is running in what will be the most expensive Presidential race in history without a Super PAC. Bernie Sander’s receives his support from average Americans who give in 10 or 20 dollar amounts, not successful kingmakers who write checks bigger than my student loan debt (which is abhorrent). That is huge to me, who has personally seen what money can do in politics.
Adversely, Hillary Clinton has struggled on the issue of campaign finance. Specifically, she has been unable to convince me she is not bought and sold by Wall Street. When she was pressed on this issue in one of the Democratic debates, she gave a very awkward and borderline offensive answer, pulling the 9/11 card. Her quote is as follows: “So I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.” Now, I think Clinton is better on campaign finance than conservatives. But I expect her to be, and I expected her to be the best Democratic candidate on the issue. However she has failed in that regard.
Secondly, Sanders earned my endorsement on inequality seen in the United States. I was on campus during the Concerned Student 1950 movement earlier this fall. And I proudly camped with the protestors who were calling for a change of the status quo at the University of Missouri and across the nation. I did this because of a simple truth: there is racial inequality in our nation and it needs to be fixed. I could write several posts about racial inequality, from racist real estate zoning to how we draw our congressional districts. However, I will save that for another day. The reason Bernie has earned my endorsement is for his focus on inequality in our nation. If nothing else, Bernie has helped shine the light on the issue of inequality during this campaign. In every stump speech given, he discusses the disappearance of the middle class and how 20 Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans. Sanders understands the obstacles facing those trying to improve their lives. I believe he will work to address the reasons why the “American Dream” is harder to achieve than ever before for minorities and those stuck in poverty.
Once again, Hillary Clinton has fallen short on this important issue. She has continued to make strides to reach out to minority communities, sometimes in inappropriate fashion. Switching her logo to reach those who celebrate Kwanzaa, as well as her “7 ways Hillary is like your abuela” post was tone deaf and did not address the issues facing minorities in America. Additionally, her answer on “what is white privilege” at a recent forum was severely disappointing. Clinton’s answer can be found at this link: The problem with Clinton’s answer was that she was unable to define what white privilege really is. She may recognize she is “lucky,” but she does not recognize that the luck she faced was systematic and is something that millions of Americans will never have because of the color of their skin.
And finally, the stances of the candidates on the environment has led to my support of Bernie Sanders. Now to be completely honest, Martin O’Malley really beats the rest on this issue. His plan to pull the United States away from oil and to be 100% dependent on green energy by 2050 is astounding, bold, and should be a model for the next Administration. I think the fight against climate change is going to need someone who will stand up to “Big Oil” and “Big Coal” and say that enough is enough. I think the fight against climate change will need a President who does not fold when the biggest polluters of our time threaten them with a political opponent. I can see Bernie Sanders doing both of those things and doing them well.
These are the issues that have driven my endorsement for Bernie Sanders. However, there is an emotional side to my endorsement. I worked for the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. The reason I supported President Obama was because of how his speeches and his policies moved me. He was my introduction into political life, and he is the reason I am devoting my life to public service. When I look at the three candidates running for President on the Democratic side, Bernie is most like President Obama in this regard. He has the authenticity of Obama, the tenacity and spirit of Joe Biden, and has helped restore my faith in the political process.
Additionally, I applaud boldness. I have heard the argument that Bernie has no chance and that Hillary is the “electable candidate.” For a long time, Hillary Clinton was the prohibitive favorite who had no chance of being beat. So why run against her? What is the point of running if she will win? However, I do not believe we should vote based on who will win the nomination or the general election. I believe we should be bold with out vote, and be bold with how we pick our candidates. It was a bold move for President Obama to run against Hillary in 2008. It was bold of President Obama to announce sweeping healthcare reform and announce an executive action on gun control. The Presidency needs someone who is bold, strong, and willing to fight every day to perfect our union. I think Bernie Sanders is bold, and can continue to be bold behind the Resolute Desk.
I tried my hardest to like Hillary Clinton. I recognize her years of service, and I applaud everything she has done during her career. Before her campaign kicked off, I was Ready for Hillary. Even as President of the College Democrats of Missouri, I foolishly pushed to endorse her as an organization and was luckily talked down by the executive board. But as the campaign has gone on, and as I have learned more about the candidates, I have had a change of heart. I am not impressed with Hillary the candidate, but Bernie has continued to impress at every debate, forum and town hall. I have also learned that I should not have to try to like a candidate. A favorability for a candidate should come naturally, and should not be forced. I genuinely like Bernie Sanders and the platform he has put together.
Now, Bernie Sanders is not the perfect nominee. None of them are. I recognize his weaknesses as much as his strengths. So I call on Bernie Sanders to show several attributes to me during this primary election: I want him to show me that he can unite the nation on important issues, while still standing strong on the fundamental ones. Show me that you can raise the minimum wage in America to 10 dollars, even if that goes against your 15 dollar platform. Show me that your willing to go through the budget and find departments that deserve to be cut, while also standing up for government services that are vital for national prosperity. Show me that you can be diplomatic, while also showing you are not afraid to demonstrate military force when necessary. Be Presidential, Bernie Sanders. Let me see how you can interact with the other party, and that you can get real work done during your Presidency. If he accomplishes this, I believe he can win the nomination and the general election.