After Senator Bernie Sanders’ landslide win in the New Hampshire primary last night, I got thinking. What we are witnessing—and for some, participating in—is more than history in the making. My generation won’t see someone/a movement so powerfully radical again in our lifetimes. When I first moved from Australia to the United States in 2012, it all seemed so wrong and yet so obvious to me. Why isn’t health care universal? If someone is poor or just not cashed-up enough to be able afford private health insurance, are they simply left to die in the gutters? How is that acceptable?? And why do most Americans I know live with the burden of hundreds of thousands of dollars in college fee debts that will take them decades to pay off? My education in Australia was just as good and I have almost zero debt. And WHY is the minimum wage here just $7.25 an hour? You can’t even buy a sandwich for that much!
All this time I’ve felt like a crazy person when talking to Americans about these basic injustices that seemed to me both absurd and painfully unfair. (When you resist going to the doctor despite being very sick because you can’t afford the hundreds of dollars in medical fees, deductibles, and co-pays that will follow, this injustice hits you in the face like a ton of bricks.) In some ways, moving here has been a bit like a cruel slap while stepping back in time. It’s as if the concepts of free health and education and a civilized minimum wage were alien, and by raising them in conversation, I was challenging the very core of their “democratic” national identity. Even the progressive liberal Americans I know and love would shrug as if to say, but that’s just how it is, and the conversation would quickly be over. Free education? Universal health? THAT will never happen!
But then… Senator Bernie Sanders entered from left stage.
“Health is a human right not a privilege!” he declared. YES. I’ve been saying this for years, because, for all of my country’s social and political discrepancies, for the most part, Australia has operated on the principal that health is a fundamental human right and one that I took advantage of for most of my life. I now realize how fortunate I was.
“Free education at public colleges.” This is not a radical idea, people! Last year, Germany eliminated tuition fees because they believed that charging students $1,300 per year was discouraging young people from studying. Next year, Chile will do the same. Finland, Norway, Sweden, and many other countries around the world also offer free college to all of their citizens.
“I will substantially cut student interest loan rates.” YES. Why must students be penalized for the rest of their lives by paying off unreasonably grotesque debts for having the courage and discipline to get a college education? An education which will in turn contribute to the economy. And why should the government be profiting off that education? Off young people?? It’s been estimated that over the next decade the federal government stands to make a $110 billion profit on student loan programs. “This is morally wrong and it is bad economics,” Bernie asserts. Hear, hear.
But who will pay for all of this free stuff? Sanders critics ask. WALL STREET!!! Yep, it’s about time those greedy, reckless speculators start paying their fair share. “If the taxpayers of this country could bailout Wall Street in 2008, we can make public colleges and university tuition free and debt free throughout the country.” Bam!
“If I’m elected president, I will raise the minimum wage from $7.25 (YES, that’s the minimum wage here!) to $15.” Um…FINALLY a sandwich won’t be bursting the budget!! And for the record, in all of the hospitality and retail jobs I had in my teens and twenties in Australia, I was never paid anything less than $18 an hour.
What makes me certain now that I’m not crazy—and neither is Bernie—is that people, many, many people are getting behind him. Last night 89% of young democratic voters between 18 and 29 years-old voted for Bernie! They are demanding a better world, a better life, a greater future that requires a decent minimum wage, universal healthcare, and free education! And guess what? Last night more women voted for Bernie than Hillary! That is major, because, although many women, like myself, would love to see a female president for the first time take over the white house, symbolism aside—although I acknowledge that in this case, like with Obama, the symbolism of a female president is powerful—with Hillary, what real change can we actually expect? Isn’t she just part of the same old mechanics and rigged economy that serve only to privilege the rich? When the top 1% own just as much as the remaining 99% of the country, America doesn’t need symbolism and moderate baby steps, it needs RADICAL CHANGE, “a revolution.” And, as history tells us, this change is only possible when driven by the people. Although most of us already know the statistics, it’s significant to stress that Bernie has received more private donations from individuals than ever before in the history of the United States, the average donation amounting to $27. In fact, since last night’s win, Bernie received another breathtaking $5.2 million (in less than 24 hours!!). If that’s not a people’s movement, I don’t know what is.
Bernie’s literally leaving no stone unturned. And he’s not just talking-the-talk, Bernie’s been acting on his beliefs his entire political career. You can’t fault him. Bernie is, at his core, a humanitarian who has dedicated his life to achieving real equality. And aside from the billionaire class and Wall Street, all the rest of us working and middle-classers stand to gain A LOT under a Bernie government. It makes me wonder why anyone outside of the top 1% wouldn’t vote for him.
I’m not yet a citizen of the US and therefor won’t be able to vote in this election. So I’m aware that my voice stands for little. However, I’m marrying an American man this year, and our children will be American and will likely spend a lot of their lives here. So for the first time ever I’m truly invested in the outcome of this presidential election. Our children deserve much MUCH better than what is currently being offered, and finally, an olive branch has presented itself. In bright colors and in defending tones. The underdog and his campaign won’t be ignored.
It’s unfortunate that Bernie must keep calling his campaign “radical” since all he’s proposing is what most of the first world already have. Therefore, his radicalism must not be confused for anything other than PROGRESS.
If last night was any kind of projection—the 60%/39% margin between Bernie and Hillary was the highest margin of win for a non-incumbent since John F. Kennedy
‘s election in 1960—the future looks bright. So if he does in fact become the next president of the United States, it will be a credit to the American people. Because for American people, Bernie Sanders really is
a radical leap. But to the rest of the world, no doubt, this leap will be a welcomed breath of fresh air. Perhaps even a relief.
Feature image courtesy of rollingstone.com