Last year saw one of the worst crises to come across the United States, made worse by inadequate leadership across the aisle and a dire situation that went unaddressed by half the country. Throughout the past decade or so, our country has polarized further and further, driving cooperation and consensus to the bottom of our legislative agenda and limiting the efficacy of American government altogether.
However, as we head into a new presidential term with a new presidential administration, hopefully focused on unifying an utterly divided country, we must note that there’s a reason that Democrats have been able to take control over a large number of seats seen as uncompetitive only one cycle ago: Bernie Sanders.
A Successful Populist Agenda
To be quite honest, before the 2016 election campaign, I had no idea who the independent Senator from Vermont was. Admittedly, I was just entering the political realm at the time, but I was amazed that a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist could sway the support of a large percentage of the Democratic party and put up a challenge to a traditional, establishment candidate such as Hillary Clinton.
But there’s a reason for that.
A candidate who doesn’t accept significant donations from Super PACs presented an alternative to what many saw as a party that had failed them with their promises of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns; Bernie Sanders presented ideals that everyone could get behind. Universal healthcare, paid parental leave, and tuition-free college all poll extremely high among the public, and during this pandemic, which has seen hapless circumstances as a fiscal crisis looms closer and closer, those ideas only grow more and more popular.
But what I see as the most illustrative example of how Bernie’s policy has encouraged a new generation of Democrats is the most recent talks over the stimulus bill and those $2000 checks.
Claire Williams at the Morning Consult writes:
“[A] higher share (49 percent) thought that the $600 figure wasn’t enough to counter some of the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic. Only 5 percent said it was too much, and 4 percent said the $600 payments shouldn’t be included in the final bill”
Not to undermine how crucial these checks are for a large portion of the American public, I believe that Bernie’s insistence of the issue demonstrates his passion for doing what many politicians seem to forget is their duty: representing the people. A contradiction between the wishes of the people and those of politicians outlines the disconnect many feel with their administrative bodies, but more importantly, it makes it hard to deny that Bernie fights for what a majority of people wish for.
The Georgia Runoffs
A decade ago, Georgia’s politics were anything but competitive: Republicans swept the state with double-digits margins. This Tuesday, however, Democrats across the state will watch as their two Senate nominees, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, compete against two incumbent Republican senators.
Bernie’s insistence on the stimulus package, supported by even the most unlikely politician, Donald Trump, is showing what Democrats can do when they leverage popular support. Both Republican candidates in Georgia have come out in support of the $2000 stimulus checks, and so have a large portion of Republican senators, despite Mitch McConnell’s abysmal objections.
Although many parts of the Democratic establishment, those who support the Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer wing of the party, would rather not have Bernie’s agenda driving the party message, his support is what has increased youth participation in Democratic politics. A typically uninterested demographic has, in large, inspired a number of movements and worked to bring turnout up in a large majority of areas, especially in Georgia.
It’s for these reasons that Republicans are panicking about their chances on Tuesday; their division over the stimulus packages, election results, and voter fraud have undoubtedly taken a toll on their two candidates’ electability. The released audio from Trump’s phone call with Georgia’s Secretary of State only confirms that, and I’m certain that that will have an effect on the returns we see tomorrow.
And, not to deny Stacey Abrams and the other get-out-the-vote organizations in Georgia any of the credit they most certainly deserve, Bernie Sanders is one of those who deserves thanks for what could be a rebuke of Republican control in Georgia. Collectively, they’ve revitalized what could’ve been a diminishing party.