I was only 15 when we all started to "feel the Bern." Sure, I was a little slow on the uptake (my parents were both Hillary folk, even back in 2006), but eventually, I too was dipping my toe in the warm bath of Democratic Socialism.
In Kansas, we have a tendency to flock to the fringes of political ideology. When we go progressive, rifle-wielding populists barricade the Statehouse. When we go conservative, we're founding the Westboro Baptist Church. My little pocket of Johnson County felt this pull in a suburban context.
Given the chance to speak on which candidate we most wanted to win the presidency in an AP History class days before the 2016 primaries, not a single one of my classmates said Hillary. She was not a particularly exciting candidate. She was certainly qualified enough, but to us teens, she came off like another Washington elite.
Enter Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
He was charismatic, loud. He said things politicians never say, like: "Every American should be able to afford college" (!!!), and "healthcare is a human right" (???). Unlike Hillary, his campaign was bursting with authentic moments: that time a bird landed on his podium in the middle of a speech. That time he was running to catch a train. You could hardly call yourself a member of the 11th grade intelligentsia without a Bernie sticker plastered on your MacBook Air.
I hopped on that Bernie train like everyone else. He provided a good alternative to what seemed like another four years of lame-duck democratic leadership (of course, presently I would take 100 years of Hillary Clinton in a heartbeat).
When he announced he was running again in 2020, I began to notice things I was too young, too contrarian to pay attention to back in high school.
Here's why I'm not feeling the Bern this time around.
Bernie Sanders is a one-note politician.
Yes, income inequality is real. It's destroying the livelihoods of everyday Americans, and it's caused by serious flaws in the way we're running our economy — but the climate crisis, racial inequality, immigration are real as well. Listen to Bernie in a debate. No matter what topic he's been asked about, his answer will consistently meander it's way back to "the one percent", and when he does give an answer on one of these topics, it is often weak and disjointed.
Here's Bernie giving a decidedly poor response to a question about immigration.
"If you open the borders, my God, there's a lot of poverty in this world, and you're going to have people from all over the world. And I don't think that's something we can do at this point. Can't do it."
Now, you'd be hard pressed to find any politician who calls for open borders, so I respect Senator Sanders for setting the questioner straight on this issue. What I cannot respect is the rhetoric he uses. In my opinion, America would be lucky to have an influx of great minds and hard workers flocking to her, "from all over the world".
Also, here's a discussion that needs to be had: He's freakin' old guys!
Bernie Sanders is 77. By the time he is sworn into office, he would be nearly 80 years old.
Typically when his age is brought into question, Sanders tries to flip the conversation, detailing his historied career in politics, including but not limited to his work in the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
Here's the thing: your actions 40-plus years ago isn't a reason we should vote for you now. We thank you for opening the door to progressive action from future generations, but the future generations are here, and it's time to let them take over. The fight has changed.
Not only is he old, he's an old white man.
Don't get me wrong, you should always vote for a candidate based on their policy, not the color of their skin, but let's look at this logistically. We know from the 2018 midterms that women are winning. Women of color are winning. Is Bernie Sanders, a 77-year-old white man really the future of the party?
If you're a Sanders supporter, I suggest you take a serious look at the other (*ahem* female *ahem*) candidates. Elizabeth Warren, for example, borders on democratic socialism herself and has released the most detailed tax plans of any major candidate. Kamala Harris is a staunch supporter of "Medicare for all," and — unlike Bernie, Warren and Biden — does not legally qualify for the seniors discount at your local Denny's.