Bernie Sanders’ concrete policies offer him an edge over other Democratic candidates

Illustration of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
Armaan Mumtaz/Staff

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Whenever I’m canvassing for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, I often get asked, “Why Sanders over Warren?” My response boils down to a couple of talking points, as Sanders has been leading in progressive issues for decades. He’s beating Donald Trump in polls and has the most donors from crucial swing counties. While Elizabeth Warren has plans, Sanders has plans and a movement, but my answer goes much deeper. For all the media narrative about “Bernie Bros,” as a female, nonwhite student, Sanders speaks to me.

Sanders is fighting for students like me who relied on college education to afford unanticipated costs and medical checkups. Yet today, as students enter the workforce with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, 40% of Americans cannot afford a surprise $400 expense, while nearly half of Americans can’t afford a routine doctor’s visit. Sanders recognizes this, and his plans to solve these problems showcase a fundamental belief in human rights. His proposal for total cancellation of student debt, as opposed to Warren’s partial, means-tested plan, highlights an investment in generations to come; his unwavering advocacy for health care for all, compared to Warren’s vagueness, shows his commitment to a humane health care system for people of all classes. These aren’t positions Sanders came to because they were popular — he has the most consistent history of leading in them. 

As a student in the ‘60s, Senator Sanders protested against segregation in public education. As mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the ‘80s, Sanders passed ordinances protecting the LGBT community’s right to housing equality. Meanwhile, Warren was a politically inactive registered Republican. Sanders has also been historically supportive of indigenous people’s rights; while Warren was still making a career out of her rather unclear Native American ancestry, Sanders rallied in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and indigenous people’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sanders’ consistency in his history and voting record shows that he won’t abandon his resolve at opportune moments or when corporate opposition mounts.

Usually, when I make these points, undecided people say, “Sure, he’s been fighting, but Warren has plans.” She does, but so does Sanders. Sanders’ Green New Deal is the most comprehensive climate platform in the current presidential race. This policy understands the seriousness and complexity of the crisis and eclipses every other candidate’s proposal in reach and budget devoted.

Just during my time at UC Berkeley, I’ve witnessed temperatures getting hotter later into the year and inhaled the smoke from various wildfires. I want a president that understands not only the urgency of the problem but also how its solution could create a more just world. Sanders’ Green New Deal will target carbon neutrality by 2030 and provide 20 million new jobs in his one-of-a-kind federal jobs guarantee as part of a fair transition for workers currently in the fossil fuel industry. It also calls for the nationalization of public utilities to make them function for the public good instead of for private profit. Most ambitiously, Sanders’ Green New Deal spells out the need for the litigation and criminal prosecution of fossil fuel executives who have knowingly misinformed the public of the United States.

 Speaking of plans, Sanders’ housing, education and criminal justice platforms include provisions that recognize systemic inequalities in radically new ways for our political landscape. Sanders’ platform includes a moratorium on deportations, universal voting rights, national rent control and a ban on corporate funding of the Democratic National Convention; Warren’s platform simply does not include these things.

Throughout my life, the U.S. has waged endless, destructive war, and it’s important to me that the candidate I vote for has a foreign policy based on our shared humanity. This is where Sanders and Warren differ the most. While Warren speaks about greening the military,” Sanders focuses on the fundamentally inhumane basis of our military-industrial complex. While Warren praises Israel as a liberal democracy in a dangerous part of the world,” Sanders recognizes the plight of Palestinians and the anti-democratic tendencies of the Fourth Netanyahu Government. In fact, he has said he’d consider withholding military aid from Israel, conditioned on stopping the expansion of the illegal West Bank settlements and military occupation. While Warren voted to approve Trump’s colossal military budget, Sanders led the effort to end American support for Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen, marking the first time a resolution based on the War Powers Resolution was successfully passed through the upper chamber. 

Two fundamentally different visions of politics emerge from this comparison: Warren’s pinky promises for technocratic, within-the-system “plans for that” versus Sanders’ explicit no-one-can-fix-this-without-a-movement campaign. Sanders’ campaign is filled with working-class people and young folks just like me. Sanders has created a massive organizing infrastructure, recruited more than 1 million volunteers and topped the field with $25.3 million in donations last quarter, reaching more than 1 million donors — he’s the only candidate with more donors than Trump. This is no fluke, it’s his campaign strategy of “Not Me. Us.”

But why does having a movement matter? A great example is Sanders’ Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act. The act, coupled with weeks of grassroots activism and rallies with Amazon workers, led Amazon to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hr. Change happens not from the top down, but from the bottom up. Having a president acting as an organizer in chief gives the power of the bully pulpit to the people, the disenfranchised and the marginalized.

 Sanders is loud, he is angry — and that’s a good thing. It is refreshing to see a politician actually mad about the state of injustice and inequality in the U.S., and one who, most importantly, cares about people like us. If we want any progressive policies to ever be enacted, we need a mass movement of people rallying in every state. Sanders is the only candidate willing to organize this movement. And if his total transformation of the Democratic Party is any indication, he is the person to pull it off.

Shruthi Chockkalingam is a senior majoring in mathematics and computer science and is the president of the UC Berkeley chapter of Our Revolution. Gillian Garaci is a junior studying political science who serves as the chapter’s director of finance.