Democrats Feel and Fear the Bern

A year ago pundits thought Hillary Clinton was unstoppable for the 2016 presidential election. With her experience in office, millions of dollars in campaign funding, and moderately progressive policies, Clinton had been the favored democratic choice. However, in the past several months, Senator Bernie Sanders threatens that lead. His honesty, years of government service, and all-the-way-to-the-left policies certainly are appealing to many. However, Sanders’ supporters are worried he is too radical and inexperienced for D.C., and can’t take on a republican competitor. His main problem is many voters who like him aren’t confident. Can Sanders still be a promising competitor when many Sanders supporters feel and fear the Bern?

Lawyer Michael Edelson, a democrat in his early 70s who works near Wall Street in Manhattan, thinks Sanders is a “one-show pony.” Edelson supports the majority of Sanders’ policies, but is worried Sanders’ lack of experience with foreign affairs could be troubling as commander-in-chief. But, “he’s a 74-year-old Jewish guy from Brooklyn living in Vermont who professes to be a socialist,” said Edelson. “That’s why I like him.”

Twenty-two year-old Emerson student majoring in writing, literature, and publishing, Helen Schultz (democrat) is excited for Sanders as president. “I think his ideas echo what the average American wants more than any other candidate,” said Schultz. “His emphasis on reproductive rights, access to education, and racial equality are all things that are on our collective consciousness.” Schultz is “super torn” on whether to vote for Clinton or Sanders in the primary election. “I think I might have to make up my mind when I get my ballot,” said Schultz. “I think I’ll see how Super Tuesday goes, and figure it out from there.”

Some think Sanders has bi-partisan appeal; including Sanders himself from a speech at Liberty University in September, where he said he received 25 percent of the Republican vote.

But Schultz doesn’t agree. She says Sanders is polarizing due to being “the definition of liberal.” Schultz is nervous that a Sanders democratic nomination win could mean a general election loss, due to his “divisive” nature. “I’d rather have Hillary who, while problematic, does have similar stances on many issues than a Republican who would completely go against what I believe.”

Schultz believes Sanders being anti-establishment hurts him in appealing to middle America. By leaning so leftward and radical in his politics, Schultz is worried Sanders’ progressive persona would lend to a stagnant congress. And Sanders’ liberal policies are not useful if they are not passed. Contrastingly, Schultz sees Clinton as a more neutral democratic candidate option, who could viably appeal to both parties, and get more accomplished during a presidential term.

While Schultz and Edelson are optimistic about Sanders (with slight hesitation), other democrat voters are unsure they’ll vote for Sanders at all in the democratic primary election.

“Bernie’s cool, but Hillary’s probably where I’m gonna go,” said Travis Bankey, a 30-year-old democrat in fashion sales. His coworker, 38-year-old democrat Crystal Combs, also thinks she will vote for Clinton. “I think it’s more of a comfort factor,” said Combs. “Knowing that she’s already been in office, in some capacity,” gives Combs assurance to vote for Clinton.


“I think he’s got a lot of appeal socially, especially towards the younger demographic,” said 24-year-old small-business Financer Theodore Casey on Bernie Sanders. “I’m not a huge fan of his fiscal policy, but I [lean] more toward [his] core values than anything.”


Tina Pitt, a 60-year-old democrat administrator for Year Up, thinks Sanders would be interesting as president, because he would be the first Jewish citizen to hold the title. But Pitt is unconvinced Sanders will perform well. “He’s at an age where I don’t know if he’s going to be able to support the demands of a presidency,” said Pitt. “I would rather go for Hillary Clinton, who might be getting close to his age. She appears to have more strength and stamina, and able to perform the duties of the job.”


And Pitt isn’t the only one who is switching over to team Clinton. As the primary elections have begun, it’s evident that Sanders didn’t have as much of a momentum as the mainstream showed. Clinton leads the count with 91 delegates, while Sanders has 65. In terms of super delegates, Clinton has 453 and Sanders 20. The democratic presidential nominee needs 2,383 delegates to get that coveted nomination. While Sanders has seemingly fallen behind in receiving delegates, recent polls show that Sanders is the democrats’ best bet for beating republican candidates.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who worked under former President Bill Clinton, has come out in support of Bernie Sanders. “I endorse Bernie Sanders for president of the United States,” said Reich on his twitter account. “He’s leading a movement to reclaim America for the many, not the few.”

Reich would support Clinton, though, if she wins the democratic nomination for the general election. But he wants a Sanders presidency.

Thirty-five year old democrat Accountant Alex Choto thinks Sanders is an ideal candidate due to his personal beliefs: free healthcare and free education. But, Choto understands that this is a capitalist country, and those benefits aren’t easily given to citizens for free.


Choto says people get scared when socialism and communism are brought onto the political table. “I think that’s where the problem is,” said Choto. “It’s all good what he’s trying to push for, but I don’t think it’s practical.”


Only time will tell how this election pans out. But tomorrow is Super Tuesday, and that means 12 states and one U.S. territory will have a hand in deciding Clinton and Sander’s futures. Will voters’ fear of Sander’s electability sway them to vote for Clinton instead? Will young voters make a huge turnout for Super Tuesday, pushing Sanders ahead? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Republicans for Bernie

Bernie Sanders is unabashedly 1000% left. From his desire to hold Wall St. responsible for the dissipation of our country’s middle class, to his plans on taxing the 1%–Bernie and his fans think of Bernie as a democratic socialist. You probably think this means all republicans loathe him. But actually the Bern has an avid Republican following and fan-base. Some of whom even reside right here at NYU.

It shouldn’t be too shocking that Bernie has been able to win over some republicans—especially working class republicans. Many political analysts, throughout the years, have noted that working class republicans often vote against policies and politicians in their favor. From better tax cuts, to better welfare and healthcare programs—the republican working class has often overlooked and rejected what’s in its best interest (as well as the country’s). But Bernie came in determined to break this cycle.

Susan MacDonald, a republican for Bernie explains “My democratic and libertarian friends can’t understand why anyone poor or female would vote republican…But deep down, no matter how unrealistic it is, most republicans believe that someday, somehow, they will be up there, too. And therefore, rules penalizing the wealthy go against their grain.”

However, with a son in the midst of applying for college, not knowing how she’s going to pay for his education has compelled her to “feel the bern.” While she doesn’t directly address that the vicious cycle of poverty is propelled by a capitalist monopoly on education—her candidate of choice indicates that she has put the dots together. She has slowly started to accept that maybe the under-regulated wealthy don’t have her best interest at heart.

Another republican for Bernie, Susan Fiore, reaffirms that many republicans for Bernie are willing to place blame where blame is actually due instead of becoming blinded by hate speech and fear mongering.

“Supporters of Sanders and of Trump/Cruz are very angry about the same thing: being disenfranchised.” She says. “But they’re angry at two different demographics: Leading GOP candidates’ supporters are angry at the poor, minorities and immigrants, while Sanders’ supporters are angry at the rich and powerful who really rule this country. Some conservatives recognize who is really to blame for their struggles, and consequently support Sanders.”

While it may still surprise you that Bernie’s stance on the economy has helped give him bipartisan appeal—it shouldn’t surprise you that his equally strong stances on some of the more uniform bipartisan issues have also helped to catapult him to popularity. In fact, many of the fans on the Republicans for Bernie Facebook page are active environmentalists, adamant activists for equal pay, and/or ready for some serious reforms to the prison industrial complex. These activists are not only confident that Bernie knows how to fix these issues—they are confident that he will really deliver. They believe in him and they believe in his candor.

Speaking of candor, it has been noticed by many popular news sources that there are some striking similarities between that of Bernie Sanders and that of Donald Trump. Yes. Trump is a flaming bigoted sexist and Bernie is far FAR the opposite (in his character and his policies). Nevertheless, as The Atlantic, Business Insider, and NPR have all pointed out, the two candidates share some similar talking points as well as the same angry tenor in their voice. This could account for their both winning in New Hampshire, and for the fact that they are the most popular candidates, of each respective party, in many Mid-Western states.

They’re both advocates for “fair trade” and oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which they both believe will hurt the “American worker;” they both want to invest more in our infrastructure; they both wish to expand social security benefits; and they both take pride in their rejection of large campaign donations. With this, and their shared candor, comes their shared ability to appeal to angry republicans—a very large American demographic.

I just hope this demographic can reject the ignorant monster that is Donald Trump and choose Bernie. I hope they will condemn Trump’s disgusting anti-immigration rants, his outrageous proposal to build a wall, his despicable Islamophobic rants, and his abominable proposal to ban all Muslims Etc. I hope that what’s shared of these candidates’ political strategies (which have been effective for both of them thus far) ultimately serves to aid Bernie and simultaneously destroy Trump.

One NYU student in particular helped to restore my hope. Alec Hardman, is a 21 year-old sophomore and self-proclaimed left-leaning conservative, who attributes his political identity to his Ohio roots. (Left-leaning conservative may sound confusing and paradoxical—and it is—many of Hardman’s ideologies seem to play a tug-of-war with each other.) Hardman isn’t shy to express that he would have been virtually shunned by his community if he didn’t indentify as a republican—I found it surprising that he doesn’t feel he’ll be virtually shunned for declaring himself a republican here at NYU. Nevertheless, I respected his honesty and thankfully he respects Bernie’s.

“I like him [Bernie].” Hardman said. “His ideas aren’t gradual enough, but I think America will soon become socialist so he’s got the right idea.”

I wasn’t sure at first if Hardman was presenting this ultimatum as a sarcastic acceptance of some sort of impending doom, or if he truly believes that Bernie is just the dose of idealism our country needs. However, as I asked him his opinion of Donald Trump, I soon realized it was the latter.

“I think he’s got a great understanding of the American capitalist system, but I don’t want him to win.” Hardman stated. “I don’t think he represents conservative values well. I don’t like his Islamophobia campaign and I don’t like the way he [generally] runs his campaign.”

With this I realized that there is more than one kind of angry republican. There are thankfully at least a handful of angry republicans who are fed up with the hate speech and fear mongering being done by the GOP; republicans willing to assess the roots of their values and surrender to an idealist democratic socialist Jew.

Voting for Authenticity

Back in September, the New York Times published a story on Hillary Clinton under the headline “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.”

Along with several other publications, it reported that Clinton would begin to make a bigger effort to bring spontaneity and humor into the forefront of her campaign; from then on, she would begin to make a bigger effort to appear genuine to the American public and give them the one thing they crave the most in a candidate: authenticity.

But Hillary’s “humor and heart” were then arriving at a post private e-mail scandal moment. Reports surfacing about her private messaging account and her delay in responding to the issue made voters doubt just how trustworthy she was.

And, as it turns out, authenticity didn’t seem to do the trick when it comes announced by a ‘I will now proceed to be authentic’ disclaimer.

“I think authenticity is sticking to who you are, sticking to your values, following through on what you promise. I think that makes a person authentic. Not changing your story to appeal to others,” said Ashley Ruiz, a 20-something New Yorker.

For many, a lack of authenticity is something that puts Hillary at a real disadvantage before her main competitors —Donald Trump in the Republican Party and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic.

“I think she does want what’s in the best interest of the country, I just think she’s done a great job at tarnishing her reputation by really going with whatever is the hot topic for progression and change,” said Chadwick Prima, interviewed in Union Square.

“When she first ran, she said gay rights are not something you should go forward with but now she’s like, ‘Yeah, I believe in gay rights!’ So it really comes down to, she’ll say what it really comes down to get elected.”

Voters are not blind to that, in Hillary or any other candidate. They have become hyper-sensible of candidates’ genuineness (or lack thereof) and allow that specific trait to influence their vote —even if it means, it seems, compromising policies they believe in.

People seem to not be as interested in reading presidential hopefuls’ resumes as they are about looking at them and thinking they are someone to believe in.

It is a trend, writes Erica J. Seifert, author of Campaigning for Authenticity, that became increasingly important in the late twentieth century. After Vietnam and Watergate, which played a huge role in breaking down the public’s trust in their government, voters began to look for different qualities in their future leaders.

They no longer wanted the most prepared candidate, at least not if they could have the “authentic candidate.” Votes begin to skew towards the candidates who could successfully showcase a satisfactory set of ‘authenticities’: approachable language and dress, self-disclosure, and anti-elitism.

The rise of soft news and television talk shows then allowed for the demand of a candidate that was relatable and accessible, while the social media boom now has only amplified the yearning for the most genuine and authentic character.

But while some voters allow the authenticity question to heavily weigh in as they consider their candidates, others are more skeptical of the real benefits of authenticity. After all, how will that truly help in running the country?

“I think the tough part is a president can only get 60% of what he wants done because Congress will prevent them from doing the other 40%, because it’s just not plausible to get that many people on board,” said Chadwick Prima. “It’s great to be authentic but it’s what’s plausible of getting done. And if it’s for the right reasons.”

Still, many seem to be detached from the election process as a result of a loss of faith in the institution and in their politicians. Now, if they’re not to believe in any of them, they might as well simply be able to believe them.

That seems to be the approach for leading Republican candidate Donald Trump: hotheaded and outrageous statements, which no matter how unfounded, people will perceive as genuine precisely because they are so hotheaded and outrageous.

“The fact that he is not a career politician I think is appealing to a lot of people, also to me,” said Josh, interviewed at Columbus Circle, about the GOP’s candidate’s standout qualities. “And he is very no-bullshit, you know what I mean?”

Most New Yorkers are not quick to praise any of Trump’s policies, but often eager to admit that they admire his frankness.

“I think the American people appreciate that a lot,” Josh said. “But I also feel that Bernie Sanders is the same way; he’s very honest, he has his opinions.”

This election is bound to prove just how appreciative the American people can be of a candidate that seems genuine and true to both what they believe in and what they say they believe in.

For Bernie, his authenticity has yet prove its impact on voters, with less authentic Hillary (at least to the public eye) still on the lead. For Trump, however, running on authenticity has yielded its results.

And if Trump’s lead so far is any indication, and if the people are truly voting on an instinct powered by their candidates’ perceived authenticity, it seems clear that the White House will sooner be occupied by an effective and persuading demagogue than an experienced politician.

It is both the danger and the recompense of presidential runs in a time that grants us so many different tools to get to know candidates more “personally;” the danger of politics in the time of live streaming, of Twitter, and whatever other resources —many real-time— that allow us to measure the level of authenticity in candidates more closely.

Politics become, again, a popularity contest, and the realest will win.