Left of the Left? Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party

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Sanders Illustration by Abby LegnerOn September 5th, Bernie Sanders (D-VT) had the first major victory of his campaign, beating Hillary by nine points in Marist’s latest New Hampshire poll and solidifying his position in the Democratic front. Sanders is driving voters out in droves, but does this eccentric candidate have enough energy for the secondaries, or even the heat for the primaries?
Sanders stands in stark contrast with the rest of the democratic presidential hopefuls, if not entire voting field. At seventy-four years old with frazzled white hair and a long history of politics, there is much both to attack and praise him for. His policies resound with white millennials, his largest group of supporters. Sanders stands in direct opposition to the austere policies of the more conservative of the United States. Sanders’s campaign target so far has been the “Billionaire Class,” those with more money than humanly possible to spend. His policies include “The Robin Hood Tax,” which calls for a small tax to be levied on Wall Street financial transactions in order “to fund free tuition at every public college and university in the United States, as well as slash interest rates on existing student loans.” The Robin Hood Tax would bring in an estimated $300 billion dollars every year. More ambiguous policies include downsizing the prison system and introducing mandatory paid maternal leave, a practice found in every nation but the U.S. and Papua New Guinea. Sanders has vowed to return the Affordable Healthcare Act to the single-payer, Canadian-modeled system it was intended to be. He also pledged to extend benefits for veterans and their families. Sanders stands as the only Democratic candidate to support a $15 minimum wage and the expansion of labor rights. Sanders has been outspoken on the topics on climate change and eradicating racism from the judicial system, but has received harsh criticism from other leftist groups over the ambiguity and empty rhetoric of his plans.
Despite these positive and hopeful policies, there is much for which to question Sanders. He has been an outspoken supporter of the controversial Palestinian occupation. His border policies also need to be solidified as both parties are currently displeased. The gun control platform he has put out seems racist at worst and derogatory at best. Sanders has called for less control in affluent, white areas of the U.S. and more regulations in poor, black neighborhoods.
Sanders’s harshest criticisms come from both parties with equal vigor. Some believe his policies would overextend the U.S. budget, and bankrupt our nation as badly as countries like Greece. Others think that he is simply addressing symptoms and easing pains instead establishing reforms to directly stop the problems he is combatting. Whatever the consensus on Bernie Sanders ends up being, it is clear that he will be influential to shaping the 2016 election.