With his announcement on Tuesday to throw his support behind the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ shot at the Democratic presidential nomination may be over, but his influence and leadership are still inspiring millions to support his vision.
When I first heard Sanders speak, on a televised presidential debate opposite Clinton, I was compelled to listen. I was shocked. This was the first time I heard an American presidential candidate say that he would reel in the banking industry and big business out loud and mean it. He echoed my thoughts and beliefs. I was hooked.
I am grateful to Sanders for being a different kind of politician. It makes me believe in possibilities for a more humane way of life that is far beyond resignation and cynicism. People respect him although they may not like or agree with him. And they know what he believes in, because he says it consistently and clearly. It is rare in life to encounter a real leader.
Clinton, on the other hand, is stuck in an outmoded style of politics. She doesn’t state a position clearly until polling tells her it’s safe to.
Take the candidates’ stance on labeling genetically modified foods. Sanders states clearly that he believes GMOs should be labeled. In contrast, Clinton confusingly says that there should be a plan to label GMOs, in some kind of way, and that there should be more testing. Testing for what? We already know GMO food is GMO food. She does not say outright that GMO’s should be labeled.
It makes me think her interest is not in being clear with American people or in a safe and pure food supply. Nor does she believe in supporting people in making educated choices, which labeling will provide. Her focus seems based on protecting and not offending the corporations that produce and defend GMOs.
Clinton’ views on same-sex marriage were similarly perplexing. In 2002 she stated she did not support federally sanctioned same-sex marriages. In 2004 she said marriage was not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. She supported civil unions mandated by states, which was messy and unstable. Whereas, Sanders consistently supported marriage equality at a federal level, Clinton began supporting it in 2013 after the majority of Americans polled supported it.
I want a different kind of politician. However, Clinton’s nomination will become official later this month at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Thankfully, Sanders is using his momentum to push Clinton to take on more of his platform. Just this week, Clinton said she would campaign for the elimination of in-state tuition for public colleges and universities for families earning less than $125,000.00. This would not have happened if Sanders hadn’t said it first and gained the support of millions of voters. It’s politically advantageous on Clinton’s part, yet it may result in many people being educated and without debt. And when Sanders publicly acknowledges Clinton for taking on “a very bold initiative,” he’s egging her on.
To be a leader and say what you mean, you need a community that will hold you to it and push you forward whether you like it or not. Sanders may be the man Hillary always needed. He will continue to say what he’s been saying, and he can continue to have an impact in the Senate. His failure in winning the Democratic nomination is trumped by his willingness to say what he believes out loud, and the power that gives him over voters who want their beliefs echoed in a leader.
Hillary now has a community that will help drive her platform forward — even if it remains a political strategy for her. Working in tandem with Sanders can produce far more progressive and beneficial results than could have ever happened otherwise.