Peters: Why I Voted for Bernie

by William Peters | 2/16/16 6:45pm

An unhappy electorate is a dangerous electorate — at least for establishment candidates. The Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary was won by two anti-establishment candidates — real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump and the democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders left New Hampshire with the most votes ever in the state’s primary, beating previous record holder, Sen. John McCain, and besting Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 22 points. How is it in a state that gives President Barack Obama a 90 percent approval rating, a state with the lowest poverty and murders rates, where unemployment is hovering around 3.1 percent, two political outsiders walked away with such big wins? I can’t speak for the thousands of voters that turned out, but I can speak for myself and why I voted for Bernie.

Let me take you back to a special election in 2010, the one to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy’s vacant seat representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. The race received national attention because the winner would decide the fate of Obama’s healthcare bill, which was ultimately voted down after Scott Brown, the winner of the special election, cast a “nay” vote. Brown managed to produce a Republican victory in a state that has been long considered a stronghold of the Democratic party. How did he do it? Former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley had been the anticipated winner as soon as she announced her candidacy. People in Massachusetts often referred to Coakley by her first name. She was warm, personable and friendly to those around her. People liked Martha. However, they began to like her less when they noticed she was not campaigning. Brown came out of nowhere with a grassroots campaign, going door-to-door and making sure he was seen daily with working people. He seemed passionate about securing what he called “the people’s seat,” in rebuttal to many Democrats referring to the seat as belonging to Kennedy. Gradually, Coakley began to appear out-of-touch and entitled in voters’ eyes. Seen as someone who was part of the establishment, Coakley lost the election to Brown by three points. This sent a message about the effects of voter discontent, a similar one that sent after the New Hampshire primary. I voted for Brown for those reasons and I was proud to send that message. We were unhappy then. We are more unhappy now.

The recent primary was my first time voting in New Hampshire, and I knew for months that I would be voting for Sanders. Friends and peers have been asking me why. Some say that it’s because I want to see the system fall or that I’ve become a delusional leftist. Others have said that it was a waste of a vote, that I should have supported a more qualified candidate. They’ve asked me if I really believe that Sanders’s plans for single-payer healthcare, free public college and greater taxes on America’s wealthiest individuals were realistic, and I’ve said no. They’ve asked me if I think he can win the nomination and if he did would he be good for the Democratic party? I’ve said no. So, why did I vote for him?

Following Sanders’s 22-point victory, the Democratic party pledged six “super delegates” to Clinton’s campaign, turning his victory into a 15-15 tie. Super delegates are officials who have already committed to a candidate, thus the primary was a pre-constructed tie. Super-delegates and who they are pledged to can easily be found online, and it’s clear that Sanders has minimal party support. This system is nothing new, but you might just now be realizing that all these years you’ve been participating in a glorified survey that only guarantees an unobstructed vote, not a victory. This system that empowers the establishment on both sides is as bad as the current campaign finance system Sanders hates so much. If Bernie is outside of the establishment, he’s outside of this deplorable anti-democratic system. He gets my vote, my voice.

I voted for Sanders because I think if he does well enough, he will shift the decision calculus on both sides of the aisle in Congress. More importantly, for once in my life, I voted for an idea, not simply a candidate. If we are going to be champions of democracy and economic success in the Western world, we are going to have to make big changes to our political system. I’ll gladly join the rest of the voters in Sanders’s camp to show our discontent with the status quo. Frankly, I no longer care about the most qualified or experienced candidate. I care about the one who’s advocating for the most important changes needed for our country. Right now that is Sanders. Sanders isn’t really running for president, and I didn’t vote for him to win the nomination. I voted for him because ballots are how we show support or discontent for ideas and policies in this country, and I believe he’s the only one who allows me to say that we cannot go on like this.