Politics & Policy

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Sanders speaks at a rally in Salem, Ore., May 10, 2016. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)
Appreciating the socialist senator from Vermont, despite his insane beliefs

Dear Bernie,

Today, you decided to officially express your support for Hillary Clinton in the race for president of the United States. Unlike many, I will not label you a “sellout.” Though I’m disappointed in your decision, I would also like to thank you for your contribution to American politics.

To be clear: I would never have voted for you. I’m rather conservative, and disagree with almost every policy position you’ve expressed both during this campaign and throughout your long career in politics. You and I don’t agree on trade. You and I don’t agree on government funding of public colleges. You and I don’t agree on taxation. You and I have a fundamentally different view of the proper role of American government.

As a young conservative growing up in a blue state and attending a college that many on the right consider the preeminent bastion of liberal thinking, I have often been tempted by political apathy. After Mitt Romney — a candidate whom I believed in, campaigned for, and hoped to re-elect in 2016 with my first presidential vote — lost, I was deflated. Obama had won, promising four more years of an unacceptable status quo. The Republican party had become a clown show, lacking a strong unifier who could passionately and articulately express the principles I supported. A Hillary Clinton coronation loomed on the political horizon. I very much considered turning my back on the political scene altogether.

I thought you were someone who put principles before politics, and that you would never hesitate to stick to your guns, regardless of the pressure. I guess not.

As 2016 approached, the impending presidential election didn’t inspire much confidence: Hillary versus [insert Republican here] just wasn’t a particularly exciting choice. I hoped for a principled conservative to energize our community in the fight to change the liberal status quo, and to present a rational alternative to the deceptive corruption of the Clintons. Instead, I got Donald Trump.

But then you came on to the scene. At first, you were just that crazy socialist senator from Vermont, as indeed in many ways you still are. But as I began to watch and listen, I saw much more than that.

Yes, everything you said was completely wrong. Yes, I believed your policy proposals would usher in a radical leftward shift unacceptable for our country. But you were principled. You were unapologetic. You were exciting.

It was because you cared — about your policies, about your supporters, about young people, and about the country we share. While I thought it was dangerous, you laid out a vision that you genuinely believed in, not one that you thought people wanted to hear. You harshly criticized the one percent and refused to take super PAC money. You believed in the power of people to meaningfully effect change in their nation, and in return, people believed in you.

To me, that was a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t support you as a candidate, but I could support the idea that you represented: That one need not compromise their principles or their integrity to be influential in politics. In an era of Clintons, Obamas, and Trumps, it was an idea that had not been expressed for far too long.

#share#Like me and many other conservatives, your supporters now stand without a candidate to believe in. And, like me, they are disappointed in your decision to bow to the pressure exerted by the political muscle that the Clintons have been flexing for decades. I understand that your arm has been twisted by every establishment Democrat from the top down, and I understand that you view Donald Trump as an unacceptable and dangerous candidate for the highest office in the land — I think he’s a dangerous and unacceptable candidate, too. But I reject the political hive-mind’s notion that you had to endorse Hillary. You did not. You’ve been an independent for decades, refusing to officially associate yourself with a party that you didn’t fully believe in. Throughout the campaign, you highlighted all of the problems with your opponent, and even went so far as to declare her “unfit” for the office of the presidency. You told America that you were starting a political revolution.

By its very nature, though, a revolution refuses to be cowed by the protectors of the status quo. It can concede temporary defeat in certain battles, sure, but it can’t survive if betrayed by its leaders. It is disingenuous for you to pretend that you will continue your revolution despite your endorsement — or even worse, imply that Hillary will. I thought you were better than that.

#related#So I — someone who would happily stuff the ballot box for any Republican candidate who is not Donald Trump — write this letter to tell you that today, I’m bummed out. During your endorsement speech, once more you called out the Wall Street billionaires for whom you’ve so often expressed unqualified loathing over the last 14 months. But this time, something was wrong: There stood, bobbing her head next to you, someone who has made a career out of selling favors to those very same billionaires. I thought you were someone who put principles before politics, and that you would never hesitate to stick to your guns, regardless of the pressure. I guess not.

Despite feeling disappointed and deflated, I want to thank you for helping to rekindle my faith and interest in politics. You’ve shown me, an aspiring apathetic, that new messages and new ideas can take hold, that individual people — especially young people — can make a difference, and that politicians can be more principled than we’ve come to expect. You’ve given me hope that a principled conservative can and will enter the scene and bring with it a brighter day.

In short, you’ve helped make me excited about politics again.

Sincerely,

Andrew

— Andrew Badinelli is an intern at National Review.

Andrew Badinelli — Andrew Badinelli is an intern at National Review and studies economics and government at Harvard University.

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