It seems that colleges across the country have caught Bernie fever. The rise of the Vermont senator has been meteoric in nature, and has put once guaranteed nominee Hillary Clinton on her toes. His anti-Wall Street policies especially have resonated with a younger generation living in the shadow of one America’s greatest recessions.
And yet despite this, I, as a liberal college student, cannot bring myself to support him. The simple fact is that while Bernie hypes up his Wall Street message, he falls flat on a number of other, equally serious issues that have largely been ignored.
Take for example his stance on gun control: while other candidates pledge their support for stronger (constitutionally legal, see DC v. Heller) gun control, Bernie’s record is mixed at best. In fact the only pro-gun control measure he has ever voted “yea,” on was a high capacity magazine bill in 2013. Otherwise he has voted to shield gun stores and manufacturers, and voted against the Brady Bill in 1994.
In the debate, he defended these votes with platitudes regarding hunting and the rural-urban divide, despite the fact that the majority of gun control measures would have zero effect on the legal purchase and use of guns for hunting purposes.
Bernie also falls flat on the Israeli issue. Given statements by the Obama administration and the United Nations over the past decade and a half regarding problems in the region, and the rapidly growing tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank (where back and forth violence is becoming a daily occurrence), the fact that Bernie has been almost silent on the issue is a problem. The Sanders statement on Israel has been the same two-state cop-out he has used since the 1980s; if he truly purports to be a progressive, he must speak in more depth on this issue.
Lastly, we have Bernie’s stance on immigration reform. Bernie, with his staunchly pro-labor stance, has voted over the years in a manner that his been against comprehensive immigration reform. In 1998 he voted against increasing skilled labor visas. In 2006 he voted to not inform the government of Mexico as to the whereabouts of the Minuteman project, a group of non-governmental, citizen border patrol guards. And in 2007 he voted against a comprehensive immigration plan and work visas.
These votes have not only earned him bad standing among pro-immigration reform groups, but have earned him high ratings from conservative groups that support stronger borders and stronger limitations on immigration.
These policy choices are major, but more importantly they highlight Bernie’s final, most major flaw: as of this point, his numbers in all minority groups have been around half of those of Hillary Clinton. According to a four-poll average published by Huffington Post, 63% of Latinos view Hillary favorably, compared to 33% for Sanders. Among African Americans Bernie fairs worse, with favorably Hillary polling around 68% (according to Gallup) and Bernie at a mere 23%. With Minority groups as a serious base for the Democratic Party, this divide highlights that Bernie’s initial successes may be negligible once the campaign moves to the South Carolina and Nevada primaries.
So what’s the takeaway from this all? Quite simple: Bernie is one of many candidates, but certainly not the messiah he is often made to be. While his anti-Wall Street, pro-Main Street policies are popular, it is frankly irresponsible to focus solely on them; the presidency is not a one-note job, and so there is absolutely no reason to support a one-note candidate. Time will tell who will ultimately become the Democrat nominee, and indeed it will tell whom I will ultimately support. But as of this moment, I cannot say I feel the Bern.