For millions of people, both Americans and not, Bernie Sanders’ “Not Me, Us” movement has given hope that change is possible. The passion people have carried for that hope has been marked as aggressive, naïve and disorderly.
Don’t get me wrong — we are angry. I am angry. We have every right to be angry.
I am angry because my best friend, one of the smartest and most hardworking people I know, has had to worry her entire life about her family being deported. Her DACA status almost prevented her from affording college since she is not an American citizen, despite having lived in the U.S. almost her entire life.
I am angry because my mother, who had symptoms of a heart attack, had to think twice before going to the emergency room to receive treatment, because of the momentous costs it would weigh on my family.
I am angry because there are millions of stories like and unlike these, that all share the common theme of injustice.
People across this country have been outright cheated, not just by the Trump administration, but by this country throughout history, out of a decent life. The blame is turned around and put on them. “You just need to work harder.” “Well, your parents shouldn’t have come to this country anyway.”
Or they’re met with neutrality. “These things you’re asking for, they’re just not possible.” “Well I’m doing okay.” “We don’t need to change the foundations of our system, everything is working fine.”
Why is this the response of so many Americans?
Take a moment. I want you to ask yourself, no matter what you believe, why you believe those things, what has led you to believe them and what real standings those justifications have.
Who says that the Midwesterner who has built their small business from the ground up hasn’t worked as hard as the New York banker? Who gets to say who an American is, when the land the U.S. was founded on doesn’t even rightfully belong to the people that now own it? Why does one person deserve the bare minimum — health care, a proper education for their children — and another person doesn’t?
Sanders’ “Not Me, Us” movement has played a significant role in bringing these questions to the forefront of our generation. As Americans, we are beginning to question our places and roles in society and why we have the mentalities we do about work, politics and the world. And we are coming to realize that a lot of those ideas do not make sense.
We are led to believe that the people influence the party, but just the opposite rings true. Policies that are extremely favorable among voters across the spectrum like Medicare for All, a higher minimum wage and free college are portrayed as “radical” by political parties and some media outlets. When people hear the word “radical,” even if they and their neighbors agree with the policies at hand, they come to the conclusion that the rest of America wouldn’t agree. By accepting these ideas, they see a future loss to Donald Trump.
This gap between people’s policy beliefs and where they are voting is getting lost in national policy discussion. We’ve heard that “moderate” views are the best choice, the safest choice, the unifying choice in this upcoming election. People aren’t rallying around Joe Biden because they like his policy; they believe he’s the best equipped to defeat Trump based on his label as a “moderate.” There is fear that people need to consolidate their values to win this election, but major polls show Sanders beats Trump in the general elections by wide margins.
The problem is that we, the people, don’t know where the real political middle even is. The terms “unification” and “moderation” in politics have been used as a cover to benefit those who have an established influence in this country rather than the other 99.9 percent. While that 99.9 percent believes they vote on issues built to benefit them, the real voices and policies not present on the spectrum of moderation continue to be silenced. Medicare for All, for example, has been shown to cost Americans less and benefit them more, but has been described as “pie in the sky” by established Democrats.
We must reach for the stars, even the ones we cannot yet see. The way to get voters across factions is to show them what can be done to benefit them rather than the most powerful. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is and has been doing that. His efforts are especially prevalent in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in which many of the faults of our current medical system are increasingly apparent. He has halted all donations to his campaign and has instead used his broad base and network to get funds to charities that are working to help people during this crisis.
There is a narrative that the candidate who has stood unwaveringly to unify this country, no matter one’s race, income or origin, is the one that is “divisive.” This is an effort to further dim these diverse voices. Dismissing Bernie Sanders on the grounds that the small population of hateful, typically white men — often referred to as “Bernie Bros” — overpowers the voices of the marginalized communities that make up the majority of “Not Me, Us,” furthers the narrative that those voices do not matter.
I voted for Bernie Sanders because we cannot compromise on justice. Because this election does not have to only be about defeating Donald Trump. Because if we do not vote with our voices, then they will never be heard. Because millions of people cannot just wait another four years. Because the voices of those who have been silenced for far too long must be a part of the mainstream conversation.
We must carry our inspiration from this movement beyond the election. We must make others understand what Bernie Sanders has stood for his entire life, why this campaign and this movement means so much to us. These are steps toward justice. Toward honesty. Toward breaking down what we have been so set to live by and to instead pave ways to create something better.
I know the concept of change may sound frightening. Many Americans, I know in my heart, want what’s best for themselves and their families. But we must continue to ask ourselves what changes we are afraid of and why. We must look at the present through the lens of history. We must ask ourselves, “What do we want our vote to mean, not only for us, but for the future?”
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The “wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see... that justice too long delayed is justice denied.” It’s not too late to vote our values. A vote for Bernie Sanders ends that wait. A vote for Bernie Sanders is a beacon for the future instead of a rollback to the past.
What Bernie Sanders means to me has never been and never will be about him. It’s about real justice, for us.
Lubna Azmi is a first year student from Manassas, Virginia studying International Studies.