The Sanders revolution on campus

Thomas Humphrey | Staff Writer

>It is rare that I genuinely get behind a political candidate; I typically just complain about the candidates we get. The last few years have been particularly bad for me as a political nihilist. The Trump White House has basically acted in the manner of a cartoon villain with less direction, and neoliberal democrats have been unable or unwilling to do anything about it. So it’s refreshing to see a movement that, even if I can’t fully get behind it, seems like a force for good; this is especially true when that movement is happening near me. The Bernie Sanders revolution has come to Washington University in no small way, and that is pretty exciting.

Phillip Keisler, a sophomore who started the “Wash. U. For Bernie” chat, which has served as an epicenter for organization on campus, described how it started in an interview: “I started a small phone banking group with some friends, other Sanders supporters, calling voters. Slowly people were added to the group chat, and now we have…47 members.” Campus presence has grown organically all in the space of a month. Group size has increased quickly, currently at 154 members. It isn’t just idle talk either. As Keisler stated, this group is organizing legitimate grassroots campaign activities: “We do phone banking, canvassing, people went to Iowa to knock on doors, people are…texting.” He added, in relation to the quick growth, “It’s amazing how this has expanded through people talking to people they know and getting people involved in the primary process.”

It seems that the reasons for Sanders’ support are varied across supporters. Keisler brought up healthcare, income inequality and especially electability against Trump as issues that influenced his outlook. Spencer Chrein, a freshman, emphasized college tuition programs and economic justice. “I wanted to find a candidate who could really make a change, and I found Bernie Sanders,” he said of his introduction to Sanders.

Chrein trained to be a “Campus Core Leader” with the Bernie campaign, a volunteer organization position for the campaign involved in “building a net of support for Bernie.” This kind of volunteering role is one of the most interesting developments to me and is why I see a lot of potential for the Bernie campaign going forward. They are great at providing volunteer training and outreach and have created a decentralized support structure that is particularly effective in creating a grassroots political movement.

Chrein emphasized how “it’s not about the socialist or capitalist dichotomy anymore,” and I felt that this point was important. Since 2016 we have had an administration that is, in all honesty, devoid of ideology. Ideology really isn’t the most important thing in politics anymore, if it ever was. However, I think organization and passion are absolutely essential. That is what people don’t give a lot of credit to Trump for–he gets people excited. I don’t see a whole lot of excitement or passion for Joe Biden or Mike Bloomberg–mostly just resignation. But Sanders has actually awoken something here. Many people in the Wash. U. group have volunteered for or otherwise been in contact with the Bernie campaign. People are actually excited about a political candidate.

And these are not only people with long-standing political convictions, but people who have never paid attention to politics or never really had a candidate they felt could represent them. I have never in my life felt comfortable in my support of really any politician. That is not because I felt too ideologically distant from them, but rather because I saw a bunch of transparently awful people with no convictions or integrity. The Bernie campaign does have issues: It’s fairly radical, some of its policies are optimistic at best and there is still a long primary ahead. But I am sick of being pushed into supporting trash candidates since I feel like I have no other option. Sanders is something different, and he might be our last chance to change.

Let me add one more thing: look at your other options. Bloomberg is an opportunistic plutocrat. Biden is a senile narcissist. Tom Steyer is a billionaire running a vanity campaign. Klobuchar is a right-winger running on a Democratic ticket. Buttigieg is an upstart flim-flam man trying to be Obama. Warren has zero political instinct. Sanders is an old guard with decades of fighting for what he believes in. Who sounds best?

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.