In 1848, Karl Marx — influential German political theorist — published the Communist Manifesto with co-author Friedrich Engels in the face of groundbreaking class struggle. The Manifesto, which outlined the system of communism in order to save the growing and increasingly impoverished working class, sought to close the dramatic gap between everyday proletarians and the exploitative bourgeoisie and make society work for all.
Almost two centuries later, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” is quickly building a revolution resting on those same principles. In a once-crowded field of candidates that has considerably narrowed, Sanders has emerged as the front-runner for the nomination, drawing considerable support from young people across the country who want a “tax on extreme wealth,” a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, student loan debt forgiveness and more.
Places like Ann Arbor with large student populations are ground zero for Sanders supporters. Young Democrats adore this political movement and might just propel the senator to become the Democratic standard-bearer.
But there’s something really concerning happening with those who are “feeling the Bern.” Sanders supporters across this country might be strong in numbers and proud to cast their vote for the democratic socialist, but a politician with such radical ideas shouldn’t be polling at even half of where he stands right now.
After spending months on one of the most politically active college campuses in the country, it’s become clear that Sanders’s rise to prominence is being fueled by young people’s growing disconnect to the true reality of American life. Millennials and Gen Zers desperately need to stop feeling the Bern and take the time to understand what has made America — a place where anybody can work their way up to success — the most respected country in the world.
Although Sanders and his supporters are determined to unite “around an agenda that works for all of us, and not just the billionaire class,” as the senator said at the recent Nevada Democratic debate, the problem is that the Sanders revolution is completely missing the point. America is already prospering, and not just for the billionaire class. People of all walks of life are thriving, whether Sanders’s most passionate supporters want to recognize that fact or not.
While Marx’s Manifesto resonated in a time when the proletariat faced unprecedented struggles, the Sanders movement really has no struggles to talk about, other than ones that are ultimately baseless. A recent Gallup poll released in the midst of Sanders’s surprising ascent found that 89 percent of Republicans feel they’re better off than they were three years ago. When aggregated with 29 percent of Democrats, that’s 60 percent of all Americans that feel they’re better off now. And this isn’t all. Gallup mentioned in another poll that 63 percent of Americans consider our economy to be “excellent” or “good,” while the pollster also indicated that 61 percent say the American economy is improving.
Do these figures seem to indicate a system where everybody but the billionaire class is suffering, as Sanders tells us? I don’t think so. In fact, ordinary people are going to work in near-record numbers and our economy is expanding at full speed. And this expansion has nothing to do with a stock market that has repeatedly hit record highs. It’s all about the major strides that everyday Americans are making all of the time.
Last September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the unemployment rate of 3.5 percent was at its lowest point since 1969 — 50 years ago at the time of the report. The Bureau recorded the rate to be close by, at 3.6 percent, as of early February.
Beyond this, figures reveal that the working class in particular (especially historically disadvantaged groups) has prospered beyond belief over the past decade. Since 2009, according to the Bureau, the bottom 10 percent of Americans have seen their earnings grow by almost 5 percent, compared to only 3 percent for the top tenth. By this measure, our country is actually seeing a decrease in inequality, simply as a result of market forces. Earnings growth for workers has also outpaced that of managers over the same period, while the same trend holds for people who don’t hold bachelor’s degrees compared to those who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher.
The truth, as harsh as it may be for those who are feeling the Bern, is that our nation is indisputably working not just for billionaires — it’s working for every American that has the will and ambition to carve out a successful life. Young people need to take the time to realize as soon as possible that a Sanders presidency would wreak havoc on everything that has made our country great already.
While Sanders has won some of the early battles, the war is far from over, with the critical Super Tuesday contests still looming ahead. Many Americans have convinced themselves that Sanders has a clear path toward the nomination and is essentially unstoppable, but at a time when America is doing better than ever, I have hope that a candidate who truly supports the core values of this nation will prevail.
The Democratic primary comes to Michigan on Tuesday, March 10. On that day, when millions across the country will be casting their ballots, I urge every voter to reject an agenda of democratic socialism that would completely reverse the progress millions of ordinary Americans are enjoying. In the end, Democrats have an uncompromising obligation to nominate a candidate that will build on, not dismantle, the profound success that has defined the United States.
Evan Stern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.