Head-to-Head: Student Politics

A Republican and a Socialist debate the politics of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.

Photo purchased frm BigStock.com.

Photo purchased frm BigStock.com.

Op-Ed: Sanders Lacks Proper Qualifications

By Karly Hamilton

What is Democratic socialism?

As Bernie Sanders defines it, “in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. That is what I mean by democratic socialism.”

Sanders has been a Vermont senator since 2007 and is currently in the running to be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential candidate. 

At 78, he is the oldest Democratic presidential candidate—quite a feat considering he is one of four Democratic contenders who would be the oldest president to be elected if voted into office. 

When President Donald Trump took office in 2017, he became the oldest United States president to serve at almost 71 years old. At the time, there were questions about if his age would impede his ability to lead the country, and Sanders poses a similar concern. 

In October 2019, The New York Times published an article about Sanders’s health, including details of his recent heart attack. 

David Axelrod, former adviser to President Barack Obama, was cited in the article. “Running for president is a physical and emotional trial, and the presidency itself is even more demanding,” Axelrod said. 

This prompts questions about if Sanders is physically prepared for the role of president as he is no spring chicken.

However, age is the last thing people should be worried about when it comes to Sanders as a candidate in the presidential primaries. 

During an episode of 60 Minutes that aired on February 23, Sanders caused concern when he showed a lack of knowledge regarding the cost of his “Medicare for All” plan.

  • Anderson Cooper: Do you have-- a price tag for all of these things?
  • Bernie Sanders: No, I don't. We try to-- no, you mentioned making public colleges and universities tuition free and cancelling all student debt, that's correct. That's what I want to do. We pay for that through a modest tax on Wall Street speculation.
  • Anderson Cooper: But you say you don't know what the total price is, but you know how it's gonna be paid for. How do you know it's gonna be paid for if you don't know how much the price is?
  • Bernie Sanders: Well, I can't-- you know, I can't rattle off to you ever nickel and every dime. But we have accounted for-- you-- you talked about Medicare for All. We have options out there that will pay for it.

This is incredibly concerning and raises the question: Is Sanders qualified to be President when he can’t even conceive basic cost estimates?

Sanders is currently leading in the polls with Joe Biden coming in a close second. However, nothing is set in stone yet with Super Tuesday votes still unaccounted for. 

While it is wonderful that young people are exercising their right to vote, I question the immense support my generation has shown for Sanders. Many of the things he says directly contradict our core societal values, and his plans would upset the system we have had in place for years. 

He may have good points for down the road, but we are not there yet. There are more pressing issues than the ones Sanders hopes to tackle, and I believe it will be to society’s disadvantage if Sanders wins the Democratic primaries and presidential election this fall. 

President Trump is not perfect—no person or president is—but his philosophies do not flip the world we live in upside-down in the way Sanders hopes to. Yes, our country has work to do. But these changes should not rely on taking money from the wealthy. 

As many people prepare to cast their votes in upcoming elections, I urge voters to consider the ramifications of a Democratic-Socialist president and the potential catastrophe that could ensue.

Op-Ed: The Antagonization of Socialism

By Kolja Westhues

Unfortunatley, the word "socialism" has been dragged through the mud, and it's often connected to worse aspects of authoritarianism and communism.

I contend that socialism is considerably different than what people have been taught. It would also be more beneficial than our current socioeconomic system of late-stage capitalism.

As someone whose political ideals align with the “socialist” label —among many other terms—I find the United States’ history with socialism incredibly interesting, specifically the use of the word in our past politics. For decades, both the Republican and Democratic Parties—which I view as centrist parties with some left or right ideals—have made the term extremely villainous.

Republicans have done this by labeling a large number of bills proposed by Democrats as “socialist.” In the past few decades, the GOP has called any movement that supports a raise in taxes against the rich to help the poor as a socialist concept.

I believe that Republicans have done this because many in the Party associate socialism with authoritarian socialist countries like the Soviet Union and Venezuela. In actuality, the problems in those countries stem not from their socialist ideals, but from the significant amount of power assumed by the government.

A major example of Republicans demonizing socialism occured on December 14, 1975, when President Ronald Reagan said,“If fascism ever comes to America it will come in the name of liberalism.”

Moreover, on October 19, 2008, in the midst of Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, it seemed as if the Arizona politican tried to intimidate voters by saying, “I think [Obama’s] plans are redistribution of the wealth... that’s one of the tenets of socialism.”

Despite socialism being considered on the left of the political spectrum and the Democratic party being considered leftist as well, the DNC is equally as guilty for the antagonization of socialism, although they have been less vocal about their attack.

Instead of socialism, the democratic establishment has embraced neoliberal and centrist ideas. The problem with this is that we get traditional right-leaning centrist people running as Democrats. This can lead to Americans choosing not to vote, as they feel that neither Democrats or Republicans truly represent them and that they would have to vote for the lesser of two evils.

The one thing keeping the DNC on the left are figures like Bernie Sanders, who has labeled himself as a socialist since the 1980s, when he became the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Since his infamous run for president in 2016, he has inspired a new movement of Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists running for government

The stance most centrist Democrats take on Sanders is that he is too far left to be elected. I believe that his clear and passionate belief in what he is saying is enough to get people on board. 

His progressive ideology adds to his qualifications. He has been steadfast in his beliefs, consistently on the right side of history compared to his political opponents who have flip-flopped from right to left on certain issues.

Aside from political parties, there is one more major group that has been antagonizing socialism: the media, especially in recent history. News organizations such as Fox, CNN, MSNBC and The Washington Post have been hostile toward the idea of socialism. 

The Washington Post, especially, has published articles that come across as incredibly anti-socialist. I believe this is because the publication—and many other news outlets —are owned by the elite. In fact, The Washington Post is owned by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, who espouses opinions that favor elites.

Socialism has been treated as radical in U.S. politics for decades when, in reality, it just stands for equality. If that is a radical change from the status quo—which may scare some people— maybe our status quo is far too unjust.