Bernie Sanders is not your grandfather.
He is not a cute old guy in a flower crown. He is not your “tío Bernie” just as much as Hillary Clinton was not your “abuela” back in 2016 when she also marketed herself as such. He is Bernard Sanders, a 78-year-old politician who has been working in Congress for 30 years. He is a Cold War-era Marxist.
It’s not that Sanders is too old to hold office. The man will hopefully be up and running for the next 20 years. It’s that Sanders is, simply, stuck in a different generation. He’s an outdated politician with a formidable PR machine. A man with a will for power, as all people have. A man that has good intentions. And a man who will drive the political movement that is arising straight into the ground.
If you’re Gen Z, you know how deeply social media affects your life. You’ve probably had a lot of disturbing conversations about the effects Instagram and Facebook have on your mental health. You’ve definitely, as the Yale Socialist Party has discussed thoroughly, contemplated the effects of having to live your whole life online.
Sanders does not have a single app on his phone. When he is asked about whether he uses Amazon Prime, his response is confused. He does not understand the complicated digital world we inhabit today.
If personal qualities of a presidential candidate matter, and I sure hope they do, then how can we disregard the fact that Sanders does not know anything about the world he is trying to lead?
His campaign works the despair of its ‘target audience’ well. It exploits social media extensively, launching hashtags, rotating targeted ads on Twitter — using what can be extremely harmful tools while running on a platform of honesty. Senior aides even call his heart attack a “heart incident.” This is beautiful post-truth spinning. It’s the same spinning that occurs across the media universe and that has damaged the American political conversation.
Sanders thinks in the previous century’s understanding of media — but his campaign does not. The hyper-information age passed by him without him even noticing. Yet the people clicking “like” on his Facebook page are oblivious.
Young Americans’ sympathy for socialism is understandable. Is an American college education inaccessible without going into debt? Yes. Is the American healthcare system abysmal? Yes. Are those things bad? Yes. Is there a movement throughout the country? Yes. Is there a demand for a more equitable system? Yes.
Is Sanders the answer? No.
People support Sanders because he’s been standing for the same values for thirty years.
If one is to believe in Sanders’ ideological integrity over this period, then one has to assume that he has not changed his views over his political career. This implies that the praise he heaped upon the Soviet Union during his visit in 1988 holds true to his views now. In 1988, the Soviet Union was disintegrating into perestroika, just about to enter the throes of cannibalistic “market reforms,” led by the people who were raised in the same Soviet education system whose virtues Sanders praised. As the Soviet citizens were standing in breadlines, triggered by the failures of people in power, Sanders was downing vodka shots and saying that he hoped the USSR would return to the original values of the October Revolution. According to the Washington Post, Bernie expressed in his 1988 visit that the USSR needed to move “forward into some of the early visions of their revolution, what their revolution was about in 1917.”
Some American leftists think that because America was built on the slave trade and on Manifest Destiny, this country can never escape the evils it was founded on. Yet if an American leftist thinks like that, they have to contemplate that the Soviet society was built on Leninist terror, and Stalinist purges, and millions of people sent off to gulags, and rivers of blood Soviet citizens shed on the frontlines of the Second World War.
There are Marxist-Leninists on this campus. There are Stalinists on this campus. Those people are perfectly pleasant Gen-Z kids. Kids with good intentions. They are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs for perfectly good reasons. They are questioning the current American system that has led so many people in this country to life in poverty and debt.
If they are looking to solve those problems, their candidate should not be a man whose political ideology was shaped during the Cold War.
If you’re against Trump, you are in a conundrum. This is, sadly, the situation in 2020. At the time I’m writing these words, the only candidates left in the race are establishment Democrats and Sanders. To quote Chernyshevsky, “What is to be done?” Stand up for yourself, by yourself. Look at your peers and what they are doing. Support them and act on your own behalf.
Sanders is not your promise for a better future. He is the ghost of a past Yale students have never known. Don’t let this old man usurp your hopes for change.
DARIA KOZEKO is a senior in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .