Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, at a town hall Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. (Jae C. Hong / AP)
”A year ago, concerned that ordinary citizens would be locked out of the presidential nominating process,” the editorial begins, “The Nation argued that a vigorously contested primary would be good for the candidates, for the Democratic Party, and for democracy. Two months later, Senator Bernie Sanders formally launched a campaign that has already transformed the politics of the 2016 presidential race.”
Galvanized by his demands for economic and social justice, hundreds of thousands of Americans have packed his rallies, and over 1 million small donors have helped his campaign shatter fund-raising records while breaking the stranglehold of corporate money. Sanders’s clarion call for fundamental reform—single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the breaking up of the big banks, ensuring that the rich pay their fair share of taxes—have inspired working people across the country. His bold response to the climate crisis has attracted legions of young voters, and his foreign policy, which emphasizes diplomacy over regime change, speaks powerfully to war-weary citizens. Most important, Sanders has used his insurgent campaign to tell Americans the truth about the challenges that confront us. He has summoned the people to a “political revolution,” arguing that the changes our country so desperately needs can only happen when we wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires.
We believe such a revolution is not only possible but necessary—and that’s why we’re endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. This magazine rarely makes endorsements in the Democratic primary (we’ve done so only twice: for Jesse Jackson in 1988, and for Barack Obama in 2008). We do so now impelled by the awareness that our rigged system works for the few and not for the many. Americans are waking up to this reality, and they are demanding change. This understanding animates both the Republican and Democratic primaries, though it has taken those two contests in fundamentally different directions.
At the core of this crisis is inequality, both economic and political. The United States has become a plutocracy—one in which, as Sanders puts it, “we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality.” America’s middle class has melted away, while the gap between rich and poor has reached Gilded Age extremes. The recovery that followed the 2008 economic collapse has not been shared. Indeed, in the United States it seems that nothing is shared these days—not prosperity, nor security, nor even responsibility. While millions of Americans grapple with the consequences of catastrophic climate change, fossil-fuel companies promote climate skeptics so that they can continue to profit from the planet’s destruction. While Americans have tired of endless war, the military-industrial complex and its cheerleaders continue to champion the reckless interventions that have drained our country, damaged our reputation abroad, and created a perfect storm of Pentagon waste, fraud, and abuse. While Americans of every ideological stripe recognize the need for criminal-justice reform, African-American men, women, and children continue to be gunned down by police officers on the streets, and mass incarceration continues largely unabated.
Americans are fed up and fighting back. Seen in isolation, the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, the climate-justice movement, the immigrant-rights movement, the campaign for a financial-transactions tax, and the renewed push for single-payer healthcare may seem like unrelated causes. Taken together, they form a rising chorus of outrage over a government that caters to the demands of the super-wealthy, while failing to meet the needs of the many. They share a fury at a politics captured by special interests and big money, where pervasive corruption mocks the very notion of democracy.
In Bernie Sanders, these movements for greater equality and justice have found an ally and a champion. In contrast to the right-wing demagogues who exploit these crises to foment division, the Vermont senator has reached into a proud democratic-socialist tradition to revive the simple but potent notion of solidarity. We must turn to each other, not on each other, Sanders says, and unite to change the corrupted politics that robs us all. His campaign’s funding reflects this commitment, spurning the support of corporate super-PACS and relying instead on millions of grassroots donors. Thanks to his campaign’s integrity, Sanders alone has the potential to unite the movements emerging across the country into one loud, irresistible demand for systemic political change. […]
[…] his campaign is attentive to the need to build a broader coalition, and in Sanders, Democrats have a candidate who can truly walk the walk: a civil-rights marcher in the 1960s with a consistent record of supporting racial justice, women’s equality, and LGBT rights. And they also have a candidate who has shown a willingness to listen and learn: Challenged early in the campaign by Black Lives Matter activists, Sanders has since outlined a bold agenda for holding police to account, reducing mass incarceration, and reforming discriminatory drug laws.
Voters can trust Sanders because he doesn’t owe his political career to the financial overlords of the status quo. Freed from these chains of special interest, he can take the bold measures that the country needs. Sanders alone proposes to break up the too-big-to-fail banks; to invest in public education, from universal pre-K to tuition-free public college; to break the power of the insurance and pharmaceutical cartels with Medicare for All reforms. He alone proposes to empower workers with a living wage. He alone stands ready to put Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and to confront climate change by making the United States a leader in renewable energy. His audacious agenda proves that money in politics doesn’t widen debate; rather, it narrows the range of possibility. While Sanders understands this, we fear that his chief rival for the Democratic nomination does not.