Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a Democratic socialist, is currently riding a wave of support from millennials toward a potential nomination for the Democratic Party in 2016.
NC State Students for Bernie is a student club that aims to rally fellow supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential run and is a chapter of College Students for Bernie. The central organization for student support nationwide, College Students for Bernie, is a grassroots movement with chapters in about every university in the United States, according to club president, Alex Caudill, a sophomore studying political science.
“What drew me to Sanders at first was his authenticity — you can tell he’s not your average politician,” Caudill said. “He’s not out there for special interests, he cares about people holistically, and he wants to make things better on a system-wide scale.”
Running as a Democrat in the 2016 election, the Independent Vermont senator has piqued the interest of college students far and wide for his policy proposals and sincere, straightforward personality, among other qualities.
“Bernie has a rare level of integrity and a moral compass directed toward saving the middle class, reducing poverty and bringing about institutional equality,” said Jesse Henderson, a graduate student studying natural resources economics and a member of Triangle for Bernie.
Henderson added, “Bernie runs his campaign on small donations from ordinary citizens, so it’s clear that he serves our interests.” This issue was made clear by Sanders at a rally in New Hampshire Sunday night when he said, “[Other candidates] have the money but we have the people, and when the people stand together, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. This country belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires.”
Political action committees, also known as Super PACs, can greatly influence the outcome of presidential elections by raising large amounts of money in support of certain candidates. The Sanders campaign has taken a firm stance against accepting money from Super PACs. According to Sanders’ website, the average contribution to the campaign is about $31.
“I like to know that I’m guaranteed a voice in the Bernie Administration based on my ability to vote over my ability to donate,” Caudill said.
Vice president of Students for Bernie and a senior studying sustainable materials technology, Nida Allam, added, “When you take money from a Super PAC, your presidency is owned by them. So one day, when the donations are coming from people like us, you know he’s going to be working for us.”
Sanders has proposed a plan for “debt-free public college education,” co-created the Employ Young Americans Now Act, which purports to combat the unemployment rate, and supports raising minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“Bernie has a lot to offer students,” Henderson said. “His free college plan would allow us to maximize the talent of our workforce, which is great for people and businesses alike, and it allows for the actual fulfillment of the American Dream.”
Caudill also remarked on Sanders’ emphasis on affordable, more accessible higher education, citing his willingness to “overhaul the education system to make sure that American children are more prepared for the evolving workforce before, during and after their education.”
Sanders has been a longtime advocate for average American people, and his voting records show steadfast support for the rights of minorities. He attended Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963, was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizer, voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, voted against both Iraq wars and in 2010 held an eight-hour filibuster to stop the extension of tax breaks for the 1 percent created by the most recent Bush Administration.
“He sees a lot of inherent flaws in the system that most policymakers are unwilling to address, and he’s willing to bite those bullets and take on those problems,” Caudill said.
Sanders’ campaign site details his stance against racial injustice of all kinds (physical violence, political violence, economic violence, legal violence), addresses climate change and the need for environmental responsibility and urges for the implementation of measures to make voting easier for students by creating a national holiday, Voting Day, and establishing automatic voting registration for those 18 and older.
Allam said she would like to see NC State students learn more about Sanders. “At the Campus Connections event, what I saw was that quite a few students either didn’t know anything about him, or just thought that he’s going to lose to Hillary,” she said. “So what we want to do is show them his actual policies, not just what the media keeps showing about him. He cares about racial equality, women’s rights [and] decent-paying hourly wages.”
Caudill said Sanders is more than just a politician. “He’s not just the radical, super-liberal devil that the media paints him to be,” Caudill said. “I want people to see that him winning the primary is not as far-fetched as it’s painted to be in the media.”
Students for Bernie, paired with Triangle for Bernie 2016, is having its first organizational meeting Wednesday in Hunt Library at 7 p.m.