Letter to the Editor: He’s Bernie Sanders, not Colonel Sanders

ASU juniors Ben Cooper and Tanzil Chowdhury rebut Opinion editor Maya Foxall's column on celebrities in office

As regular readers of The State Press, we appreciate the perspective of Opinion editor Maya Foxall. However, being supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, we were dismayed at her flippant dismissal of him as a “celebrity candidate” in a recent column. 

It is certainly odd that she would choose to lump Sanders in the same category of fame as Kanye West and Oprah Winfrey, both of whom primarily made their names in the entertainment industry.

By contrast, Sanders rose from obscurity as the independent socialist mayor of Burlington in the small state of Vermont, nearly 40 years ago, to being one of the most popular politicians in America through his groundbreaking presidential campaign in 2016, where he received over 12 million votes in the Democratic primary. He did this by championing popular and radical policy proposals such as Medicare for All, College for All and a $15 national minimum wage. 

In addition to serving as the mayor of Burlington for eight years, Sanders served as a U.S. congressman for 16 years and a senator for 13 years. How is this not the sort of “prior experience” that Foxall argues should inform our presidential choice? 

Experience is certainly not everything, as Foxall acknowledges, and we value “powerful policy and reform that students can support,” just as much as she does. 

What is so perplexing to us is that she implies that this is somehow a reason to oppose the Sanders presidential campaign because it ignores the policies he has unwaveringly championed for many years.  

Foxall muses that the obsession with celebrity candidates stems from “a lack of high-profile politicians who align themselves with students' values.”

How does Sanders’ College for All proposal, which would guarantee a free two and four-year university education to every single American, a policy supported by 94% of people ages 18 to 34 and 60% of Americans overall, not align him with the values of students? 

What about other values students hold? Support for reproductive health care? Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal would fully cover, “comprehensive reproductive, maternity, and newborn care, including abortion,” according to its executive summary. Fighting climate change? Sanders supports the Green New Deal, an ambitious program to reach zero carbon emissions by 2030, which was inspired by many of his ideas.  

There is not another candidate who better aligns with the values of students, and that’s why we, as students, support him. 

However, our support for Sanders is about more than his policy proposals.

Not only has he been fighting for what he believes in through mayoral and legislative chambers since the 1980s, but he also has a long history of engaging in protest and civil disobedience. He also recently voiced support for activists currently fighting for the right to a union and racial justice and has elevated progressive candidates for local and federal office, including here in Arizona.

Foxall believes that “the answer students are looking for may lie within their own communities.” 

We agree, as does Sanders; his campaign is not about him. Unlike President Donald Trump, he does not believe that he alone can fix our problems. Instead, Sanders has called for a political revolution which brings political power back into the hands of people, as opposed to the moneyed, capitalist class.  

What a political revolution means is a “grassroots movement” of “women and men, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native born and immigrant [standing together] to address the challenges we face as a nation.”

But Foxall’s characterization of Sanders as a “celebrity candidate” is not only patently false, but counter to her goal of “offering solutions for (her) fellow college students;" shunning popular candidates is counter-productive if one wishes to see Trump booted from office in the 2020 elections, as we assume she does.

Sanders remains the most popular candidate for the Democratic nomination. He has raised over $18 million, nearly entirely from small dollar donors, showing that he has a large base of dedicated supporters who support his political vision. He is the only candidate who can successfully challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential election and usher in the ambitious, radical reforms our country and our communities so desperately need. 

He’s Bernie Sanders, not Colonel Sanders, and it’s time to take him seriously.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. This letter to the editor was submitted by ASU Ben Cooper, a junior majoring in history, and Tanzil Chowdhury, a junior majoring in materials science and engineering. Cooper is a former employee of the State Press. 

Reach the authors at bjcoope7@asu.edu and Tanzil.Chowdhury@asu.edu.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

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