I try to refrain from judging people based on the political candidates they support. We often find ourselves put in the situation of choosing imperfect candidates who mirror our priorities enough that they become our selection, and we should be more understanding of people whose political conclusions don’t quite match ours. And then I’m reminded of Bernie Sanders.
When Beto O’Rourke was still running (and made a visit to Clemson), I recall thinking he was vapid, an empty-suit whose only accomplishment was “losing to Ted Cruz by less than expected.” And yet I understood how his hollow, meaningless speeches could be admired by young liberals for his enthusiasm. While I find Pete Buttigieg robotic and self-important, I understand how people can see in his platitudes the “Hope and Change” mantra of one Barrack Obama. Elizabeth Warren’s prattling can be seen as preparedness and ambition, Joe Biden’s mumbling and bumbling comes with an endearing appeal to simpler times, and on and on throughout the field. And then there’s Bernie Sanders.
Sanders has an element of support here on Clemson’s campus, as is expected on college campuses across the country. It was only a few days ago that neatly stenciled chalk messages spouted his support on both sides of Library Bridge. Among Clemson professors and staff he is the leading candidate in donations, receiving $4,413, over 20% of the total donations made. Yet it’s still impossible to tell whether Sanders is heartless, stupid, or blinded by his deeply held, reality-denying worldview. You wouldn’t be faulted for selecting “All of the Above.” He surrounds himself with bigots and anti-Semites, such as Linda Sarsour. Sanders, who says it is a “cheap shot” to call him a communist, has a long and storied history of being a fan of actual communists. Most recently, he defended Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, saying, “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but it’s unfair to say everything’s bad. When Castro came into office you know what he did? He had a literacy program.”
Is he so heartless that the deaths of an estimated 35,000 to 141,000 Cubans under Castro’s regime are meaningless to him? Or is he so stupid that he takes the Cuban government’s word that their country has a high literacy (dictatorial murderers are known for their honesty, after all) and fails to realize that the only things literate Cubans can read is approved state propaganda? And why is it that Sanders continues to say he wants to be just like Denmark when he could just talk about Denmark? The Danes also have a high literacy rate, and they managed it without the firing squads and refugees escaping across shark-infested waters.
Sanders does not deserve respect for his “honesty,” or his consistency. He certainly does not deserve to be anywhere near the office of the presidency. He deserves to be called exactly what he is; a communist, a wannabe tyrant, a man so blinded by his pitifully dim ideology that he finds himself in common cause with some of the worst men who have ever walked the planet. That not even thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union a communist is poised to sit only 270 electoral votes away from the most powerful position on the planet is a testament to the failures of ourselves. Decline is a choice, and it seems more and more of our fellow Clemson Tigers have unfortunately chosen to slam the accelerator.