Op-Ed: How Bernie Sanders can win the 2016 presidential election

Posted Oct 5, 2015 by Megan Hamilton
For a candidate whose personal net worth is only estimated to be $330,000, Bernie Sanders has managed to do something that's nearly unthinkable. He's built a campaign based on small contributions and draws huge crowds of thousands wherever he speaks.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) addresses a capacity crowd of nearly 10 000 at the Alliant Energy Center ...
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) addresses a capacity crowd of nearly 10,000 at the Alliant Energy Center's Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin on July 1, 2015.
Bernie Sanders campaign photo
Campaigning in Massachusetts on Saturday, he drew massive crowds in Springfield and Boston. A crowd of 20,000 people packed the stadium at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center, ABC News reports. Those who didn't fit inside stayed outside in the cold weather and watched Sanders' speech on screens in an overflow area outside.
Sanders has made it clear he does not rely on PACs or corporate donors; this has been a cornerstone of his campaign, yet he has received over one million online donations thus far, raising more than $26 million, The New York Times reports.
And this article in The Guardian notes that millennials have taken to the Vermont senator in a big way. In July, a live webcast that he hosted was watched by some 100,000 people at 3,500 events nationwide, and he has typically drawn huge crowds at rallies; something GOP candidates like Jeb Bush can only dream about.
Millennials are doing things like hosting loft parties and taking to social media.
"Bernie Sanders uses socialism in the way it makes sense, which is just good, common, moral, ethical policy," said Nick Kowalczyk, 29, at a party in Brooklyn. "And I appreciate the guy's honesty and his steadfastness to his beliefs. His consistency."
"He's the only person running who I'd actually want to be in the White House," said Beth Basketville, 25, who was also at the party. "I like that he's the candidate that supports women and marginalized individuals. He's the only one who's really looking out for those groups."
On social media, hashtags for Bernie Sanders sprout like flowers, accompanied by memes and a fair amount of fanfare. I've used #FeelTheBern numerous times, and there's also #Bernie2016 and #babesforbernie. On Facebook, some 1.8 million like his page, and that's 0.6 million more than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and 1.6 million more than Bush.
CrowdTangle reports that out of everyone in the presidential race, Sanders has garnered the highest-level engagement on his Facebook posts. He has the largest number of people liking and sharing his messages, and commenting on his plans, the Guardian reports.
In every sense of the phrase, Bernie Sanders has become a rockstar.
Can he win the White House?
At this point, it's absolutely essential that he be included in the debates. This will give him a better chance to make it to the primaries. It's obvious he has a groundswell of support among everyday people, but he has one obstacle.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is the current Democratic national chairperson, HuffPost Politics notes. As another cornerstone of his campaign, Sanders wants to overhaul the tax system so that it targets the wealthy, large corporations and financial institutions. Half of the members of Congress are millionaires with ties to the corporate world, and as Salon notes, Clinton has deep ties to the Big Six banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley).
So of course, his hopes of affecting change in this nasty and huge corporate cesspool is causing the parties mentioned above a bit of a headache. And Wasserman-Schultz, co-chair to Clinton's 2008 campaign, has limited the the primary debates to a paltry six. HuffPost maintains that the anti-establishment threat is the reason why Wasserman-Schultz limited the debates so severely. This makes it considerably more difficult for underdog candidates like Sanders to maintain the necessary exposure so that he can continue to be a challenger to the establishment-supported Hillary Clinton.
There were 26 debates held during the Democratic primaries in 2008, and it is a sad shame that they have been so limited. The public deserves to have a chance to hear other voices in order to make more informed decisions. But the political status quo doesn't want that. The Koch brothers don't want that, Bank of America doesn't want that, Monsanto doesn't want that, Rupert Murdoch doesn't want that, and neither does Fox News. Very few corporate entities want people to think for themselves. It's just not profitable.
So Sanders has been reaching out to African-Americans and Latinos, and this is what may help get him elected. This is especially true since many of the GOP hopefuls have showed their real colors by insulting these people. Donald Trump is first and foremost in this sad bunch of pathetic extremists. People who feel largely disenfranchised from Corporate America are beginning to stir, so Bernie Sanders is wise in gaining their attention.
I think Sanders is on the right track, but he's weak on gun control and he needs to shore that up, especially because Clinton, understandably fed up with the seemingly unending massacres this country has seen, is set to announce her hopes of sweeping reforms. Fortunately, Sanders has a D- minus rating from the National Rifle Association, and he is calling for a ban on assault weapons and wants to close the loophole that exempts private, unlicensed gun sales from background checks, HuffPost Politics reports.
He also added that we need to "significantly improve" the U.S. mental health system, and he's right about that.
Sanders has caught flak from Democrats for voting against the Brady Bill, which established mandatory background checks in 1993, and for voting for a law protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits from victims of violence, and here, he was definitely in the wrong.
To his credit, he voted for the Manchin-Toomey amendment in 2013, which would have expanded background checks. It would have also banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, so his record on gun control is improving.
Suffice it to say it would be nice if all candidates voted perfectly; voted for all of the things every one of us wants, but that's not going to happen. Hillary's not going to do that. Neither is Jeb, or Trump, or any of the other members of the GOP insane asylum.
Sanders, on the other hand, seems to listen to people, and that, I think, is his best quality. When he heard complaints from people in the Black Lives Matter movement, he embraced them. He's had a long career of listening, beginning in the 1960s when he marched in Martin Luther King's "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."
So I think Bernie Sanders has a good shot at becoming president. He's proven himself to be tough and resourceful, and he certainly has a wellspring of people who support him.
Not bad for a 74-year-old Senator from Vermont with a modest net worth of only $330,000.