“Don’t underestimate me,” declared newly announced presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to George Stephanopoulos on the Sunday news talk show circuit. That seems fair advice. Especially in the wake of the buzz on line about the once obscure, liberal extreme voice for the underestimated and poorly paid American worker.
New England Senator, Bernie Sanders, announced last week he will be a candidate in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election. Sanders held a press conference outside the capitol, speaking on the major issues of America and taking questions. Sanders was reelected in in his home state 2012, and is serving his second term in the Senate. The Vermont senator’s priorities, listed on his official government website, include the economy and campaign affairs. He spoke briefly on these topics during his press conference, explaining that he believes America has many issues that need to be addressed. “This country today, in my view, has more serious crisis than at any time since the great depression of the 1930’s,” stated Senator Sanders. He immediately went on to speak about the struggling working class and the current economy.
In Sanders’ press conference, he speaks on the substantial gap between the wealthy and the poor people in America. “We can’t continue having a nation in which we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation on Earth at the same time as we’re seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires.”
Carol Voisin, Ashland City Council member and Southern Oregon University Professor, explains her thoughts on the topic. “”I agree with him that there’s huge disparity between the very very wealthy and the very very poor. What concerns me…is that the middle class is falling in terms of its wealth, in terms of its employment possibilities, in terms of its contribution to our country’s economy. It is just depleting.”
Senator Sanders then went on to speak about the issues that arise during political campaigns. Sanders notes that he believes that campaigns should focus on what is relevant only to the campaign and not the personal lives of the candidates. “I believe that in a democracy what elections are about are serious debates or serious issues. Not political gossip, not making campaigns into soap operas…This is the debate over major issues facing the American people.”
This is one more area in which local politician Carol Voisin sees eye to eye with Senator Sanders. Voisin recalls the humorous speech during the White House Correspondent’s Dinner made by Cecily Strong, in which she teases journalists, asking them not to comment on whatever Hillary Clinton wore to the event. Voisin, though she realizes this is a joke, sees a lot of validity in the request. “I hear (the joke) and I just think, ‘Thank you!’ I mean, if the press is going to focus on that, it is terrible. It is sexist. I think Bernie Sanders knows that…and I’m sure that he is one that would just knock down the press and say, ‘Hey. Come on. Let’s deal with the real issues.’”
What does this all mean for Clinton, Sanders’ sole Democratic running opponent? Not all of SOU’s faculty members are on the same page about Bernie Sanders, seeing him as a viable candidate for the next President. In the opposing opinion of Dr. William Hughes, Southern Oregon University political science professor, “Sanders appears to be the only Democrat currently willing to take on Hillary Clinton… Sanders is dimensional, rakishly left-of-center, and good entertainment value, none of which can be said of Clinton. But he wont be able to draw money, since he won’t abandon issue positions and Americans still view socialists with the superstitious awe and loathing of prehistorics stumbling onto their first fire.”
But, Hughes may be looking closely at Sanders mounting war chest with surprise. He has raised some 3 million dollars in the first days of his campaign. He hired President Obama’s grassroots team to fund raise and it appears to be bringing in results. Sanders has long been a critic of big-money influence on elections and government which may give him strong online and grassroots appeal according to his supporters and campaigners. And so far, the strategy looks to be working. The campaign has received roughly 75,000 contributions, and the average amount is $43 dollars. Most have been donations of $250 or less, and 185,000 supporters have signed up on the website.