These WJ students are Feeling the Bern


Jeffrey Cirillo, Co-Online News Editor

“Bernie’s Michigan miracle”

“One of the greatest upsets in modern political history”

That’s how political news sites like Politico and FiveThirtyEight are describing the shocking, come-from-behind victory of Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s Michigan primary election. Sanders was the clear underdog: Virtually all recent polls showed him trailing former secretary of state and rival Hillary Clinton by over 20 points. But the 74-year-old senator pulled away from Michigan with a win that jolted his opponents and invigorated his supporters.

Among the supporters celebrating the win are members of WJ’s newest club, Students for Social Reform. The primary goals of the club, according to club treasurer Sally Tuszynski, are to advocate for Sanders’ campaign, educate students about his policies and stand up for his ideology and values.

“We want to advocate for the ideals that [Sanders] stands for,” Tuszynski said.

Sanders, better known to his supporters as “Bernie,” has ignited something of a people’s movement in this year’s election cycle, particularly among young people. The candidate’s liberal, democratic-socialist positions and grassroots campaign style are energizing to voters who are tired with what they call the “political establishment.”

“I support Bernie Sanders because I really like his socialist ideology,” club member Owen Brinker said. “I think that’s the direction this country needs to go to move forward and progress.”

Club secretary Julia Mathis cited consistency and authenticity as reasons to support Sanders.

“[Sanders] seems more genuine than other candidates,” Mathis said. “He hasn’t shifted his opinion or [flip-flopped] on the issues.”

Many Sanders supporters are highly politically active and informed: they understand the senator’s policies and his ideology, and can cogently explain why they support him. However, other members will openly admit that they don’t know much about politics, but they like Sanders’ message. “Bernie 2016” is a hot political bandwagon, and many are along for the ride. However, Brinker said he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

“I [do] think hype is a big factor. A lot of people see Bernie t-shirts, they hear about Bernie, and they just think ‘Wow, it’s somebody new, somebody exciting, somebody who’s not establishment,'” Brinker said. “[But while] some people may not like that, I think it’s really good for spreading the message.”

Not all WJ students are on board with Sanders. Senior Michael Gaba argued that the senator’s economic policies would hinder America’s economic success, and invoked the common criticism that Sanders appeals to millennials who want more ‘free stuff.’

“Bernie Sanders [displays] a lack of understanding about economics and what has made America special. The innovation, the growth, the grit. Through his lack of understanding he will destroy all that,” Gaba said. “The only reason why Bernie Sanders is gaining groundis because he has the support of the most spoiled and privileged group of Americans ever, millennials.”

Senior Sasha Kahn, a member of Students for Social Reform, disagreed.

“I think it’s more than that. I think young people are disillusioned by a system that doesn’t work properly because of corporate interests and a growing amount of “legal” government corruption. Young people want a chance to make things change for the better,” Kahn said.

Students for Social Reform meets Tuesdays at lunch in room 111.