Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate and 24-year Congress veteran, has been rapidly climbing the polls the last few months, outperforming Hillary Clinton, current frontrunner and former secretary of State, in general election polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. Only a few months ago, many media outlets believed Sanders had virtually no chance of winning the primaries, but his recent surge has been proving those critics wrong.
This rise is happening despite the fact he has much less access to funding than other candidates because of his refusal to accept money from super PACs, which are usually funded by billionaires who want to influence a candidate with large donations.
These differences might be the entire reason Sanders has become so popular — he brings a new sense of authenticity to American politics.
If Sanders really had a choice, he would likely have run as a third-party candidate, since he ran as an Independent in Congress. However, because of the nature of our political system, doing so would have proven to be impossible.
Government professor David Prindle said the U.S. voting system — first past the post — undercuts the potential for third-party voices to be heard.
“We have this system that is very stable, but we also have this system that denies a lot of people representation because there’s only two [major] parties,” Prindle said.
But popular dissent against the two-party system has been growing for too long for the system to remain unchanged. Seventy-five percent of Americans see widespread corruption in the government — 8 percent higher than in 2007 — and Congress’ approval ratings remain at an all-time low.
Much of this can be traced to the fact that many elections are more or less “bought” by special interests from super PACs — the exact entities that Sanders does not take money from. Young people support Bernie Sanders in large proportions because his campaign runs against the trend of candidates who are distant, corrupt and beholden to special interests.
Bernie is essentially a third-party candidate running under the Democratic banner. His image and campaigning techniques contrast almost as much with Clinton as they do with the Republican candidates. He is trying to change the system.
Law grad student Tyler Somes, who runs the UT Students for Bernie Sanders Facebook page, said Sanders’ firm stance and refusal to take super PAC money shows he is not just another political pawn.
“Actions speak louder than words because they show authenticity, which is what young voters are looking for in a candidate,” Somes said.
As election season rolls around, we will see the result of the ability to vote reaching an entirely new generation that has grown up in a political system characterized by corruption and incompetence. For the first time, they can help change the system.
When voting this upcoming election season, people should consider how much they value authenticity and honesty in a candidate. Sanders lack of ties to any special interests makes him appealing to all voters, regardless of affiliation, who simply want an authentic candidate.
Govil is a computer science freshman from Austin. Follow him on Twitter @ashvio.