It is being said that if there is one politician from the developed world we must all watch out for, it is Bernie Sanders. From being the junior United States Senator, in only a few months’ time Sanders has become Hillary Clinton's greatest opponent for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Going by the way people have rallied behind him in the past few months, it might not come as a huge surprise if he goes on to become the President of United States next year.
Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history. He caucuses with the Democratic Party in the Senate. After declaring his Presidential candidacy in April, 2015, he has rallied crowds beyond what US political campaigns have witnessed in the recent times.
With more than a year to go before the polls actually happen, Sanders is already ahead of Clinton in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has gained significantly in the national polling. He stands as her most serious challenger for the Democratic nomination.
In the USA, where socialism is still considered a dirty word, Sanders is a self-declared democratic-socialist. He favours policies similar to those instituted by the Nordic countries. Sanders states that his campaign will focus on the income and wealth inequality that he believes has eroded with the American middle class.
His agenda includes a government-run healthcare programme, rebuilding infrastructure and creating jobs, expanding social security and making tuition free at public colleges. To pay for it, he plans to increase taxes on big corporations and end the tax rebates they have been enjoying for a long time. He has an elaborate plan for the American economy to help kick start in a pro-people way.
Given that USA is currently witnessing levels of income inequality unseen since the Great Depression, there is little doubt that the American working class is fed up of both the pro-corporate Democrats and Republicans. Sanders has become particularly popular among the working Americans, elderly population and the liberals.
Unlike the other presidential candidates, Sanders fundraising does not depend on big donors. Opposed to corporate donations, Sanders has been focussing on small, individual donors. A vocal believer of the power of voters over the power of donors and with an authentic trust on the social media and word of mouth to do the trick, to everyone's surprise, Sanders raised a record USD 1.5 million in the first 24 hours after he announced his presidential campaign. In only five days’ time, he had 1,85,000 supporters signed up on the campaign's website. The campaign has eventually raised a whopping USD 26 million, just USD two million lesser than Clinton. Averaging less than USD 30 per person, Sanders has reported more than one million contributions, which is higher than Obama’s famous 2008 run for presidency. If Sanders’ rise in the US politics is not a crowd-funded entrepreneur’s tale of triumph, then what is?
Despite his increasing popularity, there is a general feeling of negativity among the business class that Sanders’ policies, and socialism in general, has the potential to destroy business in the USA and more so, globally. ‘Feel the Bern’, as they say. Well, the truth is far from that.
According to FeelTheBern.org, Bernie Sanders agenda has serious focus on small businesses and entrepreneurship. Believing that the health of an economy is driven by entrepreneurship and small businesses and not giant corporations, Sanders intends to take the business out of Wall Street and bring it back into the main streets. He plans to ensure small businesses have access to low-interest loans and other forms of government support, thereby creating a healthy ecosystem for new businesses and startups in the USA.
To help the rise of new entrepreneurs, leaders and enable growth in the US economy, Sanders believes in making education accessible and affordable. He plans to make public college education free for everyone. He also plans to reform the intellectual property regimes thereby cracking down on the monopoly they have created. It must be noted here that one of the other Democratic candidates running for the presidential elections is Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and more importantly, founder of the Creative Commons.
Defending the openness and network neutrality of the Internet, Sanders has openly criticised giant corporations for compromising with net neutrality. He is probably the most vocal American politician on net neutrality being critical for innovation. Sanders believes that net neutrality is critical for small businesses from being safeguarded against increasing costs of content and unfair competitive advantages for the big players.
Sanders also plans to stop the way immigrant workers are exploited in the USA. It will certainly affect Indians willing to visit the USA on H-1B visa, as he plans to reform the visa laws to allow filling jobs by immigrants which cannot be filled by American workers. He, however, plans to increase the H-1B visa cap to 1,10,000-1,80,000 per year which currently stands at 65,000, thereby creating opportunity for everyone.
If Bernie Sanders comes to power and gets these reforms through, entrepreneurship and small businesses in the USA might prosper. Sanders, however, also plans to bring jobs home. He believes that US jobs outsourced to Asia and Africa at menial prices is demeaning to both the workforce of the USA and the countries they are outsourced to. How his radical policies will affect business in countries like India is yet to be seen.
Whether or not Sanders wins the race to Democratic candidacy or becomes the President of the United States will only be unfolded by the chapters of ever-progressing history. But his impact on the US politics is here to stay. Whether we agree with him or not is a separate debate, but his authenticity is beyond question. As both supporters and opponents of Bernie Sanders’ democratic-socialism continue to ‘feel the Bern’, he is certainly somebody entrepreneurs across the globe must watch for.
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