Clinton barely holding on in Wisconsin

A new poll of likely Democratic voters in Wisconsin shows that Bernie Sanders is very close to taking the lead from Hillary Clinton.

The WPR/St. Norbert poll showed that 47 per cent said they would vote for Clinton, while 42 per cent said they would vote for Sanders, making the margin just five points.

Clinton’s lead in Wisconsin has narrowed significantly since September, when a Marquette poll had her lead over Sanders at 12 per cent.

The poll also found that in general election contests, Sanders overall performs better against Republicans than Clinton.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four points.

The second Democratic debate is less than a month away

The next debate will be held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and hosted by CBS, KCCI and the Des Moines Register.

Cynthia Fodor of KCCI will moderate the debate, with participation by Alyx Sacks, also of KCCI. The debate will be held on November 14th, however no exact time has yet been confirmed.

So far, candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have all confirmed that they will participate. It is unclear whether Lincoln Chafee will attend.

The stage will have one less podium than the first debate, for sure, with the news that Jim Webb has dropped out of the race. Joe Biden has also confirmed that he will not be seeking the Democratic nomination.

Larry Lessig, who is seeking the party’s nomination has not been invited to the debate.

The debate will be broadcast on CBS News, and rebroadcast by KCCI and the Des Moines Register.

Just over a week before the second debate, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC will be hosting a candidates’ forum in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Sanders talks policy on Jimmy Kimmel Live

In front of an enthusiastic studio audience, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talked policy with Jimmy Kimmel on his late night talk show.

Sanders was asked about his stance on marijuana. He responded by explaining America’s high prison population, and the many lives that have been destroyed by the so-called “war on drugs.”

“I think we’ve got to end the war on drugs,” Sanders said. “I am not unfavorably disposed to moving toward the legalization of marijuana.”

Kimmel quizzed Sanders on his electability, citing concerns that some have regarding his age, and his hair. In response, Senator Sanders pointing to recent polling.

“It turns out that in many polls, I am doing better than Hillary is against Donald Trump,” Sanders said.

Kimmel posed a question on Sanders’ religion, to which he responded by saying that “what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together.”

When asked what Sanders thought of Larry David’s impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live, he said that he thought it was “pretty, pretty, pretty good.”

Sanders wants to end the ‘War on Drugs’

The War on Drugs has done a lot of things, but unfortunately putting an end to drug abuse isn’t one of them.

Even more unfortunately that isn’t an issue politicians have given much lip service. Even though it has proved to be a pivotal force in the creation of the biggest prison complex the world has ever seen it is rarely spoken about in the halls. For better or worse prisons have become a major institution in the United States and almost everyone in the country feels their presence. Each year roughly $80 billion is spent incarcerating Americans, which is just about what it would take to fully fund higher education. Still in a time when college costs and incarceration rates are soaring, these issues are rarely discussed. However most are doing time for nonviolent crimes and prison is not the rehabilitative solution that is needed. Most of these small crimes are drug crimes and during a national opiate epidemic finding a a real solution to the issue is even more urgent. Thankfully Bernie Sanders has begun to speak out and to some extent has made the absurdity of American drug policy a regular part of his stump speech.

The War on Drugs may have been started with good intentions, but policy makers knew good and well that prohibition was not a legitimate strategy. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world by a significant margin and drug offenders make up a hefty portion of those numbers. Which makes sense considering the hard line stance many politicians have taken on crime and drug laws over the years. Instead of viewing the War on Drugs like the incredibly serious public health issue it is, most politicians indiscriminately brand users criminals and effectively ruin their lives by throwing them into the criminal justice system. This might be acceptable if there wasn’t other viable solutions to drug abuse, but there are and most of them have proven to be vastly more effective than prison time and time again.

Bernie Sanders isn’t campaigning heavily on this issue, but when he speaks on the issue it is clear he wants to move past the War on Drugs. Bernie Sanders might not give the issue much air time, but he has made decriminalizing marijuana a part of his stump speech. In his words, “I find it obscene that we live in a nation where teenagers have a criminal record for smoking marijuana, and the bankers that destroyed our economy have done no time at all”. His message is still firmly rooted in the economy and income inequality, but the intention is clear.

On top of his hints, if he actually moved to decriminalize it would be the first time a president had supported such a measure. That’s a long way off and obviously remains to be seen, but it would be a much needed change. Considering the DEA dodges questions about the differences between marijuana and heroin it seems hard to believe that drug policy is firmly based in objective fact. Which is why Bernie Sanders call for the end of for profit prisons and a reform in American drug policy is so important. Once again Bernie Sanders proves to be one of the few voices in Washington willing to hold true to objectivity in the face of sensationalism and political rhetoric.

Sensationalism has been par for the course as far as drugs are concerned, but the real life impact of the War on Drugs is simply too important to let that continue. Drug abuse is an incredibly damaging public health issue and something must be done. Throwing people in jail will not prevent another 2012 which saw 41,000 overdose deaths. In fact, overdose deaths have been on a steady rise since the 1980s, mostly thanks to the current opioid epidemic that is taking place in cities all across the country. According to the CDC 46 people die from opioid overdose every day and the American government still labels marijuana a schedule 1 drug, the same category as heroin. The ambiguity and lack of objectivity in United States drug policy is an ever growing problem and thankfully as it continues to get worse a voice on the national scale has arrived proposing policies which might actually make it better.

This loss of life is not the only issue, the War on Drugs has destroyed lives in a more subtle way as well. Failed policy has led to the mass incarceration of American citizens and according to the Department of Justice just over 3% of the population lives under some sort of judicial control. That might not seem like a lot, but that’s roughly 9 million people. Considering the cost of incarcerating a prisoner far outweighs the cost of both treatment and education it seems misguided at best to continue current policies. Especially considering treatment and education have proven time and time again to be more effective solutions to drug abuse. Bernie Sanders hasn’t given the issue much air time, but in recent speeches he has called for a more sensible policy and criminal justice reform to allow easier reintegration into society. Probably the biggest blow to the War on Drugs Sanders has proposed is his promised legislation which would outright ban for profit prisons. Which is a massive step in the right direction considering many candidates support the practice, or at the very least refuse to speak on it. It’s a multi million dollar industry and time and time again private prisons have proven to be poorly funded, worse for prisoners, and more expensive for tax payers.

Bernie Sanders has given the issue new life and his stance is doubly important because of the position he currently finds himself in. Sanders is the clear runner up to Hillary Clinton right now and he is in fact way ahead in key primary states of New Hampshire and Vermont. His stance on drug policy may garner him more support in other key primary states. Especially considering The War on Drugs is a wide reaching issue which impacts everyone. That said, there is a vast racial gap in how that reach is distributed. Bernie Sanders has long pledged to end that disparity and if he were able to win the election, his drug policy ideas are one of the rare issues he would actually be able to tackle without congress. As effective head of the Department of Justice he could help foster change in a court system reliant on the War on Drugs and create one more determined to treat users. Actions like Barack Obama’s recent commuting of people doing life for non violent drug crimes could be carried out on a large scale. Thanks to the bureaucratic nature of the department a total 180 in policy would be unlikely, but Bernie Sanders could lay the groundwork for meaningful policy change almost immediately. On top of that he could also appoint Supreme Court Justices which have an impact over numerous policy areas, including and obviously not limited to the War on Drugs. Probably most importantly a Sanders administration would have the voice and attention to bring this issue to light and have a real meaningful discussion on the path of least destruction.

Nearly everybody knows the War on Drugs has failed, it costs billions each year and ruins millions of lives, but unfortunately until recently politicians have done nothing but pledge to increase it. Bernie Sanders’ drug policy is just one more reason to support his bid for the presidency and thankfully he could deliver at least some much needed reform without much help from congress.

Justin Ackerman is the convenor of grassroots group Students for Bernie Sanders.

This is your essential guide to Bernie Sanders

Want to learn more about Bernie Sanders? The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America is your ultimate guide to the presidential candidate.

Authored by Jonathan Tasini, published by Chelsea Green Publishing and endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself, this book offers you a unique look at Bernie Sanders’ policy positions.

You can purchase the book for less than $10 at Amazon, or enter our competition for your chance to win one of four copies before the next Democratic debate.

Below is the introduction to the Environment section of the book, penned by Jonathan Tasini.

Bernie is a longtime champion of preserving the environment and battling climate change. He has been a proponent of the clean air and water acts, and advocated weatherization and energy efficiency legislation. In his days as mayor, he reclaimed the Burlington waterfront from huge oil tanks and unused railroad ties to create a waterfront park. He also started a volunteer tree-planting program to replace thousands of trees that had been lost to Dutch Elm disease.

More recently, he’s led the opposition to the Keystone Pipeline. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called Bernie’s proposal for a carbon tax to discourage the use of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels the “the gold standard” of climate change legislation. He has also proposed major investments in clean, renewable energy. On Earth Day this year, Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced legislation to eliminate tax breaks and other subsidies for the fossil fuels industry.

Young voters must make history for a Sanders presidency

If Sanders is going to win, and provide students with the most reasonable route to meaningful reform, then students are going to need to show up.

In an election season where media coverage for Bernie Sanders is rare, there are a few common accolades every outlet has no choice but to concede. The biggest compliment many have for the Bernie Sanders campaign is his appeal with young voters. It might seem strange that the 73 year old Senator from Vermont is making such a splash, but when you take a deeper look at his policies it becomes abundantly clear why young people, and so many others, have flocked to the Democratic hopeful. Still, if his supporters intend to turn this support into an election or meaningful reform they must be willing to work hard in the primary election, general election, and political life well into his presidential tenure. For Bernie Sanders to win young people are going to need to show up to vote in historic numbers, but unfortunately nothing like that has happened for decades. That said there is definitely a historical precedent for an American youth movement to shape American politics and it seems as though times are getting dire enough to warrant mass political participation.

As it stands now there is an education crisis in the United States. Millions of hard working students around the country are forced to squander their potential because of the increasing cost of higher education. According to the college board survey of colleges in 1983 the average cost of tuition was $2,810 which has since risen to $9,139, where it sits today.An almost 400% increase, when accounting for inflation it’s still over a 200% increase. On top of that the cost of living, gas, food, books and nearly everything else has risen considerably. Unfortunately wages have not kept up, especially in the industries where most college students work, entry level, food service, and retail. All of which are for the most part minimum wages jobs. For decades American students have been pushed to pursue a college education at any cost and until recently that was feasible for everyone able to get in. The result of easily obtainable college education was generation after generation of college educated Americans, but was once a guarantee is becoming harder and harder to obtain.

For many the rising costs make it a financial impossibility and many who do choose to attend walk away with an average of over $30,000 in student loan debt. Considering that is half a small house in some areas, it is no wonder many are choosing to forgo college entirely. Even with college costs soaring, the value of a college degree cannot be denied. Workers with a degree almost always tend to make more throughout their lifetime and the job market itself is increasingly unforgiving to those without a degree. Perhaps even more important than job opportunities is the tools a college education provides citizens. Without extended education making informed decisions and analyzing the world becomes a lot more difficult. Which is why increasing the availability of a college education must be a priority in 2016 and no candidate has fought as hard for affordable higher education than Bernie Sanders.

Recently Sanders introduced legislation to publicly fund universal higher education in the United States. His plan would only cost $70 billion dollars and while that is over double current pell grant expenditures, universal education is too important to not foot the bill. Almost no investment provides as much utility as universal higher education. Bernie Sanders himself has said time and time again that, “in a global economy, when our young people are competing with workers from around the world, we have got to have the best educated workforce possible.” People from all around the world flock to the American university system, but that success is far less meaningful when millions of would be American students are held back for financial reasons which are almost always entirely out of their control.

Every student in the country should support Bernie Sanders and his proposal to fully fund universal higher education. Not only would it only cost a quarter of what we spend on defense each year and roughly the same as we spend on incarceration, the social benefit would be enormous. As it stands now students everywhere are being punished with high interest rates and ever increasing tuition costs. Another issue which Bernie Sanders legislation would address. There is over $1.2 trillion dollars in student loan assets in the United States and while simply absolving people of their debts may have disastrous economic outcomes the situation should have never gotten so dire in the first place. That money should have been flowing through our economy all along. As it stands now that is not the case and millions of students are stuck with large payments that make starting a good life nearly impossible. Admittedly a decent portion of that money goes back to the government, but still our government should be investing in our country’s citizens, not profiting off one of society’s most beneficial institutions. Thankfully Sanders’’ plan would end the current practice of profiteering off students.

If Sanders plan was adopted it would allow students the opportunity to refinance their student loans to 1% or 2% interest down from the current 4%, 5%, or even 9% some students must contend with. The amount of money tied up in student loan debt is simply outrageous and would have been better spent in local economies throughout the country. Providing students the ability to refinance their loans would be a good first step to solving the student debt crisis, but only universal higher education can prevent another. Universal education isn’t some pipe dream, it’s a realistic solution to a disastrous systemic problem facing the United States and Bernie Sanders funds it responsibly. His proposed tax on Wall Street speculation would bring in an estimated $300 billion a year. Which would cover the $80 billion per year congress estimated universal higher education would cost and a lot more. At a time when Wall Street executives and various corporations are experiencing record profits, it is unacceptable that we are squeezing students for every penny. It’s an incredibly pressing issue, but young people will have to make history if the government is going to make any meaningful reform.

So far Bernie Sanders has done well tapping into the restlessness a poor outlook on the future has created amongst young voters. However turning it into a historically significant movement will take a lot of work. Bernie Sanders entire career has been based on tapping into the majority of Americans that is usually anything but politically active. Bernie’s first statewide election ended in bitter defeat, as did the second, but he continued spreading his message to people who generally try their best to avoid anything political. During his first bid for office in Burlington Vermont Bernie Sanders went door to door alerting people to the fact that a third party candidate was in the election. About a decade later Sanders found himself running for House of Representatives, once again as an outsider, once again forced to the streets for name recognition, once again the election ended in an almost upset. Sanders once again returned to the drawing board and waited until one of his Republican opponents in the first Except this time the long shot 3rd party candidate running as a socialist during the height of the Cold War prevailed. Bernie Sanders has spent his entire career as a long shot, yet he is continually able to tap into apathetic voters, the one resource establishment politicians spend billions year after year with no results. While young people are apathetic for a lot of reasons, a big one is the seeming ineffectual nature of political participation, but right now the stakes are simply too high to take a back seat.

Pretty much everybody universally agrees that college costs are too high, yet many students fail to voice that opinion in the ballot box. In 2008 only 48.5 percent of people 18-24 voted, and that was an election which saw the third highest youth voter turnout in history. In 2012 that number dropped to 41.2% and in 2014 it sank to the lowest turnout in history at 34% as a whole. Youth voters are always highly underrepresented and that needs to change. In 1972, just a year after 18 year olds were granted the right to vote, only 55% of youth voters hit the polls. If Bernie Sanders is going to win in 2016 he will need students to vote in at least 2008 levels, but for the government to actually respond to students needs that percentage will need to reach historic levels. The same levels as 1972 may be enough, but if young people hit the polls in historic numbers the political agenda of this country will have to shift quickly to accommodate them. As it stands now students are such an underrepresented group of voters that their political needs will continue to be ignored until that changes. It needs to change quickly because the student loan system in the United States is fatally flawed and desperately needs reformed.

It’s not just young people who are under represented, the average American doesn’t seem to have a meaningful impact on policy through political participation either. Students have a massive political incentive to become politically engaged, but the average American has a lot to gain as well. Campaign finance reform, meaningful tax reform, federal infrastructure building jobs programs, and a minimum wage hike are all beneficial to every American outside of the political and economic elite. When Bernie Sanders says he is determined to foster a political revolution he is being incredibly realistic. He knows what it will take to get him in the White House, but he’s banking on the people who need a responsive government to become engaged and fight tooth and nail for much needed reform.

As a normal part of his campaign speech Bernie Sanders regularly laments the incredibly low voter turnout among various groups in the United States. In his words, “63% of the American people did not vote, 80% of young people did not vote, 75% of low income working people did not vote.”’ Those are the people that need to vote for Bernie Sanders and a government which works with their best interest in mind. Luckily those are the people who Bernie Sanders has continually worked hard to draw to the polls and the people he has worked tirelessly defending.Nobody needs a responsive government more than working people and students suffocating with student loan debt. Voting for Bernie Sanders isn’t about voting for a man who can solve all these problems on his own, it’s about appreciating that getting a candidate depending solely on the people in office is, as it stands now, incredibly difficult. Bernie Sanders appreciates that fact which is why he calls for a “political revolution”, because for Bernie Sanders to win he will need his supporters to show up in revolutionary numbers. Young people especially and now more than ever young people need to engage and demand the system respond to their needs.

If young people expect these problems to go away, for the system to respond to their needs, they need to participate in the system. Enough young people abstain from voting every year to win every election in recent history. This trend needs to end, young people need to actively discuss these issues with their friends and encourage political participation. It needs to become taboo not to vote, because there is simply too much at stake for all of us to just let people stand on the side lines. if Bernie Sanders is going to win in 2016 and provide students with the most reasonable route to meaningful reform, then students are going to need to show up for Bernie Sanders. Young people have changed American political history before and it desperately needs to happen again. We need a political revolution and students everywhere need to get their friends involved and in the booth voting. As it stands now the youth vote is one of the most underutilized resources in American politics and could be a meaningful driver of social change. Getting to the polls and helping Bernie Sanders utilize the untapped gold mine of voters is the only way to win, it’s how Bernie Sanders has won in the past and hopefully it’s how he will win in 2016.

Justin Ackerman is the convenor of grassroots group Students for Bernie Sanders.

Sanders proving hard to challenge in New Hampshire

A new poll of likely Democratic voters released on Wednesday reaffirmed Sanders’ lead in the early-voting state of New Hampshire.

The Bloomberg/St Anselm poll showed Sanders with a five-point lead in New Hampshire. That very same poll, taken in February showed Hillary Clinton with a 41-point lead. But a lot has changed since them.

Sanders first pulled ahead of Clinton in August, when a Boston Herald/FPU poll put him ahead by seven points. Since then, he has been hard to catch. At one stage, Sanders polled 22 points ahead of Clinton, according to a CBS/YouGov poll.

This latest poll shows Sanders with a 86 per cent favorability rating, higher than any other Democratic candidate, and Joe Biden. Just six per cent of New Hampshire Democratic voters view Sanders unfavorably.

Sanders holds onto lead in New Hampshire

Presidential contender Bernie Sanders remains in the lead in New Hampshire, according to a Boston Herald/FPU poll released today.

The poll, conducted between the 14th and 17th of October shows Sanders with 38 per cent of support of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sits on 30 per cent, according to the poll. Vice President Joe Biden, who is yet to announce whether he will run, is not far behind, with 19 per cent of support.

The poll also showed that Sanders would hold an even larger, 10 point lead over Clinton if Joe Biden was not to enter the race.

The Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce-Herald poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 per cent.