Bernie Sanders can win

Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic Nomination for President of the United States.

Many mainstream media news articles ignore Senator Sanders while numerous others state that he is unelectable. Wins in early states are likely to provide boosts in support as voters recognize Senator Sanders electability. Bernie Sanders remains unknown to minority voters, due to lack of media coverage, which will change with early state wins. As a reminder, Barack Obama trailed Hillary Clinton by similar margins prior to 2008 primaries. No measure of significance has been given to the intense and energetic support of Bernie Sanders’ followers. Even with early wins, Senator Sanders’ grassroots activists will have to work hard to phone bank and canvass on behalf of their candidate to overcome clear advantages of the Establishment campaign of Hillary Clinton. With determination from his supporters, Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination.

Wins in the early states of New Hampshire and Iowa are extremely likely to provide boosts in support as voters recognize Senator Sanders electability. According a study conducted by William G. Mayer, “a win in New Hampshire increases a candidate’s share of the final primary count in all states by 27 percentage points.” Likewise, as a result of Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 Iowa Caucus, he received a significant surge of support in the New Hampshire primary. In the November 20, 2015, NBC poll, Bernie Sanders trailed Hillary Clinton by only 16 points among likely Democratic voters who had participated in the last two elections. According to history, “the upset by a runner-up  changes the calculus of national politics in a matter of hours.” Once Senator Sanders wins an election, the polling numbers will change drastically very quickly. Throughout September, Bernie Sanders gained a strong lead in the New Hampshire polls. In the CBS poll of November 23rd, Senator Sanders maintained a lead of 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. With a renewed effort in the Granite State, Bernie Sanders could anchor a successful campaign on a win in the New Hampshire primary.

Bernie Sanders remains relatively unknown to many potential non-white Democratic voters. In the June 2015, NBC poll, which had Hillary Clinton winning 75 to 15, only 51% of those polled had enough information to provide an answer. Forty-nine percent of all Americans in this poll, had not heard of Bernie Sanders. This is unsurprising, as Bernie Sanders was given only 24 minutes of Network news air time up to October 6, 2015.  Despite the near blackout from ABC, NBC, CBS news, in the 6 months since June, Bernie Sanders has closed the national gap by half.  According to the latest ABC poll, in the last month alone, Bernie Sanders has doubled his following among minorities. However, Bernie Sanders still trails Hillary Clinton among minority voters, especially black voters,  by large margins. Once Bernie Sanders wins the New Hampshire primary, the mainstream media would be forced to provide  the candidate coverage and the minority voters will be given more exposure to the candidate.  However, informing the minority communities in Nevada and South Carolina is of particular importance since they hold their caucus and primary in February.

Historically, the 2008 Democratic Primary campaign nearly mirrors the current 2016 campaign. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was also the presumptive nominee expected to be coronated before a single vote was cast. There were two challengers, Senator John Edwards from South Carolina and a virtually unknown Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  In the pre-primary polls, Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama by 20 percentage points. Today, Clinton leads Sanders by 25 points. As mentioned earlier,  a win in New Hampshire could erase that lead virtually overnight.

More importantly, no measure of significance has been given to the intense and energetic following of support on the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the candidate’s official website.  Most political pundits waive off the phenomenon because of its immeasurability.  Despite more than 20 years of development, the political establishment still cannot accurately predict voting behavior based upon Internet behavior. This is the political punditry’s fatal flaw in dismissing Senator Bernie Sanders. These followers are active grassroots volunteers for his campaign.

On November 22, Hillary Clinton had 1.8 million Facebook followers compared to Bernie Sanders 2.4 million followers. “Sanders followers liked, shared or commented on his status updates six times more frequently than Clinton followers.” In addition to the official Bernie Sanders Facebook page, there is at least one grassroots group for each state, several groups dedicated to specific cities and numerous pages and groups dedicated to specific demographics and interests.  During the month of September, “95% of Sanders’ (Facebook) growth came from within  the United States, while for Clinton that number is only 74%.”  On Facebook, Bernie Sanders has the clear advantage.

On Twitter, Hillary Clinton claims 4.7 million followers to Bernie Sanders 1 million. However, according to the website, 41% of Hillary Clinton’s followers are fake accounts compared to only 10% of Sanders’ followers. Moreover, Bernie Sanders’ followers are more than twice as likely to like a tweet despite being outnumbered nearly 5 to 1. This shows how that despite the large discrepancy between their followers, Bernie Sanders’ followers are clearly more engaged on a regular basis.

On reddit, known as the front page of the Internet, Bernie Sanders has a loyal following of 134,400 compared to only 1,095 for Hillary Clinton. It is this digital army that has led the  charge for Senator Sanders through the early months of the campaign.

Another indicator of interest can be found comparing the candidates’ official websites. Web traffic is twice as high to his rival Bernie Sanders receives nearly 89,000 unique visitors to his website per day which equates to approx. 2,664,810 per month.  Hillary, on the other hand, attracts less than 44,091  unique visitors a day and 1,322,730 visits a month. Based upon these numbers, people are showing twice as much interest in Bernie Sanders than in Hillary Clinton.

To win, Senator Bernie Sanders requires his grassroots activists to register new voters, educate already registered voters and bring both new and old voters to the primary or caucus on election day. With less than 70 days remaining before the first caucus, he needs his supporters to volunteer to phone bank, canvass door to door, set up tables at local events to inform voters about their candidate and his issues. Most importantly, they must reach out to the African American and Latino communities to inform them that Bernie Sanders represents their interests.

For all of the above reasons, Bernie Sanders can and is likely to be the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States in 2016.

Win a copy of the Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America

Enter for your chance to win a free copy of the Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America, written by Jonathan Tasini.

We’re giving Bernie supporters across the United States a chance to win one of four copies of the brand new book, the Essential Bernie Sanders.

The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America is a must-read for anyone who shares a vision for a forward-looking, sustainable, and more just United States of America, and is eager to change the course of history.

If you would like to own the book right now, it can be purchased on Amazon as a paperback, for Kindle or as an audio book.

We will draw the winners following the second Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday November 14. All entries are welcome throughout the duration debate.

For your chance to win one of four copies, simply sign up for updates from the Bernie Post below.


What happened to democracy?

Corporations are pouring billions into elections, Republicans are making it harder for people to vote, and gerrymandering is affecting elections.

“American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections, it is one person, one vote – with every citizen having an equal say – and no voter suppression.” -Bernie Sanders

Money does not equal speech, and corporations are not people. The very idea that political expenditures are considered speech and should be protected under the First Amendment is not only a direct attack on our democracy, but sets a dangerous precedent for oligarchy; only elevating the “voices” of the wealthy.

In 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, essentially allowing a handful of billionaires to buy elections to protect and further their agenda. We have already seen damaging effects of this decision, which has polarized our country exponentially, and in my view hindered advancement and innovation for more sustainable energy. When big banks, pharmaceutical corporations and the fossil fuel industries are pouring millions into elections, who do you think our politicians are really working for?

In this election so far, 158 families alone make up over half the funding (138 of them supporting Republicans). How can our government be the voice of the people, when the only ones that are ‘heard’ are the ones who can afford it?

The stripping of our democracy doesn’t end with the grotesque level of influence by special interest groups, but also with voter suppression laws and gerrymandering. Mark Twain once said, “If voting made a difference they wouldn’t let us do it” – well, that is exactly what is happening. Right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been promoting legislative proposals which make it harder for minorities to register and vote, and sadly they have had some success at the state level.

A study by Loyola University in 2014 found only 31 instances out of 1 billion ballots cast subject to in-person voter fraud. The idea that voter fraud is an issue is not only baseless but a direct attack on our democracy, intended to drum up support to for legislation to discourage voting.

By restricting access to DMV offices (to get IDs), limiting election times, or passing Voter ID laws we are not protecting anyone, but rather disproportionately affecting the constitutional rights of the poor, working class and minorities.

Alabama recently instituted provisions for requiring an ID from voters, and then announced plans to shut down eight out of ten DMV locations in predominantly black counties with mostly strong democratic voters. When you are making just enough to scrape by, are elderly or don’t have a car or driver’s license, it makes it very difficult to drive hours away to get an ID, or take time off work (if you can even afford do that), especially with little evidence of voter impersonation fraud.

Some blue states have moved to have automatic voter registration upon turning 18, and also encourage voters to be involved and engaged in the political process. This is what democracy is supposed to be; a representation of all people. When nearly two thirds of eligible voters in the country do not turn out on Election Day, this is a problem, and we should not be creating more obstacles, but rather encouraging people to be informed and involved voters.

Another major issue is gerrymandering, which allows for incumbents to redraw electoral districts to essentially choose who votes for them and establish a political advantage for their party. This can also hinder a particular demographics of constituents when lumped together disproportionately to the other districts. The graph below highlights how easily an election can be stolen simply by gerrymandering.

Bottom line, the billionaire class do not want Americans to vote. Billions are being poured into our elections in a form of legalized bribery, even as American voters, especially minorities, are being discouraged from voting. It is no wonder that government no longer works for ordinary Americans.

The nuts and bolts of the political revolution

Michael Kniat takes a look at how Bernie Sanders is building a grassroots movement, and the people who are tasked with making it happen.

On Friday night, October 23, I joined the first nationwide conference call, as one of several thousand volunteer campaign organizers, sponsored and conducted by Bernie Sanders 2016.  For the benefit of those who were not in on the dialogue, I’d like to share a few choice takeaways from Zack Exley’s presentation, along with some observations of my own:

  • This type of massive, grassroots, volunteer-driven campaign has never been successfully accomplished before.  It’s never even been attempted before, at least not on this scale.  It is unique – not only in American history, but it is unique period.
  • Win or lose, the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign of 2016 will still be talked about by political scholars and historians many years from now.  You’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren that you were part of it.
  • The campaign has already made significantly greater progress than even Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign of 2008.  In terms of size and scope of Bernie’s mass rallies, in terms of social media reach, in terms of the sheer numbers of individual donors attracted at an earlier stage of the process than ever before, in terms of high fundraising thresholds reached earlier than ever, in terms of the ballooning number of volunteers, and much more, this campaign is literally rewriting the record books.

That said, and notwithstanding the extremely impressive and encouraging results of the past six months, we are not yet collectively at a point in the campaign’s progress that, if projected linearly into February, March & April, would allow Bernie to win the Democratic nomination.  In fact, we’re not yet even close.  We still have time to get ahead of the curve.  But we – and that means the entire community of Berniephiles across the country – need to pick up the paceBuilding the infrastructure of a political revolution takes time, and robust early progress offers the benefits of an organizational multiplier effect that will pay off big-time, throughout the entire lifespan of the campaign.  Think of it as a form of compound interest – and the huge difference in return between an investment that begins late…and an investment that begins early.

The juxtaposition of these two conditions – the astonishing, explosive growth of the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, plus the fact that even faster, even more explosive growth is required in order to win – ought to impart a sense of real urgency to each one of us.  And it ought give each one of us a very sober appreciation of the true magnitude of the challenge we’re up against.  If Bernie wins in Iowa and New Hampshire next February, as we suspect he will, the campaign ground game has got to already be fully established, ready to shift into overdrive immediately, in order to take full advantage of the new momentum.  You and I are building the transmission for that machine right now.

I personally believe that the fate of this campaign will be largely determined by what happens during the next six to eight months.  As challenging as it will be to beat the Republican nominee next November – and the Republicans are always a dangerous and unpredictable threat – the far greater challenge will be to prevail against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.  And a big part of the reason for that is simply that it takes time and resources to build a first-rate campaign infrastructure; the kind of operation that is capable of winning the nomination, and because we won’t have nearly as much time and material resources available by the date of the Iowa Caucuses on February 1 as we will by the date of the general election on November 8.

According to what I understand from the official campaign, the volunteer operation is considered to still be in Phase One (although that will change soon).  The priorities are: 1) spread the word about Bernie Sanders far and wide, and 2) grow the organization.  And growing the organization means more volunteers – lot and lots more volunteers.

Every time we participate in a public event on behalf of Bernie – whether it be taking a flyering shift, staffing a phone bank for a few hours, or representing Bernie at a local forum, discussion, debate or parade – we help to raise Bernie’s public profile a bit more, and we increase the buzz factor.  That kind of excitement is contagious.  It draws people to us, seeking a way to become part of the revolution.  Be ready.

Whenever you attend a public event for Bernie, be sure to print multiple hard copies of the Bernie 2016 volunteer sign-up form, and bring them with you, along with a clipboard and some pens.  Ask the new volunteer to fill out a form, retain it for yourself, then submit that data to the campaign online via its volunteer submission web page, at your earliest opportunity.  Be sure to help the new volunteer to get connected into your local Bernie group(s) as well.

At the end of the day, after all the fur has flown and after all the dust has finally settled, I believe that Bernie will emerge as the 2016 Democratic nominee for president.  And if that should happen, I believe that Bernie Sanders will go on to become the 45th President of the United States.  But nothing is guaranteed.  And the journey from here to there is likely to become a knock-down, drag-out slugfest of epic proportions, that will be far more arduous and grueling than we can imagine from the here and now.  What happens between now and then could very well be determined by the strength of the foundation that you and I are building together – right now.

Michael V. Kniat is a writer who feels the Bern in New York City.

America needs a new ‘New Deal’

Looking back in history, Franklin D. Roosevelt played an instrumental role in repairing, strengthening and protecting the middle class with the New Deal, and many believe it’s time for a new New Deal.

By implementing a federal jobs plan to rebuild infrastructure, (something Bernie Sanders is proposing) and passing the Banking Act of 1933, FDR pulled our country out of the Great Depression that was undoubtedly caused by overzealous capitalism.

Decisions like the repeal of Glass-Steagall and Citizens United are detrimental to our democracy and our public and only set precedent for fascism and oligarchy, allowing for a few billionaires to buy elections to ensure their own interests (read: money) and block legislative progress, specifically in advancements in green energy.

It is not sustainable for so much to be in the hands of so few, and so many have so little. Our infrastructure is falling apart, health care and prescription drug costs are out of control, and in order to get an education, one must either be born wealthy or take on crippling debt. We need to learn from the past to better our future.

Bernie Sanders’ proposals to invest in infrastructure, health care and education would create a virtuous circle, bringing us all up — not just a few.

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.

What you can do to help elect Bernie

Getting involved in politics is kind of hard, and if we’re being honest it is certainly considerably harder than it should be.

Thankfully, Bernie Sanders and his massive grassroots campaign are trying to turn that on its head. A number of online communities and countless grassroots organizations all around the country are trying to reshape American politics and joining one of those groups is step one to getting Bernie in the White House. Still, many might find themselves agreeing with Bernie Sanders but struggling to find a way to bring that message to the real world, or live in an area without much of a grassroots presence. This is certainly a big hurdle to overcome, but thanks to the internet it is easier to become politically engaged than it ever has been in the past.

The internet has become the most important resource for political campaigns, but that isn’t because people can easily share campaign pictures or memes. Those efforts undoubtedly spread awareness and create new supporters, but clicktavism can only go so far. It is easy to bounce posts around the same progressively minded 18-30 year old bubble, but breaking out of that bubble takes work. Thankfully with just a little bit of elbow grease anyone interested in breaking out of that bubble can do so pretty easily.

Phone banking is probably one of the most important things anyone can do by themselves and the best part is you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Phone banking is the best way to contact potential voters in important states, whether that important state is New York because of their October 9th voter registration deadline, or Iowa because it’s the first caucus, or South Carolina because Bernie needs a boost in the south, voters from all of these states can be reached from your computer.Using the R/SandersforPresident online phone bank website anyone can easily sign up, so long as you have a microphone, an internet connection, and a willingness to help Bernie Sanders. This is one of the most effective ways you can contribute to the campaign from the comfort of your own home, combine phone banking with a liberal amount of sharing on social media and one person can reach tens of thousands of would be voters. However for Bernie Sanders to win it will require a strong ground game and that means getting outside and doing the dirty work.

The second most important thing you can do is door to door canvassing or flyering. This helps spread the word locally and may even get more people involved, it allows you to make an impact in your community and hopefully connect with other local supporters. Find a map of your local area and keep track of which neighborhoods you have already canvassed. Maps of the area can usually be found at your local visitors center, chamber of commerce, or city hall. As for flyering just find a location with heavy foot traffic and spend a couple hours handing out flyers. Most people will just grab a flyer and keep walking, but some will stop to talk and give you a chance to make a connection. Even those who walk away may register to vote or give voting for Bernie Sanders more consideration than they ever would have otherwise. Another option is to join your local Bernie Sanders grassroots organization or your local Democratic party organization. This has obvious benefits and helps cover more ground and tackle bigger projects. It also helps have a solid group of volunteers who you can relate to and decompress with, because campaign work is pretty stressful stuff.

Campaign work isn’t glorious, in fact it can be some of the most thankless work there is. Phone banking is really just glorified telemarketing, but it is still incredibly important. The same can be said for door to door canvassing, which is really the same as any door to door salesmanship gig. One really good way to overcome the inherent awkwardness that comes with political salesmanship is taking the register to vote approach. For phone banking and canvassing it may be helpful to use a script, but at a certain point it will become obvious whether you have a potential supporter in your midst or not. Regardless, a good way to continue the dialogue and solidify someones support or potentially sway them, is to help them register to vote. Bringing a stack of voter registration forms with you, or a laptop so you can help people get their own, is a great way to continue the dialogue and increase the chances that someone will actually register and make it to the polls come election day.

Finally one of the most important and easiest things you can do on your own is register people to vote. Setting up a table in most public locations with a stack of voter registration forms or a laptop is easy to do and usually perfectly within the confines of most local or city laws and university regulations. One of the biggest benefits of registering people to vote is the potential to attract voters from all across the political spectrum. Regardless of how liberal or conservative one might be, they still have to register to vote and a lot of the time people don’t vote because they simply forget and miss the deadline. Tabling and helping people register to vote is a good way to help reverse that trend.

Not to say that there will be huge lines of people who had been waiting to register to vote and just needed your table to get it done. The success rate will be about the same as everything else. You’ll see hundreds of people pass you by, but the ones who stop give you a valuable opportunity to talk about Bernie Sanders and his policies. Having the volition to approach a stranger and register to vote is a good sign of political engagement which is also a good sign they might be a potential Bernie Sanders supporter. Now everyone who comes to your table will have different views and it’s important to make a point not to argue or debate people with different views. Shoving Bernie’s policies down someones throat or telling them why their facts are wrong will never work, even if you’re right, it simply won’t work. Just plant the seed, hand out a flyer, try and get them involved locally, give some statistics, link them to Bernie’s website and other appropriate online source, but stop there unless asked to dive deeper. Let them make up their own minds, if there is an opening take it, but it is incredibly important not to proselytize or force Bernie Sanders on anyone.

Finally one last way to raise awareness that is often overlooked, especially by younger voters, is letters to the editor of your local paper. Even some of the smallest weekly publications in the country have thousands of readers and most of them also allow open submissions. Just typing up a few paragraphs on why you support Bernie Sanders and why he is good for your community and region could change a lot of peoples opinions. Like talking to people while tabling, letters to the editor are a great way to plant a seed and get people thinking. It’s not invasive and it allows people to respond and create a public dialogue about Bernie Sanders and the 2016 election.

A lot of this might seem pretty obvious or common sense, but for people new to the political realm or unsure how to help outside of the internet, this is what needs done. In cities and towns all around the country the campaign groundwork needs done. Whether it’s making phone calls from your computer or canvassing the streets with your local grassroots group, only a dedicated group of volunteers will put Bernie Sanders in the White House. So take a couple hours (or ten, or twenty, or as many as you can spare) and get out there. Hang flyers up around town, hand them out to your friends, register people to vote, and make some phone calls. It’s not glamorous, but it’s the only way to get Bernie Sanders in the White House.