Donald Trump speaks at a podium with his arms extended, and Bernie Sanders speaks at a podium in a two-photo collage

Opinion columnist Keisha Lopes argues that if Democrats elect Bernie Sanders as the nominee, the political climate of the United States will become even more polarized.

Opinion

With Democratic primaries only weeks away, voters say that President Donald Trump’s defeat is their driving force in deciding between candidates. Yet, would electing Bernie Sanders counteract the idea of progressivism? 

In a majority of polls, Sen. Sanders is leading the way down the path to a Democratic nomination. Championing access to free college tuition, Medicare for all, and a fight against the ever-growing threat of climate change, Sanders has been labeled the most “progressive” candidate. Gaining significant traction from youth, minorities, women, and immigrants, the senator has become the candidate of the people.

On the other side of the aisle, Trump is also referred to as a candidate of the people. In his second cycle of elections, Trump has retained his base with promises of securing the borders, expanding America’s military power, and stimulating the economy by tax cuts that will be detrimental in the long term. 

Sanders and Trump appear to be competing on entirely different tracks. On a policy basis, the two contenders rival one another in almost every aspect. But the candidates mirror one another under a fateful umbrella: populism.

Since the term “populism” has made its way onto the global stage, associations of racism, bigotry, and nationalism have clung to the word. In Trump’s case, this is not so far fetched. But, for Sanders, a candidate that resembles nothing of racism or bigotry, many cannot comprehend the association.

Populism has developed into a revolution against the status quo, whether it be corporate elites or the federal government. As the standing president, Trump has targeted the branches of the federal government, citing widespread corruption and misrepresentation, and Sanders has done the same against wealthy elites. 

With Sanders leading the way in the first Democratic primary and in other preliminary polls, the possibility of Sanders and Trump battling towards the finish line has become a quite viable possibility.

We could witness these two strikingly similar candidates hurtling towards the presidency. Yet, most of the Democratic Party has remained blind to the similarities. In a time of unprecedented political polarization, this country does not need to be flung from one extreme to the other. In fact, it would likely lead to our rapid demise.

From a personal standpoint, free tuition and healthcare sounds phenomenal and I would not mind a viable planet to inhabit. The opposition is not towards the policy, but rather the inability of either candidate to understand the concept of a middle ground. Fire is being fought with nothing other than fire, inevitably only leading to a larger fire.

While Americans have never been so divided, we need a figure that will slow the rapid process of accelerating polarization. Take Amy Klobuchar, for example. It is unlikely that you will see Klobuchar bumper stickers on every Prius or see or her campaign slogan on your relatives’ Facebook background; but, it’s also not probable that she will be engulfed in the flames of Fox News — at least for now. She's a lukewarm candidate, with the ability to account for more than one viewpoint.  

To have anyone other than Trump as President of the United States would undoubtedly be considered a blessing, even if his name is Bernie Sanders.

If America wants a progressive president, then a progressive president we shall get.

Hopefully, it won’t be Trump’s good conscience counterpart.

Keisha Lopes is a senior from Denver, Colorado, studying political science and international studies.