If there is one thing this election cycle has proven again, it is that to tap into a specific part of the electorate can spring unlikely candidates onto the stage. In the current election, we see the unpredicted popularity of some candidates eclipsing others. Self-defined socialist Bernie Sanders is currently on the rise, falling slightly behind on Hillary Clinton. Bernie presents himself as a fresh, passionate and constituted individual, reminiscent to Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Bernie Sanders has gained more of Barack Obama’s previous campaign donors than Clinton. The Vermont senator has already received contributions from 24,582 of Obama’s donors, whereas Clinton is at a mere 9000. The self-proclaimed ‘Democratic-Socialist’ is notorious amongst the electorate as one of the most progressive candidates in Washington. His performance at the Democratic debate was dynamic, passionate, and bold which echoed the frustration of the U.S.’s split between wealth and poverty. Sanders provides an uplifting change to politics and plays on the same tune that surged Obama into power. In comparison to Clinton, Sanders has historically been a public activist for human rights, trade and foreign policy. Many voters feel that Clinton’s track record within the senate has been shaky with her previous support of denying same sex marriage and favouring bans on immigrants that are HIV+ from entering the United States. Clinton was also in favour of the Iraq war which she later came to regret. Sander’s rise into power lies on scrutinizing Clinton’s political instability and poor judgement on past affairs and criticizing his Republican opposition.
Clinton has amassed a goliath team of fundraisers which have hauled in almost thirty million dollars in the third quarter, dwarfing every other competitor. Her campaign employs over 500 staff which compensates for $8.5 million in salaries and payroll tax. In addition her campaign spent $3.4 million on television advertising, $2.5 million on direct marketing and over $1.2 million in polling. Clinton’s debate performance thus far has been strong, despite battling the scrutiny of the email scandal. She has firmly shown that she has the capacity to secure the support required for the Democratic nomination. Clinton has a commanding lead in political endorsements; to date she has nine governors, 31 senators and 117 representatives behind her. She has also rapidly been collecting the support of delegates who will eventually decide who spearheads the party against the Republican candidate.
Despite both candidates being in the same party and sharing similar values on a variety of issues, Bernie and Clinton have different approaches to when it comes to the challenges the U.S. faces. A critical issue is the divide between rich and poor, Clinton wishes to tackle this extreme inequality by raising money from the wealthiest citizens to tackle issues whereas Sanders wants to increase and reform taxation. In foreign policy Bernie wants to repair the U.S.’s reputation globally by dismantling Guantanamo Bay and recognizing Palestinians have the right to live peacefully in Israel. Clinton’s approach has been considered ‘hawkish’, with proposals to call for a no fly zone in Syria and add further pressure on Iran to disarm its nuclear capabilities. In health reform, Sanders wants to support a ‘single payer system’ in an attempt to thwart insurance and drug companies from exploiting patients by fixating medical prices to affordable levels. Clinton wishes to allow citizens to choose and raises concerns on an expanded socialist health care system, worried that the overall standard of care will decay if Sander’s plans come to fruition. Finally they clash on the monumental issue of gun control with Clinton advocating greater measures against the acquisition of firearms by requiring more checks and paperwork. Sanders historically argued that gun control is not a federal concern and even signed a law in 2005 making it much harder for citizens to sue gun manufacturers.
After numerous debates, the polls currently show Clinton with a formidable lead amongst the public, averaging at just over 50% from leading media sources. Bernie is currently at 30%, but is gradually gaining more votes after his strong performances in past primaries and caucuses. The debates will continue until April next year, with the party’s representative expected to be chosen after the primaries in 2016.