This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.
Let me get this out of the way: I can’t stand Bernie Sanders. He’s inauthentic about his wealth, he didn’t apologize to the women sexually assaulted during his campaign until he decided he wanted to run for president again, and he’s frequently supported expanding government at the expense of American lives, freedom, and rights.
That being said, it’s time to recruit his followers for liberty.
I can hear you now: Why? If he was such a terrible human being, why should his followers be any different? If they love a reprehensible person, don’t they love things that are reprehensible and are, as a result, necessarily toxic to liberty?
Let’s take this apart a little bit. Libertarians have gathered plenty of people who used to be Trump supporters. Is it because they loved his typos, his scandals, his fake news, his tariffs, or his expansion of debt? No. Generally, they loved business, lower taxes, and somebody who speaks positively about family values. Of the problems I listed with Bernie Sanders, how many of his supporters do you know that absolutely love his deception, his masking of molestation at his office, or his fascist tendencies?
I’m guessing none. If you do know one, leave them alone and stay far away.
What are the things they love about Bernie Sanders? I decided to read forums from his supporters and find out their top issues. And all of them have libertarian answers.
1. Medicine is not affordable for too many. This is absolutely true and it is an opportunity for libertarians to really hammer home some messaging. Even without dismantling the entire system, just getting rid of bad government policies makes medicine cost about one-tenth of its current cost. Sanders offered to force other people to pay for drugs and procedures, liberty lovers can do even better by making those costs appear closer to the cost of groceries than the cost of a new car. If we get rid of the crony policies that prop up the pharmaceutical and hospital industries, medical prices fall even further. And here’s a pro-tip for pushing this area, Bernie Bros HATE cronyism.
2. Student loan debts are out of control. It’s hard to think of anything the government has screwed up more than education. And, through a series of licenses, restrictions, and regulations, they’ve managed to botch higher and secondary education until it would be unrecognizable by the free market. This includes how to pay for it. Libertarians, for years, have supported getting rid of the ridiculous and artificial costs that drive up education. Socialists like Bernie Sanders love to use the word free, but when they use it, they mean taking somebody else’s money and paying for it. You know who can offer actually free education? Libertarians. The market has had to be forcibly restrained from giving people access to the best education on earth from the comfort of their internet connection at home.
3. The working class is not making enough money. They certainly aren’t. The Fed operates by giving privileged banks some money, who, in turn, give it to crony allies and politicians, then give SOME of the rest out via loans, which have to be paid back to, surprise surprise, the banks. Libertarians, if they had only two policy points, they would be “End the wars, end the Fed.” What did the market pay workers before government flattened out wages to workers? Companies were forced to pay employees a percentage of their profits; and it wasn’t a small percentage either. Henry Ford didn’t mince words: “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” While the Bernie Bros have settled for trifling over a few extra dollars an hour, libertarians can offer them ownership, a stake, and a chunk of the profits with their company. Paycheck to paycheck living becomes a distant nightmare.
4. We’re too involved in combat overseas. This one is almost too easy for most libertarians to capitalize on, but let me add some ammunition to your established talking points. Famously, Bernie Sanders opposed the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Yemen War. But he voted in favor of wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Liberty-minded folks oppose political wars 100% of the time, not just 50%. If there is to be conflict, let it be fought by those who are actually fighting, not by others. The hard truth is that Bernie Sanders voted to let government use America’s children to die for him only a little less than most other politicians. I would imagine his supporters would welcome an alternative to be anti-war all of the time.
There’s a multitude of other issues, of course. Some require more finesse than others. But the field is ripe. If we can’t evangelize from people like Bernie Sanders, the tragic reality will be that we can’t ever get the numbers we need to fight statism. Almost everyone remembers a time when they discovered liberty for the first time. You have the opportunity, right now, to create that moment for someone else. When you pass by your neighbor, friend, or coworker who has that popular Bernie bumper sticker, you have a choice. You could key their car. You could ignore them and keep walking. Or you could say, “Hey, I’m heard Bernie dropped out of the race. If you’re not all that excited about Biden, would you mind talking with me about alternatives? By the way, I think Trump is really gross, too.” I’m positive that just saying those words will yield positive results for you. They have for me.