Although his opponents seek to paint him as too far left, Bernie Sanders' views are mainstream. At Wednesday's Washington Post-Univision debate in Miami, for example, Hillary Clinton argued that Sanders' ideas are not realistic and too expensive. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Clinton said. In fact, the ideas that Sanders has injected into the campaign are hardly radical. Sanders is in sync with the majority of Americans on most key issues.
Here's a brief run-down:
- About three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans -- including 84 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents, and 62 percent of Republicans -- believe that corporations have too much influence on American life and politics today, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. In contrast, only 37 percent think that labor unions exercise too much influence.
- More than three-quarters of Americans (79 percent) think that wealthy people don't pay their fair share of taxes, while 82 percent believe that some corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes.
Inequality and Poverty
- A strong majority (66 percent) say that wealth should be more evenly divided and that it is a problem that should be addressed urgently.
Money in Politics
- Eighty-four percent of Americans think that money has too much influence in politics. Slightly more Americans (85 percent) want an overhaul of our campaign finance system
Minimum Wage and Workers' Rights
- A recent poll by Hart Research Associates found that 75 percent of Americans (including 53 percent of Republicans) support an increase in the federal minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020. Sixty-three percent of Americans support an even greater increase in the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.
- Over 50 percent of Americans (including one-quarter of Republicans and nearly 80 percent of Democrats) say they support a single-payer "Medicare for All" approach to health insurance, something Sanders has long advocated. Only 36 percent oppose the idea. 12 percent are neutral.
- More than three-quarters (79 percent) of Americans think that education beyond high school is not affordable for everyone in the U.S. who needs it. Seventy-seven percent believe that higher education institutions should reduce tuition and fees, while 59 percent and 55 percent respectively agree that state governments and the federal government should provide more assistance. The average tuition bill for students at a public four-year college has increased by more than 250 percent over the past three decades. More than one-third (35 percent) of 2000-2014 college graduates report graduating with more than25,000 in undergraduate student loan debt, in inflation-adjusted dollars. The recently graduated college class of 2015 has an average debt burden of $35,051 per student, the highest ever. Sanders introduced legislation to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free, paid for through a tax on Wall Street transactions.
- Today, 60 percent of Americans believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to the Gallup poll, a figure that is likely to increase in the coming years, especially after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal. But in 1996, only 27 percent felt that way. That year, then-Congressman Sanders was one of only 67 House members to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of gay marriages.
Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. A longer version of this article appeared in The American Prospect.
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