What You Need To Understand About The Government In Order To Vote Smart

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continues to muster grassroots support, as he won the online readers' poll for Time's person of the year.

With just over 10 percent of the vote, Sanders bested fellow contenders, such as Elon Musk, Malala Yousafzai, Stephen Colbert, Barack Obama, refugees and Pope Francis. These people are all internationally renowned activists, cultural figures and politicians.

This is no surprise, as American voters are clearly "Feeling the Bern."

Well, at least on the web, as he dominated the first and second debate, according to online polls.

For several months, he has overstuffed the town halls and stadiums he speaks in, including Arizona, Texas and Louisiana, which are deeply "red states."

These vociferous crowds are record-sized, and notably larger than 2016 centerpieces Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Despite drawing an attendance of tens of thousands of Americans of all backgrounds, who are frustrated with the current affair of politics, his campaign is largely ignored by the mainstream media.

And even when he does receive a smidgen of attention, he's painted as a cooky socialist, who only appeals to stoner college liberals He's written off as someone who falls outside of mainstream American politics.

This is rather strange, as Ted Cruz was all the rage in the Twittersphere during the most recent GOP debate, lambasting "liberal media bias."

This was a typical Councilman Jamm-style dodge of a question regarding Cruz's ability to compromise as a leader, given his tendency to filibuster almost anything from the Democratic Party.

Oddly enough, based on many reputable polling and news sources, Bernie is actually in line with popular American opinion.

July 2015: Pew Research reports 50 percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would raise the minimum wage as opposed to 19 percent who would be less likely.

May 2015: New York Times/CBS Poll reports 66 percent of Americans feel wealth distribution should be more fair; 67 percent believe the gap between the rich and the poor is getting larger; 65 percent believe income inequality should be addressed now; 57 percent believe the government should help reduce the gap; and 68 percent favor raising taxes on Americans earning over $1 million.

The same New York Times/CBS Poll also revealed a strong support for workers' rights, a staple of Bernie's campaign: 80 percent of Americans favor paid leave to parents of newborn children and employees caring for sick family members and 85 percent of Americans support paid sick leave for employees who are ill.

A Yale poll reveals 61 percent of Americans are concerned of the dangers of climate change.

An ACLU poll on criminal justice reform states, "Overall, 69 percent of voters say it is important for the country to reduce its prison populations, including 81 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Republicans."

Huffington Post/YouGov Poll states 46 percent of Americans are in favor of using taxes to provide free public college tuition, while 41 percent oppose.

The Hill reports that just over 50 percent of Americans still favor single-payer healthcare or "Medicare for all."

A New York Times article shows Americans support fundamentally changing our campaign finance system to get private interest and corporate money out of politics.

Pew Research reports 53 percent of Americans now support recreational use of marijuana.

Most startling of all is Gallup revealed 47 percent of Americans would now vote for a socialist as president, with support increasing with each younger generation: 34 percent of voters aged 65+; 37 percent of voters aged 50-64; 50 percent of voters aged 30 to 50; and 69 percent of voters aged 18-29.

It appears Bernie Sanders has emerged as the new face of liberalism and meaningful, progressive reform of American politics.

Given the accusation of liberal bias in the media, isn't it peculiar that the major cable networks are shunning someone who espouses modern liberal values, casting him off into the electoral shadows?

Hillary Clinton, the hand-picked establishment darling and presumed Democratic nominee since Barack Obama's re-election, has been labeled the winner of each debate despite overwhelmingly fervent social media support for Sanders.

This is potentially inflating her poll results, as the mainstream media is blatantly pushing a narrative of Hillary Clinton's success.

Coincidentally, Clinton is heavily funded by CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, 21st Century Fox and TimeWarner (who owns CNN).

Of course, the mainstream media and the establishment hijackers of our elections are backing Clinton and ignoring the most outspoken opponent to Citizens United.

Bernie wants to ride a wave of momentum of populist support to disrupt a corporatist, Christian theocratic oligarchy that poses as a fair democracy.

Major networks are attempting to vilify democratic socialism and write off Sanders' ideas to create voter apathy of a more equitable society, and a government that represents the majority of working class Americans, rather than the interests of the wealthy.

For the sake of people dismissing this notion as a looney conspiracy, scholars from Princeton University conducted a study that the American government no longer represents popular opinion, but special interests.

From his humble campaign announcement in small-town Burlington, VT, the central theme of Bernie Sanders's campaign is to ignite a "political revolution."

This sentiment is congruent to Obama's promise of hope and change in 2008.

Bernie is seeking to muster the frustration and disillusionment with the relative lack of progress when compared to expectations of the Obama Administration, and channel it into consistent populist support.

However, as morally upstanding as Bernie Sanders is, and despite the efforts of Barack Obama, the onus is on everyday Americans to push for change.

According to 2008 and 2012 CNN polls, female, young voters (aged 18-29), African-American, Hispanic, Asian, voters earning less than $50,000 and those with either a high school or some college education were instrumental in both of Obama's presidential victories.

This group of voters have emerged as the modern Democratic coalition, spearheading a wave of modern liberalism.

Unfortunately, according to the July 2015 US census, these voter demographics historically turn out to vote at Presidential, Congressional and Gubernatorial at the lowest rates, and also have the lowest rates of voter registration.

Interestingly enough, the Atlantic shows that unregistered voters overwhelmingly support liberal economic policies including, free community college tuition, an increase in the minimum wage, paid sick/maternity leave, financial taxes to support middle-class tax cuts and increased wealth redistribution, when compared to registered voters.

Voter apathy among this newfound liberal coalition is clearly having consequences, as Vox reports, "70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republican's hands.

And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress."

Meanwhile, this tidal wave of Republican victories on a state and Congressional level has brought an unprecedented amount of voter suppression laws (aimed at discriminating against minority and low-income voters), the dismantling of labor unions, the constant reorganization of voting districts and defunding of public education.

According to political scientists Torben Iversen and David Soskice, these policies are favorable to conservative ideology and is laid out in a recent academic journal article, "Information, Inequality, and Mass Polarization: Ideology in Advanced Democracies."

They also state that the Republicans are aiming to cause governmental dysfunction in order to hurt the Democrats, since they are the party of "big government."

Essentially, Democratic supporters need to register and turn out to vote in ALL elections, or else it doesn't matter if Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O'Malley is president.

The Republicans will just block their legislation and impede their agenda.

It all boils down to this increasingly radical, Ronald Reagan erotica, American neoconservatism is artificially propped up by a corrupt campaign finance system, gerrymandering, voter suppression, corporate media misinformation and voter cynicism.

The 2016 election is a much more monumental one than many Americans realize, as it will set the future trajectory of our country.

We must ask ourselves if we want to be a country defined by bigotry, foreign military intrusion and massive wealth inequality. Or, if we want to move toward a more humanistic society, where capitalism is reasonably regulated, a social safety net ensures equal opportunity and the government represents Americans from all walks of life.

The popular support of a progressive agenda is there, but establishment politics and media won't  help the liberal cause.

Liberals need to push for change in the midst of an ideological battle for America's future.

The Civil War was fought to abolish slavery.

During the Great Depression, labor unions pushed for the 40-hour work week, child labor laws and taking weekends off.

Oppressed African-Americans followed the lead of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks to ensure voting rights for all and eradicating systemic segregation.

The 1960s counterculture, symbolized in the 1969 Woodstock Festival, pushed for a sexual revolution, civil rights for all and a greater emphasis for individual expression during a time of rigid conformity.

We are witnessing similar, social media-driven movements that are challenging outdated social conventions.

In just a decade, Americans advocating for LGBT rights considerably changed the tide for marriage equality support.

We are witnessing state ballots reform marijuana laws, shedding light on the disparity of drug law enforcement and criminal sentencing racial bias.

Fast food workers are pushing for a $15 minimum wage, raising attention toward modern day "wage slavery" and its ramification on struggling families.

Beauty standards are being redefined through the body positive movement.

The list goes on.

Throughout American history, the people have been the leading catalyst for expanding civil rights and demanding government action in addressing systemic flaws.

If liberals, progressives and those frustrated with establishment politics want real change, American citizens have to motivate themselves, stand up to the dark underbelly of oppression and advocate for fair representation.

Americans are facing seemingly insurmountable influences such as lobbyists, billionaires, bought and sold politicians and corporate influence but the will of the people can overcome it all in a democracy.

It starts with a candidate willing to listen to what the majority wants. But as we've witnessed it for the past seven years, one person can't do it all.

It ends with us.