By Josh Cook
As a group of Drake students, we had the opportunity to meet a plethora of wildly important people during our two weeks in D.C. On Thursday, to follow up a Wednesday which included spending time with Cory Booker, we were able to spend about a half hour with Senator Bernie Sanders in his office. Sanders has had a rough week, but he was engaged when talking to us and challenged us to break down the barriers of our society’s imagination to come up with solutions to some of our most pressing issues.
Sanders discussed climate change and environmental issues with us, healthcare and the wealth disparity in the U.S. Throughout each topic, he was sure to ask us if these are things we think about and talk about frequently and what those conversations look like. But he wanted to drive home the point that we must liberate ourselves from the options which get laid out as potential solutions by political and media leaders and look for new ways to solve our nation’s problems.
Early in the meeting, Sanders said our nation has a sever limitation on our imaginations, and it’s a problem which will continue to permeate our culture as long as we keep blindly accepting the options laid out as the only options. He referenced the healthcare systems of Canada and the UK as systems he’s been repeatedly told won’t work in our country, likewise with the education systems of Germany and the northern European Scandinavian countries.
I used the term “won’t work here” attitude when Sanders asked us why out scope of solutions was so limited. This is something I’ve noticed myself watching politicians discuss a wide array of issues: there seems to be this idea that the U.S. is an anomaly in regard to any structural or systematic issue. For example, we have a two-party system. I’ve asked people if they think we should try a coalition government to combat increasing partisanship and “side-picking,” very few I’ve spoken to have ever thought it would work here in the U.S. This is just one example, but pay attention to political discussions you partake in and see if you notice this choke-hold on political imagination which sweeps across our political landscape.