We need a Bernie Sanders of Malaysia

As I scrolled my social media a day after the Inauguration Day of the President and Vice President of the United States of America, I guess the third person to have caught the attention of the social media world is Senator Bernie Sanders. A photographer captured a photo of the Senator socially distanced from others, with a little grumpy face, sitting on a folding chair on the steps of the Capitol, dressed in a big jacket and brown hippy mittens, arms and legs folded for warmth, with a face mask on. And that photo turned into a meme on social media and shared throughout the world. 

Make no mistake, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were the highlights of the world when they swore in as President and Vice President respectively. They were the talk of the whole wide world last week. As they begin their term of office leading one of the biggest nations in the world, they have made quite a history in different ways.

Joe Biden became the oldest person to assume presidency at the age of 78 years and 61 days, on Inauguration Day; but did not break the Malaysian record with Tun Dr Mahathir serving the nation’s head when he was over 90 years old. Kamala Harris is the first woman with a Black and Asian ethnic background to serve as the Vice President. Both of them have defeated a strong incumbent that was defending their position, although it is not the first time an incumbent President lost their defending bid.

But the meme of Bernie Sanders has ignited me to think thoroughly of what he has fought for throughout his life. Despite having significant numbers of popular support, he was unsuccessful in his bid to seek the Democratic Party nomination as the President in 2016 and 2020. Afterall he is already 80 years old now, nobody knows if he would be able to break the oldest US President record. 

I have to say that I respect the political journey of Senator Sanders which began at a very young age when he was still a University student. From the very start of his political activism days, he has stood firm with his ideologies and what he fought for. And that is what many of the mainstream politicians lack. 

While many may say that politicians need to be pragmatic and realistic when it comes to surviving in politics. It is not that I disagree with it, but pragmatism can come in whether one is pragmatic to solve the nation’s problems or pragmatic to make benefit for ownself. In which I believe that there are people that will agree with me that many Malaysian politicians are pragmatic for their own benefit. They are pragmatic if they will survive to rule the Government, whether they will survive politically in the party, whether they are able to gain practical benefits for their wealth and power.

As a politician, I also understand the strive to grow politically, as it is much easier to execute our ideas, ideologies and plans for the nation if only we have the influence. To do that, we have to expand our power politically. We may have to change our ideas and proposals from time to time to suit what the people need. But it should not be at the expense of our main principles and what we fight for in the beginning.

If you look at Malaysian politicians throughout the decades, one same person can have different stands on issues within just a couple of days. Some practices double standards by not doing what they have spoken for. Member of Parliaments crossing the floor, jumping from one party to another, for the sake of the power of governance.

Bernie Sanders has made a huge impact towards many people with his ideologies and proposals for policies. Although he may not have the opportunity of becoming the President yet, he has inspired many young people to understand more about public policies and what they wanted from the Government. And to stand firm in their principles and what they fight for. Perhaps we need a Bernie Sanders of Malaysia.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 26 January 2021.