Please Stop Shaming Bernie Sanders for Buying a House

August 9th 2016

Sen. Bernie and Jane Sanders' purchase of swanky summer house ignited a whirlwind of angry tweets on Tuesday.

Twitter users accused Sanders, a democratic socialist, of betraying his values, or they used the purchase to advance the narrative that Sanders sold out to the Democratic Party establishment when he endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Some even claimed that he had used campaign donations to buy his new digs.

These comments and images are objectionable on several fronts. Most obviously, they are rude.

Putting the Sanders family's personal choices under a microscope brings up the same misguided impulses we saw when various news outlets shamed Malia Obama for dancing at a music festival.

It is true that Bernie Sanders, a former presidential candidate, is a public figure. However, he is also a 74 year old man whose real estate decisions need not be evaluated on the basis of his campaign platform.

These tweets also seem to fundamentally miscomprehend what Sanders' democratic socialism is actually about.

β€œTo me, democratic socialism means democracy. It means creating a government that represents all of us, not just the wealthiest people in the country,” Sanders said at a fall debate.

Sanders' campaign platform focused on income inequality via regulating big banks, reforming campaign finance, and making healthcare and college more affordable. These jabs use a misapplied pop-cultural caricature of socialism to portray Sanders as hypocritical, but miss the point that his democratic socialism never called for "taking people's stuff," or preventing people from doing well enough to buy houses.

Sanders wanted to change the system that leaves regular people mired in debt when financial institutions crash the economy, and he hoped to eradicate the burden of student loans that prevents many young people from buying homes.

Rather, Sanders sought to address how wealth and power reinforce systemic inequality, particularly when the government is beholden to private interests.

Other tweets, like this horrific Photoshop job, used the Sanders' purchase as part of the "Bernie's sold out" narrative.

Some tweets stated or implied that Sanders had bundled together a bunch of $27 donations to fund a down payment.

The thing is, candidates don't just get to pocket all their extra donation money when they drop out.

"Here's what a campaign committee is allowed to do with any lingering cash: it can donate the funds to charities or political parties; it can contribute $2,000 per election to other candidates; and it can save the money in case the candidate chooses to run again," Mental Floss explains.

Jane Sanders told the Vermont magazine "Seven Days" that the purchase was funded by the recent sale of a Maine property.

Let the Sanders family enjoy their house in peace.

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