By Alex Patel
Bernie Sanders is no ordinary man. But then again, neither is Niko House.
I had the privilege of meeting Niko through the American Parliamentary Debate Association. What I first noticed about Niko was his sincerity, honesty and straightforwardness. It was a refreshing breath of air in the overly political and cutthroat world of college debate.
During this summer, Niko went on to form Carolina Students for Bernie Sanders from scratch. It is an organization of University of North Carolina students who support Bernie Sanders’s presidential candidacy. Niko was contacted by Nate Rifkin, a field organizer for the official campaign, to start the organization because of the lack of political infrastructure in the U.S. South in support of Bernie Sanders.
The organization grew rapidly and became efficiently organized in a short span of time. There are currently between 200 and 250 active members and six committees in the organization. The Sanders campaign itself has said that Carolina Students for Bernie Sanders is one of the most organized pro-Bernie Sanders clubs in the entire country. Niko tells me that the organization is “putting a foundation in place that’s build around educating the community about local politics as well as national politics, giving a scope on some the policies that are passed and how they really affect people versus how the politicians will spin them.”
Niko first became interested in Sanders when found out that Sanders was an independent running for the Democratic ticket. Interestingly enough, Niko didn’t always start off as enthusiastic for the campaign. When Niko was first asked to start Carolina Students for Bernie, his initial reaction was laughter. He jokingly told Nate that “Sanders has about 2% of the vote, with a 2% margin of error.” However, Niko began to research Sanders and things have never been the same. Although Niko admires Sanders’s clean track record, it’s Sanders’s failures that really impressed Niko. “[Bernie’s] failures weren’t simply losing an election. He lost the elections that he did because he was very avid about the policies he’s advocating for now.” Most importantly, Sanders “never sacrificed his morals to gain political office.”
Niko contends that a Bernie Sanders Presidency would be the “revolution of America” and the end of poverty, as we know it. “We have grown so much and yet have seen so little growth simultaneously,” he said. Despite the general upswing in the overall economy, many Americans are still left in the proverbial shadows. “We have to start focusing on the intricacies of our economy and making sure that [the economy] doesn’t only look good on paper, but [it also] looks good in the actual household as well.”
Niko is confident that Sanders can help poor, low-income and middle-class Americans get back on track, but is a little wearier on racial justice. While Niko is hopeful, he believes that the success of these policies will depend on how active Sanders is in personally sponsoring legislation as well as the composition of the Congress. At the very least, “Bernie can help open the eyes of some people” and bring greater visibility to these issues. Niko was disappointed with the way the Sanders campaign initially handled the Black Lives Matter Protests, but adds that Bernie’s subsequent response “exemplifies one key thing that no one else has exemplified this entire election – he is not so stubborn that he can’t realize when he should be focusing more so on an issue than he has been. Whenever there is a problem that he believes is legitimate, he will go out of his way to respond to the people to let them know they are being heard.”
Niko is quick to point out that he could not do what he does for Carolina Students for Bernie Sanders without his team. Niko is proud to say that his “executive team is the best in the country.” Niko urges others to look at Bernie Sanders’s policies more than anything else. At the end of my interview with Niko, he said something that really caught my attention: “Bernie Sanders is everything that I have ever wanted to see in a politician. He is the reason I aspired to get back into politics.”
To find out more about Carolina Students for Bernie Sanders click here: https://www.facebook.com/carolinastudentsforberniesanders
The header image is by Mary Williams, head of photography for Carolina Students for Berkeley.
This post was written by Alex Patel. He recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in political science from American University. Originally from Los Angeles, he moved to the Bay Area to work at an augmented reality start up. He encourages fellow millennials to vote in the upcoming primaries and elections and participate in the political system in order to make a difference and slay political apathy.