Bernie Sanders: “I Worry That We Are Moving Toward An Orwellian Society”

The Senator, who is running for president, threw down some aggressively honest answers in a Reddit discussion on everything from climate change to mass surveillance and money in politics.

Bernie Sanders: “I Worry That We Are Moving Toward An Orwellian Society”
[Photos: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

Bernie Sanders, currently an Independent Senator from Vermont who is hoping to become the Democratic nominee for president recently responded to several questions posed to him on Reddit for an hour. The Senator is running an insurgent campaign against Democratic front-runner and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. Sander’s campaign is based on a groundswell of grassroots support. In his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, he raised $1.5 million in donations, averaging just $43 apiece.


Several Redditors from Vermont also praised Sanders for how approachable he is, with one writing, “He always has time for you (he’s heard my grandma out so many times) and he never bullshits. He talks straight.”

Below, we’ve picked out some examples of that straight talking.

In response to a question about nuclear energy and federal subsidies for nuclear power plants, Sanders said that he believes “climate change is the most significant planetary crisis that we face” and that we urgently need to move away from fossil fuels. He said that investing in solar, wind, and geothermal energy is more cost-effective than nuclear plants. “I do not support more nuclear power plants when we do not know how we get rid of the toxic waste from the ones that already exist,” the senator said.

Another Redditor asked if Senator Sanders, a politician who many expected to run as an Independent rather than a Democrat, would support alternative voting schemes that would allow third parties to participate or getting rid of the Electoral College. Sanders replied that he is very interested in electoral reform, but is focused on more practical measures for the time being.

“The major issue in terms of our electoral system is truly campaign finance reform,” Sanders said. “Right now we are at a moment in history where the Koch brothers and other billionaires are in the process of buying politicians and elections. We need to overturn Citizens United with a constitutional amendment.”

When it comes to robots eventually taking our jobs, Sanders said that there’s no question that technological advancement will continue to replace the number of workers needed to produce physical items. But, “increased productivity should not punish the average worker,” he said, “which is why we have to move toward universal health care, making higher education available to all, a social safety net which is strong and a tax system which is progressive.”


Sanders reiterated his track record of voting against the PATRIOT Act the first time around–as well as when it was reauthorized in 2011–when asked if he thinks that wiretapping American citizens is necessary for our security. “I believe strongly that we can protect our people without undermining our constitutional rights and I worry very very much about the huge attacks on privacy that we have seen in recent–both from the government and the private sector,” he said. “I worry that we are moving toward an Orwellian society and this is something I will oppose as vigorously as I can.”

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which over 250 tech companies recently came out against, Sanders said he believes that “the TPP is a disastrous agreement and I am working as hard as I can to see it defeated.”

In response to a question about deploying the U.S. military against ISIS or the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, Sanders said that just as he voted against the war in Iraq and the first Gulf War, so is he “strongly opposed” to sending American troops into Syria.

“At the end of the day, the war against ISIS will only be won when the Muslim countries in the area fully engage and defeat ISIS and other groups that are distorting what Islam is supposed to be about,” he says. “The United States and other western countries should be supportive of the efforts of those governments, but cannot lead them.”

About the author

Jay is a freelance journalist, formerly a staff writer for Fast Company. He writes about technology, inequality, and the Middle East.