Bernie Sanders Is The First Jewish Primary Winner & It's An Epic Moment
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night. New Hampshire is the first major primary event of the 2016 election, and the win is a big deal for Sanders' campaign after narrowly losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus last week. But the win isn't only a big deal because it seriously increases his chances of becoming the Democratic nominee. Additionally, Sanders is the first Jewish primary winner in New Hampshire or any state's major primary event, according to the Wrap. He is actually the first non-Christian candidate from the Democratic or Republican party to win a state's primary election, and that's a big damn deal.
Atlantic writer Yoni Abbelbaum wrote that, not only is the moment a big deal, but the fact that no one is really talking about it is an even bigger deal for religious freedom and tolerance:
That this has gone largely unnoticed is perhaps even greater evidence of the nation’s growing acceptance of all kinds of diversity than the simple fact that it has occurred.
And Sanders seems to share similar sentiments about his religion not being a big deal, so to speak. During the Democratic Town Hall last week, Sanders told Anderson Cooper that faith is a "guiding principle" in his life. But, his take on it was awesomely different than what people often hear from the right.
"I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings," Sanders said, according to CNN. But, Sanders described spirituality as a feeling "that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me."
Sanders' sentiments are unique and beautiful to the parts of the nation that don't identify with any specific religion, or who, more and more commonly, don't identify with the strong Christian fundamentalism that seems to have taken over conservativism. According to CNN, a Pew Research Center study found that 80 percent of American voters said that a candidate being Jewish would not affect their support for him or her. That's amazing news, but Americans don't hold that view for candidates of all faiths.
For example, CNN said that the poll found that most voters saw a candidate being Mormon or Muslim as a potential difficulty in their success. So, though Sanders being the first Jewish primary winner of a major party is a big deal, I don't think that it's much evidence of "growing acceptance of all kinds of diversity" like Appelbaum said it is. Being Jewish isn't seen as threatening to Americans, but Americans still find Muslims and Mormons threatening, which goes to show that the demonization of religions that are not Christian is still hurting people.
Sanders achievement is remarkable, and I'm not trying to take away from it. But it doesn't mean the fight for religious tolerance is over.