The Bernie Effect might become an even greater campaign phenomenon than that demonstrated by Obama in 2008. Amongst the many qualities which are captivating voters is the presidential candidate’s unfalteringly consistent stances on issues such as tax reform and income equality. The Rachel Maddow show recently aired a feature showing evidence of Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) advocating for the same issues over the past 30 years, echoing his recent speeches in a 1980s C-SPAN interview. Whilst the persistent attack on corporate greed and an elitist two-party system shows the appeal of a passionately resolute candidate, it is worth noting those areas in which the socialist senator appears less certain.

An increasingly difficult dilemma; where does the government draw the line between cyber security and the rights of citizens to enjoy privacy online? As more aspects of our lives become digitalized, from communication, banking and - perhaps eventually - voting, the more dire the consequences of a mass-scale cyber attack. Experts have voiced their concerns regarding the U.S.’s clear inability to deal with a large-scale attack on cyber infrastructure. On a scale from 1 to 10 General Alexander, head of the NSA, lists the nation's preparedness for a nationwide cyberattack as ‘three’.


Sanders is among those to criticize the apparent reluctance of the government to impose greater cybersecurity measures. However increasing cybersecurity would involve, amongst other things, an extension of NSA powers. The problem arises in that Sanders has a contradicting but equally passionate stance against governments threatening the privacy of citizens. On the topic of mass surveillance, Sanders stated “ is important that we defend ourselves as best we can while, at the same time, protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.” He voted in favour Cybersecurity Act of 2012, but voted against the U.S. Patriot Act which would have granted the NSA greater surveillance powers. Having already vowed to roll back NSA powers if elected president, Sanders may become conflicted trying to find a compromise between security and privacy.

The senator’s political unclarity pertaining to cyber issues does not end there. In 2005 Sanders introduced the Stamp Out Censorship Act - a bill which died in Congress, but which would have prevented the Federal Communications Commission from imposing ‘indecency fines’ upon non-public broadcasters including the Internet. What is unclear is whether he opposes all forms of censorship. Though it might not surprise anyone if  Sanders’ many unconventional and uncompromising principles include a zero censorship policy, the vast majority of U.S. citizens are less decided on whether the government should lift censorship of obscene content such as the promotion of extremist beliefs and information on how to make dangerous substances.

Last but certainly not least, online gambling will become a progressively paradoxical problem for the outspoken senator. While Sanders has consistently voted against amending online gambling bans, opposing such Internet activity is somewhat inconsistent with the senator’s usually liberal stances on personal freedom. The issue does not come down to morals but is rather a matter of tax reform. Since the game-changing lawsuit United States v. Scheinberg launched an attack against the largest names in the iGaming business, online gambling has been unwelcome in the U.S. except in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. Soon to be the fourth state to legalize online gambling, California will be the spark that ignites a wave of legalization across the states over the coming year. Responsibility to deal with the re-incorporation of iGaming into the United States will therefore fall under the next presidency. Sanders will need to consider the framework of allowing such businesses to operate in the US without permitting offshore companies to continue the tax dodging he has so vehemently opposed throughout his political career.

In a characteristically honest admission, Sanders revealed he is indecisiveness as to how to approach online gambling. “The essence of the issue here is what role, if any, should the federal or state government play in regulating internet activities? mind is not yet made up on the issue”, the Senator stated. An Internet Poker Freedom Act is soon to be debated for the third time since Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced the bill in 2011. The extent to which Sanders will adapt his views on online gambling remains to be seen, however it’s safe to say that strict tax regulation on such businesses would be thoroughly imposed under his leadership.

Sanders’ unclarified stance on cyber issues does not imply the presidential candidate is incompetent to deal with matters of the ‘net. To maintain his image as a candidate relevant to America’s growing issues he must soon, however, present a credible plan on how to best approach censorship, cybersecurity and online gambling. 

Jackson is a freelance journalist specialized in politics and media.