My many political conversations debates with Generation X have all begun to blend together, since they all tend to yield a similar result:
- Step 1: I cite facts, statistics and other compelling pieces of evidence that support progressive agendas like single-payer health care, a higher minimum wage and immediate action on climate change.
- Step 2: The member of Generation X thanks me condescendingly for my point of view and then explains to me that my youthful “idealism” is naïve and unhelpful.
- Step 3: I point out that America is the capital of the world when it comes to ambitious thinking (or “idealism,” if you prefer), and that all-important public institutions such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Park Service and the National Highway System were all made possible by a pioneering spirit and an unquenchable belief in America’s potential greatness.
- Step 4: They thank me for being part of the process, tell me I’ll “see things differently” when I get older, and that we should agree to disagree. Government cannot be a nanny, they say, and government cannot replace God as our moral center.
What if it could? What if we turned from corporate propaganda and instead used government the intended way: to build a consensus, using facts and rational debate, about our most important issues? What if we stopped complaining about the size of the government and focused instead on who owns it?
This, to be brief, is why Bernie Sanders is doing so well among millennial and first-time voters. He’s just about as far as you can get from a “protest candidate” like Donald Trump, who brings vitriol and anger to bear on the issues, but doesn’t trouble himself in the slightest with coming up with solutions.
Bernie Sanders is a solutions kind of guy, and that’s the reason why this millennial, just one among many millions, has given him an enthusiastic endorsement.
Who’s Voting for Bernie?
When it comes to young and Independent voters, Bernie Sanders has been mopping the floor with his competition.
To put it mildly, participation in the Primary Process by Republicans and Democrats has been pretty pathetic. In 2012, only about 16 percent of eligible voters attended their state’s primary or caucus. Things start to look even more bleak when you realize that almost half of America’s registered voters don’t belong to either of these two major political parties, preferring to remain officially independent or registered with one of our “third parties,” including the venerable Green Party, now poised to have its most successful election ever.
Bernie Sanders has won enormous victories in states where Independent voters are allowed to participate in primaries and caucuses, indicating that, among populations that resemble America as a whole, the elderly socialist from Brooklyn is the most popular candidate.
Propelling him to victory, of course, are vast numbers of millennial voters. What’s making them feel the Bern?
Sanders: The Anti-Candidate
As we touched on above, Trump’s popularity isn’t totally surprising. Most Americans are fed up with the fact that the government is owned and operated by the upper class. The trouble is, most of Trump’s supporters, though their anger is understandable and justified, don’t seem to trouble themselves with seeking out actual solutions.
Millennials, however, excel at this. We grew up using the Internet to gather information, and for the most part, we’ve gotten pretty good at it. We appear to recognize, more frequently and more successfully than Generation X, that there’s no excuse for not knowing something when the Internet is all but omnipresent in our lives. We carry powerful computers in our pockets, becoming living, breathing fact-checking machines. Simply put, we don’t take our candidates at face-value.
It’s not an understatement to claim that corporate, cable-based news outlets have become 24/7 propaganda machines. Fox News remains the most reviled example of this, but CNN, MSNBC and even PBS have all become part of the problem as well. Literally none of them expended a single syllable of coverage on Democracy Spring, which resulted in hundreds of arrests in D.C. over the course of several weeks (including Ben and Jerry, of Ben & Jerry’s), and which has been calling attention to all of the same issues that Bernie has been hitting hard on the campaign trail.
Bernie Sanders is the best anti-candidate we’ve ever had. He’s funded his campaign almost exclusively by soliciting donations from The People, and as a result has raked in more individual campaign contributions than any U.S. candidate ever. He speaks to, and provides solutions for, the problems faced by millions of everyday Americans, instead of holding the party line on the destructive economic and social policies of decades past.
Trump supporters claim their candidate “tells it like it is,” but this isn’t remotely true. Trump tells it the way he sees it. Sanders, meanwhile, has staked his entire career — all forty years of it — on the simple premise that public servants can be successful when they prioritize the needs of Middle America instead of the needs of the Donor Class.
The millennial generation, which excels at parsing truth from lies, has responded with overwhelming force to Sanders’ unique campaign and to his commitment to honesty, integrity and real progressive change. Yes — some of our elders seem committed to the narrative that we’re naïve, idealistic (as though that’s a bad thing) and entitled.
If idealism is about leaving the world better than we found it for the next generation, that’s something I’ll never apologize for. Neither will Bernie.
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