If you ask an older person if they are familiar with Bernie Sanders, chances are they may not know who he is. However, if you ask a younger voter, chances are they will not only know who he is, but they are supporting him. By the way, Bernie Sanders is a self-described Democratic Socialist, and Republicans have been more than happy to scream about socialism to their uninformed base – all while racing each other to the political bottom.
Unlike the typically older and conservative voters who support candidates like Donald Trump or Ben Carson, younger Americans are less likely to tremble in fear at the very mention of socialism. They understand the difference between Democratic Socialism and Marxist Socialism. Democratic Socialism takes the power back from the elite, and puts it back into the hands of the people. It puts our government to work for us, by providing basic services such as healthcare for all, and affordable education. These are not radical ideas, and when Americans are polled, they seem to favor Democratic Socialist policies.
In 2012, Barack Obama proved that having the older white male vote in America is no longer necessary to be elected president. We embarked on this new chapter of diverse demographics deciding the presidency in 2012, and there is no reason to think this will change in 2016.
While the majority of Sanders supporters seem to be youthful and idealistic, they are not the only ones embracing his ideas. The right wing media echo chamber has done such a masterful job of attaching a stigma to the word socialism, even attempting to imply that his brand of socialism is equivalent to Nazi Germany. To many uninformed Americans, especially the Fox “News” viewers, socialism means a totalitarian government. They think it’s something resembling Soviet Russia, when in fact, Democratic Socialism is much different than Marxist Socialism.
Since the Cold War, the term has become something of a dirty word in U.S. politics: a phrase used not just as a description of a political and economic system, but as an insult used by conservatives in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of their left-leaning rivals.
Despite his self-described socialist views, Sanders is experiencing an unexpected wave of popularity, and is drawing some of the largest, most electric crowds of any presidential candidate so far. (Source)
Younger Americans are not afraid of socialism. When polled, forty-nine percent of adults age 18-29 had a favorable view of socialism versus forty-three percent who had a negative view. While the numbers are close, this is significant in two ways. First, this poll was taken four years ago, and there are many more people who have reached voting age. Secondly, this same poll was taken 20 months prior, and at that time, only forty-three percent of young Americans favored socialism. In twenty months, the favorable percentage increased by six percent. That is quite a large jump, especially when you consider that most people outside of Vermont had never heard of Bernie Sanders at that time.
It isn’t hard to see why younger Americans seem to embrace an alternative to unregulated capitalism. Take someone my age (thirty-two) for example. Ronald Reagan, one of the worst presidents in recent history, was three years into office when I was born. Unions were already beginning to feel the wrath of the relentless attacks at the hands of those pulling the strings for Reagan’s war on the middle class.
My generation grew up experiencing a massive shift in wealth from the middle class to the top one percent. My generation did not get to enjoy an America where good unionized jobs with benefits and pensions were the rule and not the exception. We did not have the ability to come straight out of high school and into a manufacturing job that would support a family, and allow an individual to build a stable, middle class family. We have not experienced the so-called benefits of free market capitalism that we were taught about growing up.
In fact, we have experienced the opposite. We have experienced growing income and wealth inequality. We have experienced a shrinking middle class, where good paying jobs have been outsourced by the millions, only to be replaced with eight dollar an hour service jobs. America has experienced the devastation that a healthcare system causes when its sole purpose is to make a profit from the suffering of others, and a society that places a higher value on locking up young people instead of educating them.
We have watched the richest nation on earth become a leader among developed nations in childhood poverty. We’ve seen a decade plus of endless war for the sake of profit, and we have seen America abandon its own. This has all happened as a direct result of unregulated, anything-goes capitalism. More than anyone else, our generation understands that there must be a better way.
Enter Bernie Sanders. Here is a seventy-three year old man with unruly hair who goes on and on about income inequality, healthcare being a right and not a privilege, and how education should be affordable for all. Where did these ideas come from?
Bernie Sanders stands for the things that are important to the majority of young Americans. They are tired of the status quo, the establishment. They are tired of being an afterthought. They do not care about petty labels like socialist. They are looking for a leader who represents the people’s interest.
Bernie Sanders is that leader and his rise in recent polls show that. He is popular because he has introduced a better way of doing things to a generation who either withdrew from politics out of frustration, or never considered getting involved until now. Even if Bernie Sanders doesn’t win, his ideas are being discussed by a generation that never realized there was an alternative until now, and that’s a great thing.
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