Since the early days of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, my social media feed has been filled with a menagerie of Bernie-themed GIFs, clickbait, news, and statuses. On Facebook and Twitter it has appeared, for months now, that Sanders’ campaign is the focal point of the world -- the emphasis of the media’s coverage of the 2016 race and a barometer of Sanders’ success in his presidential bid.
In this virtual Bernie-centric domain, Hillary Clinton content is a rarity, and when it does appear, it’s often in the form of insults and derogatory comparisons (to Sanders) -- noting Clinton’s involvement in the Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964, accusing her of fraud or highlighting her relationship with Wall Street.
Trump, Cruz, and Rubio appear even less so, and never in a positive light.
Yes, I am a Millennial and I attended a very progressive liberal arts school from which I graduated not long ago, but in the tiny bubble in which my Facebook and Twitter profiles preside, I see a hope that these days is rare amongst my peers -- most of whom are saddled down with crippling student loan debt, stuck with unfulfilling and underpaying jobs and cynical about their future prospects.
Of course I am not ignorant enough to believe that my very limited and homogenous group of ultra-liberal peers are an accurate litmus test of America’s political ideals, nor is their overwhelming support for Sanders an accurate representation of the 2016 presidential polls. But that degree of hope I see in their Bernie content -- the comments and opinions expressed -- is endearing, and that hope turned into something tangible yesterday as it represented the margin that allowed the Sanders campaign to come within 0.3% of the Clinton campaign in the Iowa Democratic caucus.
Indeed, the fact that Sanders managed to receive support from 86% of the 17-24 age group and 81% of the 25-29 age group yesterday is truly astonishing. Not even President Obama received such a strong backing from young people in the 2008 Iowa caucus (57% of those ages 17-29).
In fact, I think it’s safe to claim that no one has ever received such an overwhelming majority of support from any demographic in any U.S. presidential election, ever (please challenge me if I’m wrong).
Meanwhile, Hillary’s campaign saw a 20%+ margin in support from members of the 50+ age group over the Sanders campaign. This disparity, I believe, represents a major ideological disconnect between Millennials and Baby Boomers (at least on the Democratic side of the aisle).
For years now, Millennials have been accused of being checked out, selfish, self-involved and uninterested in fulfilling any of their civic duties, let alone voting or running for elected office. It seems that Baby Boomers are all too often quick to issue a quip of Millennials, whose work ethic is deemed marginal at best, and whose obsessions with technology and inability to hold face-to-face conversation seems to mark a prophetic apocalypse of traditional American values to some.
Millennial voter turnout in 2014 was dismal at best, and truthfully the lack of political interest I see in many of my peers -- past posting GIFs and memes -- often keeps me awake at night. I truly understand some of the concerns over Millennials’ obsession with self; some people my age are appalling.
But I think that yesterday -- if not the past few months overall -- proves that, when properly galvanized, Millennials can be the difference maker and have a positive impact on society. Most of my peers are aware that much of Sanders’ platform will be difficult to get through Congress, let alone implement on a federal scale, but that won’t keep them from supporting a candidate who has truly impassioned a generation, many of them for the first time ever in that regard.
Baby Boomer Clinton supporters often claim that Millennials support Sanders because they weren’t alive to see the failure of socialism during the Cold War. True, but the fact is that any political or economic model is capable of failing, as democracy and capitalism have failed so many in the United States over the past 50 years, if not since this country’s founding.
Yes, socialism turned into something much more maniacal across the Soviet Bloc some 60 years ago, but at present day, socialism is thriving across Scandinavia; I was lucky enough to behold the wonders of an effective socialist system when I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013.
I’m not saying that Denmark is comparable to the United States, but it proves that socialism can work.
And the truth of the matter is that the term “democratic socialist” is really the only thing holding back many Americans -- both Republicans and Democrats, as well as Clinton supporters -- from supporting Sanders. The way the media has represented Sanders and turned socialism into a negative buzz word draws question to their ethics and makes me wonder just how much control the Democratic establishment has over the likes of, say, CNN, CNBC and the New York Times, etc.
This election has essentially turned into a feud between generations on the Democratic side. But at the end of the day, whether or not Sanders’ campaign truly represents a political revolution, it does prove that Millennials ARE interested in politics, CAN make a difference, and WILL be the torchbearers that keep the United States great in the future. That I can guarantee.
Photo Credit: K. Farabaugh / VOA