Eighty-four percent of Iowan democrats under the age of 30 just voted for a gruff grandfatherly socialist from New Hampshire. The unpolished aura of the self-proclaimed democratic socialist captivates our youngest voting bloc, 18-24 year olds, and inspires millennials across the nation to “Feel the Bern.” Sanders’ unexpected dash to the top of the Democratic race sparked political tempers in both parties and largely confused the average American not feeling the Bern.
Put a hold on all of that economic theory, tax policy and every other key part of a presidential campaign platform. Take a step back from the media blitz and the political fervor. Before condemning Sanders’ supporters for their foolishness, instead consider his adeptly-spun narrative in light of the time-worn nature of youth, the demographic Sanders dominates.
The nation’s youngest voting bloc sits perched on the cusp of adulthood, the toughest and most bewildering exercise in uncertainty they’ve faced so far.
Sanders offers to make the path easier and better.
He gives democratic socialism to a disenchanted and rudderless electorate, a generation without memory of the Cold War and the Communist-stained horrors of socialism. A generation that forgets how the promise of good leaders and Utopian societies resulted in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, a starving Venezuela, bankrupt Greece and murderous Red China.
Instead, these young Americans gasp on the fumes of Occupy Wall Street and stumble through a haze wrought by 15 years of war in the Middle East. They condemn corruption in the political establishment, balk at the nation’s income inequality and wallow in a muck of student loans, faithfully oozing the timeless arrogance of youth.
Enter Bernie Sanders, the grimacing grandpa from New Hampshire. He ambles into their dorm rooms and studio apartments with a compelling vision of the future on his lips. His words are driven by a hammer of bluntness and sincerity, thudding into a generation still grasping at the idealism of youth. With Sanders being the liberal foil to Trump’s radical right, Sanders and Trump promise extreme change to the current political arena, capitalizing on our youth’s distaste for incrementalism.
Sanders’ promises of free college education, free universal healthcare and more job opportunities nestle into these idealistic expectations. For one moment, discard the ever-present and divisive obsession with the entitlement of millennials. Instead, consider what those three campaign promises alone could mean to those feeling the Bern. An opportunity to learn and equip oneself without constraint, certainty of medical care when in need regardless of ability to pay, and an increased chance at making an economically sustainable living. To the debt-ridden college graduate struggling to stay afloat, this first impression isn’t all that far from utopia.
Sanders feeds a generation’s rumbling hunger for freshness in a gridlocked political climate. He urges Americans, many young enough to be his grandchildren, to give voting a chance. Then, he just hands them his message, speaking to the core of their journey into American adulthood. Suddenly, Bernie Sanders is a chance. The man rekindling a dream. A dream that maybe, just maybe, says they too could taste a revamped version of the American Dream. In the end, the dream of something better looks more important than socialism, the means of reaching it.