Bernie Sanders: Why millennials are “Feeling the Bern”

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Bernie Sanders: Why millennials are “Feeling the Bern”

Léa Aliberti, Contributor

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There are many, many distinct characteristics that people use to define millennials – a healthy interest in politics is usually not one of them. But that attitude may be changing because someone is finally speaking our language.

Bernie Sanders, ironically enough, the oldest candidate to ever run for President, knows enough not to ignore us. Instead, he fights for the same issues that we want to see rectified for our future. At 74 years of age, Sanders seems to be one, if not the only, presidential candidate who understands that it is millennials who will be living here in the future.

Bernard “Bernie” Sanders is an independent, junior U.S. Senator from Vermont and a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in the 2016 election. He is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, although he describes himself as a democratic socialist.

Sanders is known as a leading progressive voice on many twenty-first century issues, such as: campaign finance reform, universal healthcare, LGBTQIA+ rights, parental leave, income inequality, and climate change, to name a few. He has been a strong and serious advocate for civil rights and civil liberties since his days in college, and still continues to be one today. In more recent years, Sanders has spoken out on the issue of prison reform and addressing the prevalence of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. He has historically been very critical of U.S. foreign policy, and opposed the Iraq War since its beginning.

But Sanders also inspires young people with a positive message. Blake Geraci, 23, of Hadley, says one word comes to mind when asked how he feels about Bernie Sanders: “Optimistic.”

“He strikes me as a man of integrity and someone I can believe in,” Geraci continues. ” I feel like much of what he says resonates with me and how I feel this country should be run…about the inequalities that exist as well as how they should be handled.” Geraci also noted how Sanders “has a record of following through with what he believes in…despite the negative publicity, he still considers himself a socialist.”

According to the Huffington Post, “millennials accept that Global Warming is real, [they] broadly support equality for the LGBT community, have no qualms about interracial marriage and are much more diverse, more civic-minded generation.”

Sanders is focussing on these topics, letting the young voters know he’s listening (and not in an NSA kind of way, either).

On Sanders’s official campaign website, voters can read all about his life and political career, read up on the issues his campaign focuses on, look up local events to attend, volunteer or donate to the campaign, buy merchandise, and more. On the website, he states: “The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment, and provides health care for all? …These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.”

“He also protested during the civil rights movement and was on the front lines,” Geraci said.

Which is true – in 1962, Sanders led his fellow University of Chicago classmates to protest segregation in campus housing, saying that, “We [the students] feel it is an intolerable situation when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university owned apartments.”

He also participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and a few weeks after, he was charged with resisting arrest during a demonstration against segregation in Chicago’s public schools.

Now, how is the oldest presidential candidate able to capture America’s youth more than any other major political candidate? Free public college (on the Wall Street dime) certainly doesn’t hurt his polling with young folks, but that is not the extent to which Bernie Sanders appeals to us.

“I like his viewpoints, and I appreciate his record. I’m a little hesitant to hoist all of my support behind him, given the polling. But, who knows what will happen? It’s so early,” says Lindsey Shoemaker, a 20-year-old community college student in Holyoke interested in legal studies. “I like that he supports the little guy, the 99 percent. He’s anti-corporation. He’s pro-LGBTQ. He supports women and women’s health and equality. He’s just not the typical white male supremacist politician. He actually wants to help his constituency, instead of standing for the 1%,” Shoemaker said. “I’ll probably vote for him based on ideas alone.”

Shoemaker admitted to being a “hardcore Hillary supporter” in the past, stating that she was “always a supporter [of Sanders], but I thought that Hillary would be a more pragmatic choice. But after Bernie started going up in the polls and voters responded to [Hillary’s] email scandal in an overwhelmingly negative way, I started to ‘feel the Bern,’ so to speak.”

Sanders’s strong-footed, almost never-changing values enable him to stand out next to other politicians in the race. Millennials are trying to distance themselves from the political mistakes and scandals of the twentieth century, and are drawn to Sanders, a beacon of political right-doing. He acknowledges the ever-increasing voting youth in this country, and focuses on issues he realizes are important to them, and consequently, the future.

Andy Smith, a 21-year-old University of Massachusetts Isenberg student, commented that “Bernie Sanders is a refreshing change to the same old business and politics… It would be nice to have someone who really is different in the White House.”

Email Léa Aliberti at [email protected]

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