Litigated article by: Dayna Lindo
Published October 8, 2015
As stated in an article published by the Guardian, since declaring his bid for the White House in April, Bernie Sanders, a self-stated Democratic socialist, has held some of the biggest rallies of any of the Democratic or Republican candidates. The Vermont senator – an independent in the Senate, but running for the Democratic nomination – hosted a live webcast in July that was watched by around 100,000 people at 3,500 different events nationwide.
1. He is engaging more Millennials to become interested in politics
Politicians do not often inspire memes, or clothing lines, or indeed young people in general. Young people are not even supposed to be interested in politics right now. The number of 18- to 29-year-olds voting declined from 2008 to 2012. The 2014 midterms saw the lowest youth turnout ever: just 19.9%.
Since his announcement for the presidential seat, Sanders has inspired countless hashtags, memes and general fanfare. On Instagram, #feelthebern and #Bernie2016 vie for dominance with the #babesforbernie hashtag – which is mainly self-applied by young women who are holding or wearing some sort of Sanders apparel. On Facebook, 1.8 million people like Sanders’s page, 0.6 million more than the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and 1.6 million more than Republican Jeb Bush.
2. His moral track record is consistent
“One thing is his genuineness. He’s been a consistent warrior against economic inequality since the 60s, and he hasn’t changed a bit,” stated Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, an organization that encourages young people to get involved in politics.
Nick Kowalczyk, 29, when asked about the design on his shirt which vaguely resembles an outline of the head of the Vermont senator and leftwing candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, stated he is planning to wear a lot of “Bernie For President” apparel in the next few weeks and upcoming year.
“Bernie Sanders uses socialism in the way it makes sense, which is just good, common, moral, ethical policy,” Kowalczyk says. “And I appreciate the guy’s honesty and his steadfastness to his beliefs. His consistency.”
3. He acknowledges that civil rights is a work-in-progress in the U.S. and wants to work on it
Before the Supreme Court’s recent “equal marriage for all” announcement, Sanders declared that it was “time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage.” In 1996, then-Rep. Sanders voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed by the states and was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the 14th Amendment in 2013.
Sanders doesn’t just stop on the issue of equality for LGBT Americans; he has been a longtime supporter of women’s rights as well. Sanders has voted against numerous anti-abortion bills in his time in Congress, and has been given a 100% rating by NARAL every year since 2003.
Beth Basketville, 25, stated that she attended an event supporting a political candidate for the first time in her life. “He’s the only person running who I’d actually want to be in the White House,” Basketville says. “I like that he’s the candidate that supports women and marginalized individuals. He’s the only one who’s really looking out for those groups.”
4. He understands the HELL that is student loans, and actually wants to do something about it
It isn’t a secret that the burden student debt has dampened the once idolized idea of attending college for a higher education, and in turn, a higher income salary. But even long before Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, finding solutions to combat the increasing cost of higher education was a major part of his mission as a senator. He has supported extending subsidized federal student loan rates, as well as making employee educational assistance tax-deductible.
Last year, surrounded by Vermont college students and graduates wrestling with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, Sanders announced that he was introducing legislation to help students earn college credits in high school in order to cut the amount of time they spend paying tuition costs.
“Millennials, we in general identify ourselves as the generation of debt,” says Moumita Ahmed, part of a team which runs People for Bernie, an activist group independent from Sanders’s campaign. “That’s our identity. Bernie Sanders that’s one of his biggest issues: his biggest platform is debt inequality.”
5. He’s down with the digital era
Who ever said you can’t bring about change through the internet? With so many Millennials spreading “Bern-fever” through sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we are proving just how we CAN actually make a social impact through the use of social media.
According to social media monitor Crowd Tangle, Sanders has the highest-level engagement on his individual Facebook posts when compared to the other candidates running for president. He has the largest number of people liking his messages, sharing his thoughts, and commenting on his plans.
Kawashima-Ginsberg stated that his ability to translate online popularity to real-life support is a demonstration of how millennials do not have the same separation between their online and real-world lives as older generations.
6. He questions the validity of the war on drugs
Although he’s still skeptical of legalization across the board, Sanders labels the War on Drugs as a “failed policy” that has trapped millions of nonviolent offenders in an endless prison-to-prison pipeline.
This aligns with the views of a vast majority of millennials, who support the legalization of marijuana use and possession. According to Pew Research Center, 68% of millennials support the legalization of recreational marijuana nationwide. (Before tossing out the “that’s just pothead twenty-somethings” canard, Pew also found that only 52% of millennials have actually tried marijuana, meaning that legalization of recreational pot is more popular than pot itself.)
7. He is concerned about the well-being of our environment
In 2012, Sanders blasted Sen. Jim Inhofe (he of “snowballs prove climate change is a scam” infamy) for being one of the biggest climate skeptics in Congress.
“The bottom line is that when Sen. Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists,” Sanders said. “For better or worse, when Sen. Inhofe speaks, the Republican party follows. And when the Republican party follows, it is impossible to get real work done in the Congress.”
The next year, Sanders introduced the Climate Protection Act, which would tax greenhouse gas emissions and invest the revenue in research into clean energy. According to a University of Texas Energy Poll, 56% of millennials say that they are inclined to vote for candidates who support cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
8. He is less concerned with filling his own pockets with cash and more concerned with America’s widening wealth gap
Sanders told Mother Jones in an interview, “There is something immoral when so few have so much and so many have so little. I don’t come to San Francisco very often, but we’ve driven around the city and seen people sleeping out on the streets. In my state, you’ve got people working 40, 50 hours a week and going to emergency food shelves because they don’t earn enough money to feed their families adequately. You have millions of young people graduating college deeply in debt. They can’t get their lives started, can’t get married. So I think the issue of income and wealth inequality is in fact a moral issue.”
Sixty-four percent of millennials believe that the gap between rich and poor has grown during their lifetimes, according to a Harvard Public Opinion Project poll. And they are finding that even in their twenties, income inequality is widening the wealth gap between them and their peers.
“People are working longer hours for lower wages and are exhausted,” Sanders told Mother Jones. “I think they don’t have the energy to engage in political struggle. And second of all, the power of the billionaire class, people look up and say, ‘We can’t beat them.’”
Gabbatt, Adam. “Millennials ‘heart’ Bernie Sanders: Why the Young and Hip Are #FeelingtheBern.” The Gaurdian. © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited, 20 Aug. 2015. Web.
Bixby, Scott. “Definitive Proof That Bernie Sanders Is the Candidate Young People Need.” Mic. Policy.Mic, 15 May 2015. Web.