There’s a thing today by the New Yorker, a cultural commentary, about Bernie Sanders, Late Millennial voters, and well, should they just move on?
The piece basically says: How is Bernie Sanders, the old Jewish dude, getting the youth vote (age 18-24)? How is it not a hip and bae candidate, a la Barack Obama in 2008?
The piece reasons that Sanders brings “purity.” There’s a throwback aesthetic to him: He isn’t simply going with the party; he’s making up his own rules and the kids, who aren’t yet hammered to death by reality (reality being that politics is politics), go with it. And that’s why the kids like him.
Well that’s not true. The piece has been ripped a little on social media for being too presumptive in understanding Millennial consciousness. I would agree with this, but there are good takeaways from everything:
- Millennials are being hammered by reality all the freaking time. We know this, at least, and there’s plenty of data that shows Millennials still aren’t getting tons of jobs, that they’re still paying money to pay loans, rent apartments in gentrified areas, etc.
- Speaking of “hammered by reality,” I don’t think Late Millennials are oblivious to how politics works. They know, just like everyone else, that Congress lets the gears corrode, forcing progressive legislation to go backwards and be altered. They know, just like everyone else, that even the most radical of politicians needs to be a centrist to make change in America. They know, just like everyone else, that America’s two-party system is a political monopoly and proves that, usually, compromise is hard-earned. So a Bernie Sanders, however radical, would have to navigate that.
- Also, Late Millennials know the world is filled with terror and death and a lack of opportunity for many people. This is also reality. They know this.
- I don’t think every Early Millennial who voted for or supported President Obama is disillusioned by the realities of politics that forced Obama to go more moderate. Hell, Obama wasn’t even *that* liberal when he was elected in 2008. In fact, the fact that Obama made healthcare a more universal possibility, that he helped bring change to gay Americans in a major way, and that he helped rebound the economy, all to me show that politics *can* work. It’s not perfect. Oh God it will never be perfect. But things did work in the last eight years, and I don’t regret anything!
Finally, and most importantly, is something to really keep in mind about Sanders. However he performs, and whatever *you* think Sanders’ followers are thinking, the young coalition he’s assembled will help lead this country for the next 50 years. These are the young people who are now invested in the political process. Who cares what they see or don’t see? They’re involved. They care. They know how the game works, so they’ll negotiate that game, good and bad, to hopefully bring progress to America and the world.
Say what you will about Sanders’ chances this year (and really, don’t say what you will if it *is* misinformed), but compare this to a candidate back in 2004 who attempted to stir Early Millennials. His name was Howard Dean. The kids loved him. It didn’t work out for Dean, and really, he was nowhere near the phenomenon of Sanders. But Dean brought some young people into the fold, and these are the kids who are now working with President Obama, and with candidate Sanders … and with candidate Clinton.
This is the most important result of the Late Millennial love of Bernie Sanders. It’s not what they think or why they love him. (They love him more because he stands for things they believe in, not … you know … “purity.”)
No, the most important result of this love is that Late Millennials are highly engaged in the political process. These 18-24 year olds are involved. That’s a lasting impact that can’t be denied or debated.