It’s kind of funny how a white man in his seventies is fast becoming the favorite presidential candidate of the millennial generation. He’s even catching up to Hillary Clinton—the more popular candidate. Why would a generation of progressive twenty-somethings be turning away from a possible first woman president to an old white man? It may be because Sanders is choosing to combat the same issues that plague our generation.
Even before he announced his candidacy, Bernie Sanders has been a very progressive man. He describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and hopes to “frighten the billionaire class.” Sanders has been campaigning for civil rights even before being a senator, in his youth, he organized protests and sit-ins. He even participated in the March on Washington in the 60s. Deciding not to ally himself as either a democrat or a republican, he has always run as an independent. In 1988, he was first elected to Congress and spent 18 years there before winning a Senate seat in 2006 and has been there ever since. Now, Sanders has chosen to run for the democratic candidacy.
Sanders also has pretty controversial, but progressive, views when it comes to his campaign platform. For climate change, he believes that we must change how we treat the environment if future generations are going to be able to live in comfort. He says we have to “transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies” and he believes in global warming, a controversial topic in itself. When Senator Jim Inhofe brought a snowball to Congress to dismiss the threats of global warming, Sanders publically disagreed. He also publically challenged Wall Street, believing that the firms are “too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.” Mr. Sanders also believes in affordable colleges, raising the minimum wage, “health care as a right for all,” and taxing the wealthy, among other issues. His campaign agenda is broken down further on his website.
Most of the issues Sanders is choosing to run on hits home with the millennial generation. Student debt is through the roof, civil rights is on the upswing with #BlackLivesMatter, and young “people are working longer hours for lower wages.” His messages of change really resonates with the younger demographic that are desperate to just be able to afford a house with all of their student loans. Right now, Sanders is offering solutions to current problems mostly affecting young people and his “democratic socialism” is a breathe of fresh air from Big Money and scandals running Congress. If Sanders continues to show that he cares about the millennials and not just lining his own pocket, then he may keep drawing in voters. Despite the stereotype of political apathy, millennials have the power to change the course of this election, and they intend to. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have fast growing fan bases while Republican names like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are being vilified for being conservatives and not being in touch with the current generation. If any candidate has any chance of winning, they have to be able to sway the millennials.
Sanders doesn’t have the luxury to be supported by big money, he has to rely on his supporters. He doesn’t cater to interest groups like other candidates, but relies on small donors who often only give $200 or less. His grassroots fundraising seems to be working well for him as small donors continue to give him money to get where he needs to go. On his first official day as a presidential candidate, Sanders said that he has raised around $1.5 million for his campaign. Not being funded by big donors means that if he is eventually elected president, he won’t owe anyone any favors and will able to begin his term with a clear agenda.
Right now, Bernie Sanders is doing pretty well. He’s continuously polling well, only trailing 8 points behind Clinton in a New Hampshire poll. A big problem for him, though, is that he is virtually unknown among African American and Latino voters, while Hillary is very popular. His team has doubts about his chances in bigger states like New York and California, but right now, he seems to be drawing crowds in Iowa. If he continues to push his name and agenda like he has been like he has been and wins the support of other minority voters, he may be able to beat out Hillary in the primaries and, from there, who knows.
This article was written by Halley Dewey, a writer for dusk magazine.