Bernie Sanders is creaming Hillary Clinton, thanks in large part to young voters.
A new CNN/ORC poll released Thursday shows that Sanders is now beating Clinton in Iowa among likely Democratic voters 51% to 43%, and another poll published Tuesday found Sanders leads in New Hampshire by 27 points. His success isn’t solely due to his status as an anti-establishment candidate, but because of a deeper-rooted affection young voters have for the self-described socialist.
As he stands, Sanders has the youth vote locked up. Among voters under the age of 35, Sanders enjoys a cool 11-point lead over Clinton. Though these voters tend to be unpredictable about turnout, their support is significant. President Barack Obama was elected to the White House twice due in large part to his ability to garner support from millennial voters.
So why are young voters so fond of Sanders? He’s old, he’s cranky, and he’s kind of a kook.
To put it simply, Bernie is Bae, meaning many younger voters see him as their “one and only.” The phrase has taken over campaign apparel and has even become an unlikely hashtag.
His specific brand of outrage makes what he has to say not just entertaining, but also believable. When I watch Sanders speak, I am completely convinced that he intends to do exactly what he says.
By contrast, Hillary Clinton is one of the most unconvincing candidates to have ever graced the political stage. She is a pantsuit-wearing cyborg who literally doesn’t sweat. Seriously, her sweat glands don’t produce perspiration. (Probably because she is made of metal, though this has yet to be confirmed because she will melt anyone who gets to close with her laser-beam eyes.)
In addition to holding a tremendous advantage by being an actual human, the policy changes Sanders has been stumping for jive with millennial priorities. Here’s a quick and dirty laundry list of the issues young people are primarily concerned with and why Bernie fits the bill.
1. Student Loans
The average student graduates from college with $28,000 in student loans, and some of them are so freaked out about their debt that they are fleeing the country to escape their financial burdens. It’s no wonder that a candidate who has made a key component of his platform about making college free for all would be appealing.
Despite the fact that increased federal funding to higher education is what made college so damn expensive in the first place, millennials are thirsty for more government intervention. In fact, Sander’s proposed governmental takeover of higher education is exactly what recent and soon-to-be college graduates have been raised to expect.
They watched their parents’ generation cause the sub-prime mortgage bubble and the consequences unfold in the form of the 2008 recession. They observed their parents vote for candidates who responded to this economic downturn by throwing money at the problem in the form of bailouts and stimulus packages, and it seemed to kind of work, if only in the most shallow sense of the word. After seeing this type of behavior repeatedly exhibited as a legitimate solution, of course they’re inclined to favor a candidate who also wants to fix the higher education bubble by dumping (even more) money on it.
Millennials have yet to comprehend that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To them, it makes perfect sense to make college “free” because many of these young adults’ lifestyles are being subsidized by their parents. To millennials, parents and the government are one in the same — their function is to pick up the bill.
2. Health Care
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I’m guilty of this kind of free-riding behavior that’s become emblematic of my generation. Although I don’t rely on my parents for everyday living expenses, I am still covered by their health insurance and plan to keep it that way as long as possible.
I’m not the only one, either. Only about half of those under the age of 25 have opted into an employer-provided health insurance plan largely because many are opting to stay under their parents health plans. We’re not doing this just because we want free contact lenses until we turn 26, but because we’re seeking shelter from the disastrous health care market that Obamacare created. Premiums among those who are young and healthy have ballooned 5.3 percent thanks to the healthcare law.
So the healthcare industry is a confusing disaster that has scared many away from even trying to figure it out. What’s interesting, however, is that instead of running from the same kind of government intervention that tends to ruin everything, first-time voters overwhelmingly favor the idea of a single-payer system. They see more government as a solution to problems caused by already-too-much-government intervention.
Admittedly, I don’t totally understand this tendency among my peers, but my guess would be that it probably has something to do with the way we were educated. The campus protests of 2015 revealed just how the classroom has swung in the leftward direction. Full-grown university students were begging administrators to monitor their classmates’ speech and to punish those who didn’t parrot the social justice talking points fed to them by their professors. If there’s one thing to take away from all of the campus chaos, it’s that millennials are all too comfortable with authority and censorship. After spending years in the classroom where they are taught to look to government for everything, it makes sense they would want to vote for someone who wants to extend its role.
Alternatively, Clinton does not express a desire to dismantle current health care law to make way for a larger program, at least not to the colossal extent that Sanders does. During the Democratic debate on Sunday, Clinton made it clear that she’s a huge fan of Obamacare. She even attacked Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan. During this exchange, Clinton made it painfully obvious that she’s pushing for the status quo, and she’s pushing hard.
Why would any voter, particularly a young voter, be at all interested in Clinton’s plan to preserve a broken healthcare system that has made them worse off? For many of my peers, Sanders’s approach to ripping up failing healthcare legislation and replacing it with a plan that gives everyone the same amount of care appeases their inner fair-mongering social justice warrior.
3. Campaign Finance Reform
Among Sanders supporters I have spoken with, some are most attracted to his desire to reduce a donor’s sphere of influence in politics. This was surprising to me. I mean, campaign finance isn’t the sexiest thing in the world to talk about, am I right?
On second thought, it makes sense — of course a group of young people who are known for having an obsession with fairness and social justice would be into campaign finance reform.
Also, we are poor! We’re the first generation to be predicted to fare worse than our parents. It makes sense that a generation saddled with overwhelming amounts of debt would be angry about deep-pocketed fat cats getting to set the political agenda! We are a generation resigned to eating freezer-burned burritos and mooching contact lenses off of our parents’ health insurance until our degrees are paid off. In the millennial mind, those check-writing fiends must be stopped.
At the same time, I actually admire the desire for greater transparency in the political process among my peers. As one who keeps an eye on the beltway, I’ve seen lawmakers support causes and push for legislation that directly benefits their donors time and time again. It’s frustrating. I want my vote to count just as much as a lobbyist’s, but it often does not.
However, I’m not sure that younger people fully appreciate the connection between free speech and political advocacy. Cronyism should be discouraged as often as possible, however throwing a wet blanket on the funding apparatus for issue advocacy will inevitably hurt free speech. Though if the climate on the college campus is any indication, millennials wouldn’t be all that alarmed about the threat Bernie’s campaign finance reform ideas pose to the First Amendment. In fact, 40 percent of those between the ages of 18 to 34 say government should quash speech when it is offensive in nature.
Bernie Sanders is a champion of the millennial cause. He has taken up the issues that affect young people the most and is using them as a battering ram against milquetoast candidates who do nothing more than shill for the status quo. In short, Sanders is hot and Clinton is not.