Do you #FeeltheBern? If you’re a conservative, watching Democratic primary results probably gives you #HeartBern. After all, a socialist has taken four of the previous six primaries and is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Bernie Sanders’ huge takes among millennials and the general voting population are no comfort even when he’s narrowly lost primaries to Hillary Clinton, who has been supposed to be able to defeat him in a landslide.
If you’re scratching your head at Sanders’ continuing popularity, you’re not alone. Even reporters steeped in a left-leaning worldview have felt compelled to investigate and write countless articles trying to explain why women and young people turned out en masse to support a septuagenarian man in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond.
From the outside, it may all look radical, or even loony, to conservatives. After all, calling Sanders a socialist isn’t about hurling a twentieth-century epithet. It’s a term Sanders proudly uses to describe himself.
Bernie is obviously not someone conservatives would ever choose, but it’s always worth trying to understand your political adversaries. As someone who’s always lived amongst people currently debating whether to vote for Bernie or Hillary, I submit that in many cases, Bernie may actually be a rational (progressive voter’s) choice. Here’s a list of 10 reasons why:
1. Bernie’s the Protest Vote
2. Voters Should Matter
The Democratic National Committee initially scheduled very few debates and chose the most inconvenient times possible. You were bothered by the thought of a Clinton coronation. Bernie looks like a small-budget indie movie next to Clinton’s blockbuster, overstuffed with celebrity cameos (e.g., Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer), meant to distract from a disappointing plot about Debbie Wasserman Schultz choosing your next nominee.
3. Trust and Authenticity Are Appealing
Like Bud Lite, the always perfectly coiffed Hillary appeals to all the usual Democratic constituencies, without leaning too hard in any one direction — unless polls advise otherwise. Bernie, by contrast, looks like a rumpled professor who misplaced his comb. While he may be a little out there (from a Democrat’s point of view), Bernie talks like a true believer, just like many idealistic young voters. You have a sense of where he stands, and that probably feels reassuring.
4. Viva la Revolución
Amidst talk about unfairness (or inequality), Bernie talks about “political revolution.” This is cat nip for young voters, who are more likely to view the world through a lens of fairness and want to right all perceived wrongs. If such fixes require a revolution, young voters are most likely to sign on, having less invested in the status quo. (Of course, a quick glance at Twitter indicates that in 2016, many post-twenty-somethings are also ready to #BurnItAllDown.) All of a sudden, “out there” is prime political real estate.
5. The Economy Tanked
For Americans who finished college during the Obama era, it’s been tough to launch economically. If this was your first experience with the job market, especially if you found yourself moving from dorm room to childhood bedroom, the economy looks broken. And if you were raised on a steady diet of liberal ideas, you’re waiting for the government to fix it.
6. Socialism Doesn’t Scare You
Younger voters don’t have strong negative associations with socialism. They missed the Cold War. What they know of socialism is likely what they’ve learned from admiring college professors; socialism probably just sounds like one more reasonable choice on the menu of government models.
7. The Church of ‘None’ Suits Millennials
Younger Americans are less religious; many are religious “nones.” Sanders, who “squirms when asked whether he believes in G-d,” may be running the least religious campaign in American history. That strategy comes naturally for Bernie, whose progressive atheism represents a strain of twentieth-century American Jewish culture that has gone mainstream, like bagels. If you’re an American unaffiliated with any organized religion, Bernie’s worldview feels like home.
8. Voters Dislike Threats
Madeleine Albright presumably intended to rally the feminist foot soldiers by admonishing, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” However, if you’re a young feminist, you weren’t amused by Albright’s expressing her inner Jonathan Edwards. Albright’s comment revealed a yawning generational gap among feminists, culminating in an apology in The New York Times.
9. The Second Wave Has Passed
As one young New Hampshire feminist told The Free Beacon, “[Clinton’s Second Wave] feminism does not represent my feminism, and I think it’s really important to differentiate that.” Younger feminists have evolved beyond voting for someone just because she’s the woman running, especially if her record on sexual harassment looks like Hillary’s.
10. Bernie Embraces Humor
Bernie and his celebrity doppelgänger Larry David may be the highlight of “Saturday Night Live” this season, because Bernie doesn’t mind if you laugh at him. That’s something you would never say about Hillary, whose part in her own SNL skit was lackluster. More disturbingly, of course, are the legal threats the Clinton campaign made against a Los Angeles comedy club after comics started cracking jokes about Clinton last fall. So much for Hillary’s being strong.
The biggest upside in all of this from a conservative point of view? A competitive race on the Democratic side means more Larry David in our future. And if there’s one thing we could all use this primary season, it’s a good laugh. Thankfully, that’s an area where Bernie Sanders (played by Larry David) is pretty, pretty, pretty good.