Bernie Sanders talking to young people

Hey old people! This is why American youth Feel the Bern


By Sam Lagana

Bernie Sanders’ appeal to so many young people is uncanny to older Americans. As if the Democratic candidate with the socialist message has a secret energy that’s driving them to flock under his banner. No other presidential candidate has such influence over our young adults and even those who are not of voting age. After pressure from Sanders’ team and a lawsuit, an Ohio judge ruled last week that teenagers who turn 18 before Election Day can vote in Ohio’s primary.

What’s mind-boggling is that while the support for Bernie from young people is unwavering, older generations are left scratching their heads and scoffing. How can our youth be so loyal to a 70-something white man who works in Vermont? How can a card carrying Democratic socialist be so well liked by a generation that’s so in love with their connected devices and video games? Don’t these young voters know about the Red Scare? Older Americans often ask my friends and me: Don’t you know about the failed socialist and communist experiments that nearly drove the world to the brink of extinction?!

Well quite frankly, no. We are simply too young. We didn’t experience the grinding fear of mushroom clouds and ducking for cover under our school desks.

My generation is the most connected ever. No great surprise there, but what may come as a surprise is that our connected lives have helped many of us come to know the benefits of socialist programs throughout the world. That’s not to say every young American voter wants to take the name of capitalism and toss it aside as if it never benefited us or our families. But as we witness the prosperity and peace of Canada and Sweden, for example, there’s a lingering sense of frustration for American youth. It’s akin to the fear of nuclear warfare in a way. We constantly hear about our bleak future. How we will never achieve the success of our parents, our grandparents.

But how can this be when we are the most technically-savvy generation in the history of this “exceptional” nation? Like older Americans perplexed by the numbers of young people standing with Sanders, we are confused about where our nation, our collective future, is headed. And if disaster is on the horizon, why does it seem the generations before us are leading us to disaster?

Like many disaffected voters, young Bernie supporters also wonder why nothing ever gets done in Washington. The reason is simple. Instead of being raised on the word “progress”, all we know is “gridlock”.

In our lifetime all we have witnessed from Washington is two ruling parties locked in never-ending trench warfare. This self-inflicted front hasn’t moved for as long as we can remember. These two ruling parties are (apparently) unaware that American young people have a long list of priorities they’d like to see accomplished and atoned for. Yet what we’ve witnessed from all our screen time is that the two biggest power-brokers in the nation don’t seem interested in fixing anything. Now we’re either reaching voting age or preparing to vote for our first President, and we’re done with trench warfare and seeking an alternative.

Here’s something else we know all-too-well about how Washington has raised us. Corporate interests are more important than actual people. We are Citizens United babies, which we now know is a cruel oxymoron. We have witnessed a select few corporate king-pins get astronomical amounts in their checks while tens-of-millions work endlessly for pennies and live a life on the edge of financial disaster.

When a now famous 2014 Princeton study confirmed what we all know, that America is more oligarchy than democracy, it made us want to shun the Washington establishment even more. We have grown up believing average Americans have zero impact on public policy. “My vote doesn’t matter” has been drilled into us. This idea, that thinking, has made it even easier for the two parties and their corporate allies to remain status quo. Both of them are reaping the benefits of low-voter interest and the American people are paying the price. Another sour taste in the minds’ of young people.

Bernie Sanders has tapped into this angst, this anxiety over our future. This belief that the status quo has had too great a negative influence on how we foresee our future. He may be running for the Democratic ticket but he’s not from the same camp. An army of “kids” has propelled him free-of-charge with social media and without corporate corroboration.

Hilary Clinton on the other hand lacks the aura of authenticity that comes with being an outsider. She’s part of the system that has raised us like an unwanted step child. Unfortunately for Hilary she can’t buy authenticity.

The doors are closing on the old world of two American political parties. Bernie’s popularity isn’t a sign of the end times for capitalism, but more so a harbinger to the end of the political system that has dominated America for as long current young American voters can remember.

Sam Lagana is from Columbus and a current undergraduate at Ohio University.