By Clay Parlette
Fourteen months is a long time to consider who might win the 2016 presidential election, but in today’s world, the race has become an important part of everyday conversation. The historic election of Barack Obama in 2008 is credited by many for the campaign’s reach to younger voters and for the president’s then-appeal to college-aged and first time voters—a demographic that can be crucial for a victory. The question then becomes, which candidate will appeal to these voters in 2016? According to a recent Chegg poll, that answer is none other than Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
In my own conversations on campus with fellow students, it’s clear that there are two things on many college students’ minds: 1) we want a candidate who will pay attention to the issues that matter to students and 2) our generation doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton or any of the other well-knowns in politics. Millennials have begun to feel the full-force sting of an education system that has now indebted us in an excess of consumer credit card debt. We watch as our leaders spend money by the trillions on foreign wars and give breaks to the wealthiest corporations and individuals while making profits on the loan repayments we struggle to make. Politicians like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton make us feel warm and fuzzy as they tout their track records and experience on the job. Yet, there is something missing. For a generation that has become known for change and progress, candidates like Bush and Clinton are anything but inspiring for America’s youth.
To Millennials, a candidate who denies the existence of climate change and a need for environmental regulation is widely seen as inept. Similarly, candidates who continue to preach against the LGBTQ community are viewed by most as out of touch. If we’re not completely fed up with a system that continues to cater to the wealthy political bases, most of us are at least a little angry or, at this point, apathetic about politics. Generation Y is not impressed with business as usual and to try to get us to become excited and involved in a campaign of the assumed frontrunners like Hillary and Bush is a lost cause.
After three hours of Republican debate in the Reagan Presidential Library, hardly any of the important issues for young people were even discussed. Student debt, healthcare, unemployment, reasonable working conditions, and social justice were all neglected in favor of more war, less immigration, and the invocation of a theocratic justice system. And while Hillary’s ads make her look like the champion we are looking for, most of us are smart enough to know that behind every polished product like that is an extravagantly-paid team of marketers and strategists testing the political winds of the times and advising their queen of her new policy stance.
Perhaps America’s youth will call Washington’s bluff. To us, the unrefined passion and messy hair of Bernie Sanders seems more real than the hundred dollar pantsuits of Clinton or the boring old tailored suits in the GOP. In Bernie, we see a life full of pent-up fervor for the injustices of society, a ballsy courage to speak out about it, and a belief system that is the same today as it was in 1970. Just like a professor we would all love, we want someone who sees things like we do and who’s willing to fight to make his vision happen. Give us a human, not a politician. Speak to us and inspire us. Fight for things that matter and cut out the BS. To some, Sanders is an old guy who’s in over his head, but to young people, he’s our hope for a better future. Yeah, he’s different, but this country needs different. This country needs Bernie. Don’t count this as an endorsement, but until the other candidates begin showing that they really care about our generation, I think Sanders will ride one heck of a wave into 2016.