The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is shaking American politics, surpassing all expectations and surprising the pundits. Sanders will probably not win the nomination, but it’s still amazing to see the amount of people that Bernie Sanders has brought to the political process, as voters, volunteers and donors and the question that arises is: After Bernie Sanders’ defeat, will this movement vanish with time or endure and influence the future of the Democratic Party and the United States in general?
Future is always unpredictable, but there is a big reason why we might think that this movement is consistent and solid and has a role in the future of American Politics and the reason is very simple: America is actually turning left like never before; it’s not Sanders himself that is pushing so many people to his rallies to listen him speak or making so many people give up on their time to volunteer in his campaign; of course his character and coherence helped him to transmit his ideas, but the fact is that this campaign is only possible because the political revolution he talks about already started years ago.
The driving force of this shift to the left are Millennials which are the age group comprised by those born between the early 1980’s to 2000. Picking some examples, Millennials are the only age group where more than half of respondents believes that it is the government’s responsibility to insure health coverage for all¹; they consider themselves more liberal than conservative², and they are the only age group in which more than half wants a bigger government with more services³. Above all, Millennials are the only group who have a more favorably view of socialism than capitalism⁴.
But isn’t it normal for youth generations to defend progressive ideas? Isn’t it normal for young people to support progressive candidates? Frank Sinatra, a former Democrat turned Republican once said to his daughter “as old you get, the older you get, the more conservative you get” and that’s the hope of Republicans: that this Millennials will turn more conservative in the future. However this idea is not completely accurate. First, Republicans haven’t always been weak with young people: they won the young vote in 1972, 1984 and 1988, and they virtually tied with Democrats from age group in 1980, while they had good results in 1976 and 2000. The common idea that people turn more conservative with age is debunked by a study of the America Sociological review in 2007 which concludes that people in general don’t necessarily become more conservative with age, and in some cases they can even turn more liberal, tolerant and open to new ideas. What is determining their core beliefs and values is mainly what’s happening in society when young people come of age. Above all else, this Millennial generation isn’t more progressive because of age: this is rather the generation who feels betrayed by the Iraq War, traumatized by the financial crisis and deeply worried about the rising inequality.
Millennials are also different than any other age groups because they don’t let themselves being influenced too much by regular media or establishment pundits or commentators, instead they inform themselves on talk shows like Jon Stewart’s, Stephen Colbert’s or Bill Maher’s, or in other internet blogs, newspapers or other sources such as the Huffington Post, Salon, Daily Kos or Young Turks. The new age of social media helped the progressives a lot also because it facilitated the organization and mobilization for events and the sharing of ideas. Social media and the internet helped to set up a lot of leftist movements like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and it even helped Obama in the 2008 election.
The massive movement that’s supporting Bernie Sanders didn’t appear now, it was a result of years of a silent and quietly political revolution that has been happening for years. However, this campaign is decisive for this progressive uprising not because of his possible victory, which is admittedly unlikely, but because he is doing a lot of things that are crucial to social change. Bernie’s campaign is raising issues that no one would otherwise raise, and it is bringing new solutions and ideas to the table. He is also knocking some barriers in terms of political communication and campaign financing, proving that it is possible to have a big fundraising based on small donors and not relying on special interests and lobbyists, something that will set a precedent to other politicians. He will be remembered not because he was a President, but because he was a key person in progressivism in America and fundamental to make way for a new era of progressive politics in America.
André Branco Pereira, Law Student, will take part to the School of Democracy 2016
Disclaimer: This Post reflects solely the author’s opinion and do not represent the platform as a whole