The Bernie Sanders Phenomenon Among College Students

This year presidential elections unveiled various issues and trends existing in the USA. Major fears, hopes, and concerns of Americans have become clear as the candidates bring those issues to the fore, and the audience responds to them.

This year elections are also associated with a number of scandals as well as unexpected figures, controversies, and people’s preferences. For instance, Donald Trump is one of the most controversial candidates as the billionaire often resorts to promises that are nearly impossible to fulfill. He is also one of the super-rich, which is hated in contemporary America.

On the other hand, many people support him as they think that the candidate will make the country even greater as he does not have to satisfy the needs of rich people. He is one of them, and he uses his own money to sponsor his campaign.

Hillary Clinton is another candidate associated with certain controversy related to her past behavior and decisions made. These two candidates have their fans and voters within a wide audience. However, they are failing to win the hearts and minds of the American youth. Bernie Sanders is the one to do this job, which is also one of the most interesting peculiarities of these presidential elections.

It is necessary to note that young people (especially college students) support Bernie Sanders. They launch various campaigns to promote the candidates’ ideas among their peers. Adam Gabbert, a writer for The Guardian, states that college students make such events similar to parties.

Young people share ideas, drink, and have fun. The only difference is that there is a political theme of the party and a sense of relevance.

The popularity of the candidate can be estimated through the college students’ campaigns and parties, as well as the number of T-shirts and hats with Sanders depicted that are distributed among millennials. The popularity of the candidate among college students can seem surprising to many, but it is quite logical and can be easily explained.

First, it is necessary to admit that there are some potential features that could avert college students from Sanders. At least, some people may regard some features as a barrier to Sanders’ popularity.

One of these is the candidate’s age, as Bernie Sanders is in his mid-70s. This is one of the most conspicuous traits that are likely to cause aversion among the youth. Clearly, young people do not trust old people. This is a universal truth. The youth wants to be free from the authority they had to tolerate for their pre-college (or adult) life.

Amber Dickinson, an author of various works on politics and political activism, stresses that young people tend to be quite passive when it comes to the political life of the country. One of the reasons for that apathy is the youth’s distrust and the desire to use innovative ways to change American society.

The youngest candidate is Ted Cruz, who is only 45, which makes him one of the most probable favorites of the American youth. Among Democrats, college students could support Clinton, who is several years younger than Sanders. Ironically, the age is what makes Sanders so attractive to millennials.

Freddy Gray, the deputy editor of The Spectator, emphasizes that Sanders’ age provides the ‘retro appeal’ that is so valued by college students. Voters in their 20s focus on Bernie Sanders’ background. He is a representative of the old school, which makes the candidate attractive. The US youth is weary of the modern political agendas and feels an urge to support old ways.

Millennials have been brought up in America that was involved in military conflicts and struggling with financial constraints, including the growing national debt and economic growth slow-down. The support of old political ways can be explained quite easily.

Americans stress that the greatness of their country was achieved in the 20th century, and the 21st century has brought issues and turmoil that can undermine the achievements of the past generations. It is assumed that the ways used in the 20th century can bring back the order, prosperity, and greatness.

Millennials understand the flaws and wrongs of contemporary society and think that no politician can resolve them without a strict regulation and firm political agenda. Freddy Gray states that the outdatedness of Sanders also appeals to young Americans who consider everyone that old funny and even adorable. Gray notes that Bernie Sanders is regarded as an ardent defender of the justice who uses ‘lovable old-codger’ ways.

Clearly, the youth uses emotions when choosing political preferences rather than pragmatism and the focus on long-term goals. At the same time, Sanders has various features that help him win college students’ hearts and minds. The topics he includes in his agenda appeal to the youth.

For example, the issue of inequality in the US society is one of the most persistent among young Americans who are concerned with the imbalance of wealth distribution. Sanders argues that super-rich people are becoming even richer, which brings impoverishment of Americans and the disappearance of the middle class that is the pillar of American democracy.

College students are very into the idea of making the USA a country of true equality. American young people often participate in various campaigns that protest against the power of the super-rich, corruption of politicians as well as the financial system, and so on.

Importantly, one of the reasons for the empowerment of the super-rich is the corruption of the politicians and the overall financial system. This is the view of the majority of millennials who do not trust such billionaires as Trump or such candidates as Clinton (who has failed to be radical in this area).

Ron Elving, a professor at American University, states that the firm position of Sanders makes him the most popular candidate for college students. He is regarded as the only person who will never become corrupted as he is old enough to focus on the most important things rather than try to gain some benefits for himself.

Another important aspect of Sanders’ campaign is his attention to marginalized groups. College students can be seen as the cohort comprised of representatives of various groups of American society.

College students, being young and emotional, are empathetic to various minorities and underprivileged groups. Thus, TYT Politics, an online platform, reveals the ideas of Aaron Greene, a senior at the University of South Carolina, who claims his desire to make a difference.

The young man stresses that he supports Sanders as he believes that this candidate can address the burning issues existing in society and help people who are ‘forgotten.’ The people Sanders claims to include in his agenda are low-income communities, various minorities, veterans, students, and so on. The issues mentioned in the politician’s speeches include poverty, veterans’ needs, minorities’ rights, and so on.

For instance, Sanders stresses that Medicaid does not satisfy the needs of American society. The politician emphasizes that it is essential to make sure that all American citizens have access to high-quality healthcare services. Sanders keeps saying that affordable healthcare is one of the basic rights that cannot be ignored.

The candidate also criticizes the system for huge investments and quite questionable outcomes. Sanders, as many modern politicians, claim that the healthcare system is inefficient and has to be transformed.

The candidate also focuses on the educational system stating that it is inefficient and far too expensive. This is one of the most potent factors contributing to Sanders’ popularity among college students. Adam Gabbatt refers to the words of a young supporter of Sanders, who notes that millennials are ‘the generation of debt’ and issues related to the US educational and banking systems resonate in college students’ hearts and minds.

Of course, college students are concerned with their own loans and the need to pay their debts. At the same time, the experience of previous generations shows that they were unable to receive the gains of their education even though they paid for it quite significant sums (not to mention the investment of their time and effort).

The candidate has quite radical views, which is appreciated by the youth as this age group is characterized by radicalism. Clearly, young people usually support various revolutions, and college students believe they can bring a political revolution to their country. Ron Elving argues that millennials believe in the ‘political revolution’ the candidate mentions in his speeches.

Cass R. Sunstein, the professor of Robert Walmsley University, notes that college students have been disappointed in Obama’s performance, whose claim concerning changing the USA seems insufficient. Sunstein stresses that young Americans now believe in Sanders’ claims concerning the need to ‘transform’ the country, and they believe that the politician can do that. Of course, such radical claims are associated with numerous radical instruments.

One of the approaches to achieve his aims Bernie Sanders mentions is the increase in taxes. This radical view is quite close to college students who already understand that free education and healthcare will require some funds that have to be generated.

College students understand that the US budget has to be constantly replenished. They also understand that one of the primary tools in this process is the system of taxes. At the same time, college students are not taxpayers as they are not employed and do not usually run households. They do not feel the burden of taxes, which makes them supporters of this unpopular measure.

Finally, the popularity of this candidate among college students can also be explained by the very nature of student life. Adam Gabbatt describes one of the campaigns of Sanders’ supporters. As has been mentioned above, the campaign bears features of the party.

College students wearing ‘Sanders’ T-shirts and carrying drinks reveal the nature of this support. Young people communicate and have fun. At the same time, they participate in the political life of the country, changing the history of the USA.

However, as David Hill and Paul Lachelier, professors at Stetson University, put it, college students cannot be reliable supporters as their devotion is rather short-lived, which makes students such a bright but almost useless, so-to-speak, cohort of voters.

College students may campaign for a candidate, but the majority of these young people are unlikely to vote as the research by Hill and Lachelier suggests. Students’ participation in various college activities and societies does not often translate into the chosen career path.

Likewise, students supporting Sanders focus on the process of campaigning and debating. They love discussing but are not concerned with such responsibilities as actually voting. At the same time, Ron Elving shares people’s astonishment concerning ‘the Sanders phenomenon’ that has been ‘stronger and longer’ that analysts expected.

Thus, it is possible to note that college students support Bernie Sanders due to several reasons. He is radical enough to seem an American socialistic Che Guevara fighting for true equality and justice. The age makes Sanders a prototype of a political Santa Claus, who will bring presents (free education and health care) to those who behave themselves.

The combination of these two iconic figures for the youth makes Bernie Sanders popular among young people. However, this support is doomed to remain in those college students’ memories as one of the bright experiences of feeling connectedness and worth.

Those people will grow up and change their political preferences just as they will change their career inclinations or affections. So, Bernie Sanders feels the urge of the youth! Hillary Clinton, do not be desperate and focus on pragmatism. Let the youth live their student life to the fullest!

Reference List

Dickinson, A. (2015). Youth and politics. In T.G. Jelen, M.J. Rozell & M. Shally-Jensen (Eds.), American political culture: An encyclopedia (pp. 1175-1180). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Gabbat, A. (2015). . The Guardian.

Gray, F. (2016). . The Spectators.

Hill, D., & Lachelier, P. (2014). Can face-to-face mobilization boost student voter turnout? Results of a campus field experiment. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 18(61), 61-88.

Sunstein, C.R. (2016). . Bloomberg View.

TYT politics. (2016). .

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