The Bernie Sanders Millennials: How Democrats ‘Missed The Opportunity To Win A Generation’

In an article for The Hill, writer Elia Pales argues that, by nominating Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party has effectively alienated millennials, many of whom support Bernie Sanders and view Clinton as a representative of the status quo that has produced the profound inequities that are now shaking up the political establishment.

“It’s no secret that Sen. Bernie Sanders polls well with millennials – during the primaries the candidate won more votes than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined, taking more than 80% of the age group’s vote in some states,” Pales writes.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton has consistently struggled to attract the support of young, progressive voters.

“The most recent Harvard Institute of Politics (IoP) poll of young voters showed her holding just a 37% approval rating among millennials, compared with a 53% disapproval rating” Pales observes. “After Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, nearly half of his millennial supporters said they would vote third-party instead of Hillary Clinton.”

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Viewing Democrats as a party now captured by the same special interests that have dictated the direction of the Republican Party over the last several decades, millennials have increasingly been drawn to the “Bernie Sanders or Bust” movement, an approach that eschews “lesser of two evils” voting in favor of a principled stand against the political establishment.

And heading into a general election battle in which the two candidates of America’s dominant political parties are both widely disliked, the decision to abandon both Democrats and Republicans can hardly be dismissed as unreasonable.

Democrats, Pales argues, should be extremely concerned by the fact that millennials have, by and large, rejected the candidate pushed by the establishment from the beginning.

“The Democratic Party missed the opportunity to win a generation of voters, which is a shame considering the profound effect that Sen. Sanders has had in shaping the opinions of young Americans.”

Pales points to the more progressive attitudes of young voters, who often strongly support measures Bernie Sanders has fought for throughout his political career, from free public college tuition to single-payer health care.

Some data indicates, also, that millennials don’t harbor the same skepticism toward socialism as previous generations — and they don’t harbor the same love for capitalism.

In a survey conducted by Harvard University, a majority of those who responded said they “do not support capitalism,” the Washington Post reports.

This could be due, at least in part, to the fact that millennials face increasingly grim economic prospects. They are saddled with student loan debt, their incomes are growing slowly, and their opportunities are dwindling, despite the fact that they are highly educated.

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Jordan Weissmann, writing for Slate, observes that millennials have come of age at a pretty terrible time, economically speaking.

“The millennials landed on the job market at a miserable moment in economic history. On the upside, that should give us something to lord over our children when we’re middle-aged and cranky. On the downside, our poor timing will probably depress our incomes for some time to come, since graduating into a recession can drag down your earnings for years.”

And contrary to the narrative pushed by many supporters of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders’s support among the young is not limited to white males.

According to a poll conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University Chicago and the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, both black and Hispanic millennials favored Sanders by significant margins.

The Democratic establishment, by both embracing Hillary Clinton and at times brazenly rejecting Bernie Sanders, has so alienated the millennial generation that it will be difficult to win their support in the future.

“Yes,” Pales concludes, “Hillary Clinton may have won older and more devoted Democrats, but the Democratic Party lost the opportunity to secure an entire generation as a result.”

If Democrats haven’t gotten the message yet — a message that says their ties to corporate America and their tepid reforms are no longer enough to address the nation’s economic crises — perhaps they never will.

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]