The upcoming 2016 elections are packed—16 from the Republican side and five from the Democratic to make an abundant 21 options. For the youth who are voting for the first time, the wide range of choices also presents a more difficult task of selecting the right candidate. Only one obvious choice is clear, however—Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Of course, perhaps the bigger question to start off with is why should the youth even vote? The 2010 mid-elections only saw a dismal 21% of youth who bothered to vote, and that’s only one out of an entire trend of elections where young people barely showed up.
Experts attribute low youth turnout to a variety of factors, but in this upcoming election, there should be little to no excuse. Many of the reasons why young Americans don’t show up are solved by Sanders.
A lack of faith in government has often been cited as the main reason. Indeed, Congress’s approval rating is at its newest low, only 14%. Why so low? Because Americans now live in an era of scripted speeches and out-of-touch politicians who just don’t seem to connect to the electorate. More importantly, 55% of Americans believe that elected officials often pass policies supporting wealthy donors, according to a June 2015 New York Times/CNN poll.
Yet, Sanders is different.
His big rallies, ranging up to a record of 28,000 people, speak to his authenticity and enthusiasm that has appealed to many voters, while in contrast, many have criticized Hillary Clinton’s lack of connection and her politician-like wavering stances. Sanders is practically the only candidate who has not relied on big cash from Super PACs or billionaires, yet he has generated an impressive amount of money from only individual donations. While many go to fundraising events, he goes to town halls. His record is clean, too; he viably claims he has and will never accept money from special interests.
He also intends to break the rigged political system that has dissatisfied so many youth, pledging to overturn the infamous Citizens United case, which allowed unlimited spending in elections. Sanders vows to implement a public-funded election system so that all people, rich or poor, can run.
Perhaps more importantly, he has spoken the most on issues that matter to the American people, especially the youth. I recently wrote an op-ed about how young people don’t feel like voting because they aren’t represented, yet Sanders has been the most outspoken on youth issues. He has emphasized along the trail the issue of youth unemployment, rising college tuition, youth incarceration, and has acted upon it.
Simply put, he is a voice of the people and the youth of America. His anti-establishment anti-Wall Street outsider stance declares that he doesn’t work for the corporations, but for us. No other candidate has been bold enough to go that far as Sanders.
It’s not just the youth helping Sanders, but Sanders helping the youth. Sanders has emphasized repeatedly that his campaign is a “political revolution,” “people-campaign,” and “grassroots movement.” He even noted that after he wins the presidency, he will still need the people to take on the big corporations. The youth, infamous for its long history of political disengagement, will greatly benefit from Sanders’ focus on political involvement.
Sanders may be old (74), but he cares the most about the youth. Sanders may be polling well behind Clinton, but with his gap steadily decreasing, who is to say he will definitely lose?
In the 2008 election, young Americans filled the polls in record numbers to give Barack Obama, the considered underdog, the Democratic nomination over the considered front runner—yes, Clinton.
History repeats itself, they say, and it is the youth who made that history. To my peers, let’s do it again.