Photo by ABC/ Ida Mae Astute
With the 2016 general election creeping closer and closer, many voters are choosing sides. “Creeping” is the operative word in that sentence, considering the division that the election has caused among American voters. Between the outcries of so-called bigotry and the heavy-handed belief of establishment control, eligible voters have seen a socio-economic rift so large that it could make the Grand Canyon blush.
Through all of this, there was one candidate who saw a girth of popularity from young voters due to one unique quality: Transparency. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ended his surprisingly successful run Tuesday with an endorsement of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. During Sanders’ campaign, he gathered the strength of over 13 million voters and 23 primary contests. The result of this underdog campaign seems to be a new-found respect of politics from young voters.
In a poll published by researchers at Harvard University, Sanders was found to be the most favorable Candidate among eligible voters from 18-29 years old. This information is certainly not too surprising, but poll results revealed another more interesting truth for young voters. Apparently, the beliefs that made the Sanders campaign unique are being passed down to the millennials of America. Harvard’s polling director, John Della Volpe stated, “Whether or not he’s winning or losing, it’s really that he’s impacting the way in which a generation — the largest generation in the history of America — thinks about politics.”
In a 2014 Harvard poll, the number of young people who believed that “basic health insurance is a right for all people” was 42 percent. The millennials that agreed with this position increased to 45 percent in 2015, and then to 47 percent in the most recent poll. Healthcare for all was, of course, one of the Sanders campaigns most loudly-voiced policies. Similar beliefs such as “food and shelter are a right that government should provide to those unable to afford them” also saw significant increases within the poll. Clearly, the Democratic-Socialist beliefs of Bernie Sanders struck a chord with many young people who previously had little interest in politics.
Despite these fascinating numbers, Sanders dropped out of the race and officially stated his support for Clinton on Tuesday. Sanders joined Clinton on her campaign trail in New Hampshire to announce the endorsement.
Many Sanders supporters were taken aback by the sudden endorsement. As if in response, Sanders took to social media platforms to explain his position in length with an open letter titled Forever Forward. Within this explanation, Sanders wrote, “Today, I endorsed Hillary Clinton to be our next president. I know that some of you will be disappointed with that decision.” Sanders continues, stating that he believes the most important goal is to block Donald Trump from ever entering the White House.
As Sanders predicted, large amounts of his supporters will not be pleased with the decision made by the campaign. Once Bernie lost the opportunity to nab the nomination, only 55 percent of his supporters claimed they would pledge their vote to Hillary Clinton according to a Bloomberg poll. Another 22 percent claimed they would vote for Trump, and finally 18 percent say they will vote for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
These numbers seem particularly odd considering that Clinton and Sanders have many similar beliefs in policies such as education and immigration. Regardless, the divided trust of Hillary Clinton can be seen clearly when speaking directly to former Bernie supporters and millennials.
“Hillary Clinton is a perfectly viable candidate for President. Her policies are sound, and she has the right attitude,” said Sanders supporter Conner Vest, 19. “I believe most of the accusations brought against have no solid ground, and this is coming from a former Sanders supporter.”
Another Sanders supporter, Aiden Collins, 19, looked much more dismally at voting for Clinton. “Do I trust Hillary? I absolutely don’t trust her, but will I end up voting for her? Unfortunately, yes, but at the end of the day Bernie understands that we have to stick together. If we split the blue vote, then it makes it much easier for Trump to win.”
What is to blame for this strange divide under a candidate who seemed so determined in his beliefs? Well, the answer, in my opinion, can be found in the candidate himself.
Throughout his campaign and career, Sanders has consistently preached the same ideas that made him popular in 2016. Even in early stages of his political career, Bernie attempted to fight against members of the 1 percent. In a 1976 Vermont gubernatorial debate, Sanders stated, “The fundamental issue facing us in the state is that ½ of 1 percent of these people — the richest ½ of 1 percent — earn as much as the bottom 27 percent and the top 3 percent earn as much as the bottom 40 percent.” Beyond this prevalent issue, Sanders has been consistent in his stances on income inequality, civil rights, and campaign finance reform.
Terrill Bouricius, an American political scientist and a former member of the Vermont House of Representatives, stated to the New York Times, “You could take one of his speeches from 1981, play it in the campaign this year, and no one would know, except his voice sounds a little bit younger.” This is the most critical difference between the two former rivals, and, what I believe to be the cause of the Sanders supporters divide in future votes.
Especially in recent years, Hillary Clinton has been much less consistent in her beliefs. According to an article by Kelly Riddle of the Washington Times, Clinton has changed drastically since her 2008 run for president. From that campaign to 2016, Hillary Clinton changed her views on same sex-marriage, the Second Amendment, her Iraq War vote, and illegal immigration. Even more recently, Clinton has taken part in several consecutive policy flips concerning Free Trade.
All of the changes made seem to be a move toward more liberal beliefs. This can either be seen as a change of heart from Secretary Clinton or a way to further pander to her potential voters. This is what made Sanders such an attractive candidate: He was a candidate who seemingly could not be bought. Within his career, he fought tooth and nail for his beliefs, and young people respect that. Young people respect transparency. Through all of the new social media platforms and emerging technology, politicians are held under a very scrupulous lens. Millennials could peer through this lens and see a candidate who would not run from the microscope. This element of transparency was necessary to Bernie voters. Without it, many previous supporters of Sanders cannot bring themselves to vote for Clinton. Laura Armes, a Bernie supporter who participated in the Bloomberg poll, stated, “I don’t agree with a lot of what Trump says. But he won’t owe anybody. What you see is what you get.”
With the end of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, comes a new political divide in the United States. Those proud 13 million eligible voters, who gave their support to Sanders, are left stranded without a clear successor. In his campaign, he passionately voiced the concerns of both young and old, working class citizens. People listened to these concerns because they truly believed that they were the concerns of the candidate himself. This is the impact that Bernie Sanders left on the country and it is the impact he will continue to have in his coming years. Whether you agree with his politics or not, his beliefs were undoubtedly his own. For some people, that was enough.
This is an opinion, written from the perspective of the writer and does not reflect the views of Sidelines or MTSU.
To contact the editor, email Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org