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Why Young People Backed Bernie and Not the Democratic Party

Yesterday, I wrote an article explaining why Hillary Clinton struggled to gain the support of millennials; and as expected, I received a couple hundred comments telling me that I was wrong. I decided to write this article as a response to those comments as I feel that there is a misunderstanding in addition to the ignoring a much larger problem in the Democratic party.

The wording “problem in the Democratic party” may trigger an angry response from those reading this, but before you jump into criticize me, I implore you to hear me out and continue reading this piece. As I mentioned in my last article, I truly believe that Hillary won and should have been our next president, and before I move further into expressing my viewpoint, I would like to reiterate that I voted for Clinton in the general election.

In my last article, I expressed concern about the Democratic party’s attitude towards millennials as “entitled kids who want free college.” I argued that millennials flocked to the Sanders’ campaign as a result of his ability to listen to them; Clinton and the DNC could not grasp this idea. Once I shared this opinion, readers, many of whom were Clinton supporters, began to attack me and millennials as “entitled”, “stupid”, and “selfish.” This is the exact behavior that I was expressing was the issue with the Democrats’ outreach to young voters. I conveyed that millennials felt like their voices were going unheard in the party and that Democratic leaders and candidates such as Clinton patronized millennials by telling millennials that they didn’t understand the issues that they were facing. For example, there were numerous accounts where Clinton told black youth in the Black Lives Matter movement to listen to her trying to demonstrate that she knew the issues better than the people experiencing them.

A common and repetitive response to my article was that the Democratic party would listen to young voters if young voters were inspired enough to vote. Yet, how do you expect to motivate young people to vote for a party that fails to acknowledge their experiences as valid?

Millennials have a bigger goal in mind which is to change the two-party system recognizing that both parties have politicians that are bought and paid for by Wall-street interests. Many of the comments suggested that young people get involved in the party and change the party within; but yet, when young people show up and offer alternative solutions, and are responded to with comments like “you’re too idealistic”, or “you are too stupid”, there isn’t much room for them to get involved. Another common response that I get is that young people should run for office as a way to get involved and change things; the funny thing about the people who make that comment is that they are the same people who tell young people who run for office that they don’t have enough life experience to hold public office. When the response to potential voters who want to be heard is “get in line with what I have to say or get out”, their response is going to be to get out.

Millennials have a different approach to transforming a political system that they disagree with; for millennials, the only way to change the system is to change it from the outside because neither party wants to even consider what young voters have to say, and have provided no space for young people to share their ideas.

As a result, millennials are not as interested in drawing party lines as they are into social justice. During the forefront of the 2016 presidential election, it was millennials who were organizing protests and getting arrested at Trump rallies. In fact, I was at the UIC Trump Rally in Chicago. It was young people who organized over 260 College Students for Bernie chapters across the United States. To say that millennials don’t matter because millennials don’t care enough to vote is exactly the reason why millennials are not inspired enough to vote for a candidate simply based on party affiliation. It was not that millennials were disengaged in politics, it was that millennials were disengaged in a two-party system that didn’t have room or worked for them.

If the Democratic party truly wants to motivate young people to vote for them, then the DNC has to make room for young leaders to take active roles in the party. If you do not let people contribute and feel like they have a voice in the organization, they are going to leave and find an outlet that does.

This post is not to bring down the Democratic party, but rather to provide insight to how we can better recruit members. Constructive criticism should be welcomed. I hope that so many of the party leaders see this rather now than later.

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Written by Alex Forgue

Profile photo of Alex Forgue

College Students majoring in Physics, political activist, and Editor and Founder of Merge Left.

Former organizer and Co-founder of College Students for Bernie.

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