With the beginning of the election cycle nearing, political analysts are beginning to predict who will win the early primaries. If you had asked them a year ago today, none of them would have seen such a tight race between the seemingly sure Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders.
By now, most people know who Bernie Sanders is. He has caught the Democratic party, the media and seemingly the entire country by storm. He has garnered much attention recently as he has gained ground and surpassed Hillary Clinton, according to some polls, for the first primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. But why is Bernie doing so well? The answer is in his supporters who are people just like you and me: college students.
Bernie Sanders is an interesting phenomenon. He is a 74 year-old senator, originally from Brooklyn, who represents the state of Vermont in the U.S. Senate. He doesn’t smile much, yells a lot, is passionate about what he says and uses his hands a lot when he speaks. Additionally, he is a self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist.” All that being said, he is surging in the polls, and quite frankly, it couldn’t be happening at a more perfect time for him and his supporters.
Bernie Sanders, in many ways, is reminiscent of your grandpa; his white hair and balding head are very stereotypical. And grandpas are cool; young people love old people. His name is also Bernie, and it doesn’t get much better than “Bernie.” Imagine all of us referring to our president as “Bernie.” Looking at the situation, young people, like us, should love Bernie – it’s like your grandpa running for president. It all makes sense now.
But there’s more to it than that.
On a slightly more serious note, Bernie is not of the “establishment.” He does not fit into the classic mold of the Washington insider who can’t get anything done because he is a Democrat who dislikes Republicans, or vice versa. In fact, Bernie isn’t even a Democrat; he is registered as an independent in the Senate. For similar reasons of being an outsider candidate, Donald Trump is doing well on the Republican side. Despite Bernie and Trump gaining support because they aren’t the insiders – and that they are bringing up issues that wouldn’t normally be discussed – they are two very different candidates.
When it comes to Bernie’s political policies and beliefs, they all hit close to home for college students and young voters. One of his biggest goals is free public college education. Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or unaffiliated, you know as a college student that you would be a little happier if you didn’t have to worry about so many expenses. Most of the modernized world, particularly all of Europe, has free college. Students don’t have to worry about paying off debt.
He is also determined to fix the gap in income inequality and raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. Many students work entry level jobs in college to help pay their expenses, so raising the minimum wage would make it easier and less stressful to pay those expenses off.
Bernie is appalled that the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any modernized country in the world, and he is willing to do something about it. He always preaches that our country should invest in new jobs rather than incarceration. In addition, he always mentions that it is ridiculous that people who have smoked marijuana have a criminal record and have served jail time, but none of the bankers on Wall Street who contributed to the economic recession in 2008 have a criminal record or have served jail time. Ending the waste of money on incarcerations partnered with the goal of legalizing marijuana are beliefs that resonate with young voters.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, Bernie is not a ‘candidate basher.’ If there is a policy that someone else proposes, either Democrat or Republican, and he agrees with it, he will openly admit that he agrees with it. He helps to bring up important issues and doesn’t go after others on their personal being. Bernie has prided himself at never having run a negative campaign ad that attacks another candidate.
Bernie Sanders has sparked a political revolution. He has not only gained support nationally but he has energized young voters and brought significant issues to the forefront of the political race. He isn’t the typical presidential candidate, but that doesn’t matter; that’s actually what is appealing about him. Millions of college students are “Feeling the Bern.” Millions of people across the country are “Feeling the Bern.”