Intelligencer - January 9, 2020
"...with so many candidates competing for votes, a committed, cohesive bloc of young adults could make a real difference for him in his quest for the nomination."
In 2016, Bernie Sanders owed much of his primary campaign’s unexpected viability to his popularity with young voters. As he was coming into the crowded field of competitors for the 2020 race, though, repeat success wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. But Sanders’s success with the youth now looks durable. He leads with them, still, in the polls, and this past week, two influential youth-led progressive organizations endorsed the democratic socialist for president: Dream Defenders, a Florida-based civil-rights group formed in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing, and the Sunrise Movement, which advocates for the Green New Deal.
In a statement, the environmental group said 78 percent of its membership favored Sanders. Just over 80 percent of its voting members are under 35.
The source of Sanders’s youth appeal appears to be much the same as it was in 2016: Student-loan debt and escalating health-care costs are still significant burdens for young people, and incremental solutions, like those favored by the more moderate candidates in the race, seem unequal to the radical challenges they face.
Young adults themselves are clear about the case for Sanders. “Bernie is not our political savior. It is the movement behind him that will change this country. We are not electing a savior; we are electing a political opponent who we will hold accountable to meet our demands,” the Dream Defenders’ Fight PAC explained on its website. The statement singled out the Vermont senator’s positions on free public college, Medicare for All, and the abolition of draconian three-strikes laws and the death penalty, among other issues, as areas where his platform aligns closely with their values. Similarly, Sanders’s consistent support for Green New Deal legislation and his activist background swayed Sunrise members in his favor. “Senator Sanders has repeatedly claimed that, as president, he would be the ‘organizer-in-chief.’ We hope we’ll get the opportunity to hold him accountable to that,” the organization’s statement read.
As opposed to 2016, when he faced only one other candidate in the primary, Sanders does face stiffer competition for the youth vote this year. Morning Consult reported in 2019 that his share of the youth vote had declined slightly over the life of the primary thus far with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren cutting into his overall support. The crowded field notwithstanding, Sanders still enjoys a wide lead among young voters. ...
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