When the Bern subsides: How Millennials are falsely enchanted by Bernie Sanders

January 27, 2016 by Jad Hamdan

Truthfully, I haven’t found a good reason to dislike Bernie Sanders. I despise Hillary Clinton’s political duplicity. I can’t bear to listen to Donald Trump speak, let alone debate immigration policy. And the rest of the GOP thinks President Obama was born in Kenya or can’t spell the word vaccine. So, in comparison, Sanders doesn’t seem all that bad.

As a non-tax-paying, socially-liberal Millennial, Sanders’s platform is incredibly appealing. I find the pursuit of economic egalitarianism to be not only rational, but also justified. Why do I mind if tax rates increase when I am so thoroughly insulated from the realities of income inequality? To hell with the Wall Street fat cats who enjoy the privilege of their under-taxed capital gains.

Moreover, Sanders’s central message, returning a sense of accountability and fairness to American politics, is rhetorically brilliant – I find myself dreaming of a Sanders presidency welcomed in by a fanfare of rainbows and legislative amity. In an era in which Millennial political apathy has paralyzed voter turnout, Sanders successfully injected a powerful dose of political relevance into the spirits of Millennial voters.

To many, Sanders has become the candidate who can end the rule of the one percent in U.S. politics. And this hope, along with some calculated political maneuvering in the media, has sent him rising in the polls. But, sadly, he may be rising for the wrong reasons.

My peers, and the majority of the Millennial generation, have begun to prioritize restorative rhetoric over the reality of modern governance. And it has blinded us as voters.

Time and time again, we point out the nonsensical logic behind Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, or the flaws of Rand Paul’s geopolitical isolationism. Yet we don’t question the notion that Sanders will be able to tangibly impact corporate taxation, a reform that has been attempted on numerous occasions with little success. What makes his unwillingness to compromise with Wall Street any more likely to eliminate political polarization on this issue, when it is precisely this hardline attitude that has exacerbated congressional gridlock?

Sanders is great in theory. But, in practice, his precious, new-hope platform will be eaten alive by Washington’s power politics. Sanders will likely lose the democratic primary, for reasons many choose to shy away from.

Remember, the primary election is not decided in one day of voting. It is a marathon. This means that a candidate leading the polls in January might not be leading come spring. Do you remember Newt Gingrich? He was the Republican frontrunner in February of 2012, at the start of the GOP primary. By April, Mitt Romney, who trailed behind Gingrich by as many as 13 points during those three months, had secured the Republican nomination.

Time and time again, the last 20 years of primary elections have proven that early polling success and even domination of the first few caucuses and primaries can’t hope to guarantee a party nomination. If Sanders can’t hope to gain momentum after Iowa and New Hampshire, he will have a very steep, uphill battle to try and win back the increasingly “Clintonized” Democratic electorate.

Further, without crucial backing from prominent party affiliates, Sanders has little hope of growing his campaign. In 2016, establishment support will be just as important as campaign financing in securing the nomination and mounting a competitive general election run. And, as of late, the establishment is firmly behind a Clinton nomination.

Of course, this assessment paints a rather grim reality for the Sanders campaign. Realistically, he has done rather well in a contentious campaign season, given his controversial positions and branding as a Democratic Socialist. But his left-wing liberal platform simply can’t attract a large enough base of support, or convince the Democratic establishment to rally behind him and away from Clinton.

Sooner or later, Democrat voters will have to make a choice. Given a likely Sanders loss, will voters choose to rally behind the best shot at a continuation of Democratic leadership and support Clinton? Or will Millennials return to their recent distaste for participation in American politics?

I hope that my peers, and the rest of the Millennial voter base, do not see a Sanders loss as a failure of ideology, but, rather, as a call for political pragmatism. Perhaps supporting Clinton, however distant and disconnected she may appear, will be the best move towards social liberalism in America. While Sanders talks big game, Clinton knows how to play.

Right now, there is a far greater need to pursue small change in Washington. The hope of sweeping political reformation isn’t a realistic goal. And so, it will eventually become necessary to rally behind the candidate that can actually make a difference in American politics. And sadly, that candidate is not Sanders.

Jad Hamdan ’19 is from Canton, Ohio. He lives in Willy. 

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