Apathy Not in Play with Bernie Voters

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Apathy Not in Play with Bernie Voters

For Donna Smith, "that evening in Honolulu was a gift in so many ways."

Makaha Valley Rainbow, Oahu. (Photo: Marvin Chandra/flickr/cc)

It was a warm, muggy evening in Honolulu, but who am I to complain? Bernie voters from all over Oahu came together last Friday evening to cheer the campaign and to add to the momentum driving Hawaii’s multi-cultural voters to support an older, white guy from Vermont who wants to be president. I walked from my friend’s condo to the rally, and by the time this older, white girl from Colorado arrived, a ceiling fan that looked like a jet engine turbine was a welcome sight.  

It was the night before Hawaii’s presidential preference poll – their primary/caucus – and the gathering crowd reflected the incredible diversity of our 50th state.  Hawaii has never had a white majority, so there was no need to address that issue. And it seems the media missed that in their coverage, so perhaps restating it yet another time will be forgiven. Hawaii is our only state that can lay claim to this richness of cultures from its inception. And Hawaii loves Bernie. The next day’s results would bear that out.

By huge numbers, Bernie won.

During the polling-eve rally in Hawaii, a young, vibrant woman offered, “What people don’t understand is that we millennials are not apathetic, we are cynical.” A sort of group chuckle followed but it was an instructive moment for those who were listening. Apathy, being a state of not really giving a damn, is quite different than being a cynic. And how can we answer young cynics with a reason to set aside that cynicism? The only way to do that is with authenticity.

Younger voters are teaching us all the most basic of lessons about political activism. You cannot fake caring, and you cannot gloss over or undo a lack of caring. Bernie does not promise he will someday earn support from those to whom this nation and this earth will be entrusted. He has already earned it by his actions. Young cynics have a reason to be fired up. Their issues are the same as those we all want addressed – the climate crisis, student debt, Medicare for all, getting money out of politics, income inequality, peace, and beyond.  

But if you listen, really listen, to the rallying cry Bernie leads for us all, it is a message of our shared humanity and the chance to reverse the course that has diminished us all to playing pawns in some rigged game that the wealthy and powerful allow us to play. Apathy is a state of not caring, a way to say “to hell with it” and walk away; cynicism is an informed position of distrust based on past performance  And our younger voters know that difference and are trying to tell us all they want more, they want better, and they want a chance.

For me, that evening in Honolulu was a gift in so many ways.  My dear friend, Col. Ann Wright, allowed me to stay in her home. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard allowed me to introduce her to the 600-plus people assembled. But most of all, a group of committed, outrageously energetic and young Hawaii voters set me and all who cared to listen  straight – the candidate who breaks through the din of political messaging with clarity and consistently straightforward talk is the older, white guy from Vermont. Bernie inspires a new generation to some sense of shared destiny in helping create a more just society and a playing field upon which younger and older Americans need not be pitted against one another for diminishing resources but joined together in shared purpose to envision, work for and create a more purposeful, genuine reality.

Thank you, young Hawaiian voters for the articulation. I now know more about you, and I honor the work we are doing together across the generations. I want to leave you a better world.  And it floors me that you want to help me do that.

Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA's mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using "inside/outside" and "grassroots fusion" models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

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