Why do millennials like Bernie Sanders so much? I love that this is a mystery to Washington. It’s the authenticity, stupid. You can’t fake a 40 year record. This is a generation that grew up in a time when entertainment and media is based on authenticity and not the fakeness of television. Like Diogenes, when millennials went on their pursuit to find the one honest man in politics, it was obvious that man was Bernie Sanders.
The older generation grew up on blow-dried anchors, plastic politicians, and an ocean of pretense. Realness seems unvarnished and unpolished to them. Bernie Sanders is a man not of his time, but of this time. He was authentic and uncombed before any YouTube star thought to make that concept cool.
"The problem in our politics today isn’t the younger generation. The problem is what the older generations have grown accustomed to and now meekly accept as fact. The younger voters are right — you can and you should expect better from your representatives."
Millennials are also a massively progressive generation. Frank Luntz, the top conservative pollster, says this generation is so liberal it should frighten political leaders. Sanders is as progressive as they are, but not because he crafted a slick political message to appeal to the younger generation. It’s because he is a true progressive who believed in these principles even when they were horribly out of fashion. He fought for them not out of expediency but out of conviction. That’s the thing about authenticity — you can’t fake it.
Are we seriously asking why young people don’t like the contrived politicians who are awash in donor money, privilege, and connections? That’s obvious. What’s not obvious is how older generations got so used to that pulp. They got used to news actors reading carefully-produced, establishment-engineered scripts. They got used to the unctuous career politicians that design their message to the voters while they vote with the donors. Running to the left or right during the primaries and then to the center during the general election isn’t savvy, it’s phony.
The problem in our politics today isn’t the younger generation. The problem is what the older generations have grown accustomed to and now meekly accept as fact. The younger voters are right — you can and you should expect better from your representatives.
Millennials grew up on the Internet. Older generations look at the downside of being an Internet native and carp about how kids are obsessed with their smart phones. But what about the upside? Those phones can access infinite information — more than all of the libraries of mankind put together. Yes, a lot of the younger generation check Tinder on their phones, but a lot of them also check the facts. With all of this information literally in their pocket, they’re better equipped to gauge the accuracy of political claims — much more so than older generations who get their news filtered through broad, corporate television broadcasts.
Millennials are much more informed than they get credit for and many are more politically knowledgeable than older generations. A lot of millennials know that many countries have a single payer healthcare system and understand how realistic it is in most of the developed world. Many know how serious climate change is and the need for immediate change in energy and pollution policy. They understand that incrementalism isn’t pragmatism, it’s running out the clock on a problem that only gets worse over time.
Why do so many thousands of young people show up at Bernie rallies? Do you really think it’s because they’re looking for a good time or for a date? I can assure you that there are far more efficient ways to do that than to attend political rallies. The older generations should stop for a second and examine their own biases. Isn’t it possible — and wonderful — that the younger generation cares so much about policy that they are going to attend the rallies of the one politician they believe in?
For those of us who care deeply about policy and authenticity, it’s hard to get excited by studied politicians who craft messages based on polling and who drift in the winds of time. Instead of mocking millennials for their adoration of Bernie Sanders, older generations should stop and reconsider their support for an establishment that has worked against their interests for so many years. It’s not realistic as much as it is sad that a whole generation has accepted income inequality, political corruption and the reign of the donor class as immutable facts. Instead of frowning upon your kids who are fighting back against that, perhaps you should join them.