6 April 2016

Notes from Norm: American Youth and Bernie Sanders

Poll after poll has confirmed that in the Democratic nomination process for President Bernie Sanders enjoys a wide lead among so-called millennial voters.

Despite being the oldest candidate in the race for President – and on top of that a 74-year-old white male – Sanders has captured the imagination of young voters in America.

Some have suggested that it is nearly inconceivable that a 74-year-old unapologetic socialist would be the enthusiastic choice of young people.

But, it’s important to remember that in 1984 one of the strongest blocs of supporters for Ronald Reagan, who was nearly 74 when he won re-election, were young people.

Despite their ideological divide, Bernie Sanders and Ronald Reagan shared some common characteristics:  They were white men in their 70s who were considered to be at the far end of the ideological spectrum of their respective political parties.

They were also convinced that their beliefs, their vision and their passion for America would ultimately win the day for them at the polls.

The proof of that belief is evident in the fact that Reagan overwhelmingly won re-election against a much younger, more liberal Walter Mondale – winning every single state except for Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

Reagan had won election on promising to restore America to greatness.  He assured Americans that the key to America’s new burst of freedom wasn’t in more government, but less government.  In his mind and heart, the true genius of America wasn’t in the people in Washington, D.C. – in fact, it was the politicians and the bureaucrats in Washington that were the reason for the American fatigue that Jimmy Carter wrongly called our “malaise.”

Americans were fatigued by the failure of government to live up to its promises – the non-stop growth in the size of the government – the never-ending demand for more and more of the money of hard-working taxpayers.

In winning in 1980 Ronald Reagan made good on his promises to restore the pride in America.  He held politicians accountable. He pushed back against the growth of government and the power of special interest groups.

In 1984 that record of accomplishment and leadership won him an overwhelming mandate.

Winning nearly 98% of the electoral vote – and almost 59% of the popular vote – Reagan’s landslide win was unprecedented.

Two of his biggest voting blocs?

18 to 24 year olds who voted for him by a 61% to 39% margin over Mondale and 25 to 29 year olds who voted for him 57% to 43% over the former Vice President.

Thirty-two years after Reagan’s historic victory America is seeing a new political revolution.

And, that revolution is seemingly being lead, yet again, by young people.

For Democrats, particularly Hillary Clinton, it is a political tsunami that is once again threatening to upend her campaign for President.

The same youthful forces that propelled a young Barack Obama to the nomination of his party is delaying and potentially derailing Clinton’s nomination, again, by Democrats.

For Republicans, though, it is a warning sign they should heed as it prepares to choose its own candidate for President in 2016.

Young men and women in America see their future and what they see they do not like.

Government isn’t working.  Many of them aren’t working.  And, when they are working the jobs they have can’t keep pace with the enormous college debt they’ve incurred to build their future American Dream.

To them Ronald Reagan and the conservative beliefs and principles he brought to the White House are simply pages in a history book.  The same youthful coalition that helped re-elect Ronald Reagan was not even alive when he took the oath of office for his second term.

But Ronald Reagan knew that the Sander’s everything-is-free philosophy is a myth. Money still doesn’t grow on trees.

Sander’s vision of how government in America should engage in our lives will further drown this country in debt and high taxes and devastate and destroy our economy.

Bernie Sanders and the socialist agenda he has pursued in the United States Senate, and the activist federal government he promises to lead if elected President is at the core of the threat that Ronald Reagan warned us about in 1980 and what he hoped to permanently defeat in 1984.

Yet, three decades later it appears that socialism is, for many young people, a viable ideology for the future of America.

It is equally clear that they have little in common with the Bill Clinton legacy as President that ended nearly 15 years ago when the oldest of the youth coalition that re-elected Reagan would have been 15 and the youngest would have been nothing but a gleam in the eyes of their parents.

That’s a problem for Hillary Clinton who wishes to tie her political fortunes to the legacy of the Clinton Presidency more so than she wishes to tie them to the legacy of the Clinton tenure as Secretary of State.

When all is said and done, Bernie Sanders will not be President despite the enormous power that young people are wielding in supporting his candidacy.

He may or may not cost Hillary Clinton the nomination of the Democratic Party but he will certainly not concede the nomination to her simply because of a Clintonian belief that it is her turn.

Hillary Clinton can’t grasp why young people are supporting Sanders.  In her mind, it is the political equivalent of sacrilege that they would opt to support a 74-year-old white male over the opportunity to make her an historical figure as the nation’s first female President.

Which is at the core of what drives young people to support Sanders and not Clinton.

Sanders calls for a political revolution against a system he says is rigged against the interest of Americans and young people.  And, to Sanders, and the legion of youth that support him, Hillary Clinton is the face of the system.

In their mind, Sanders speaks to their concerns.  To their anger.  And, to their sense of outrage and despair at the inequity they see in American society today.

Clinton talks about her life.  And her future.

Sanders talks about their lives. He talks about their future.

In 2016, whether you’re a millennial or a senior, it’s your future and the future of America you decide to vote on when you choose a President.

Not the legacy of Ronald Reagan who led America forward three decades ago.

Or the legacy Hillary Clinton hopes to create for herself three decades later.