It’s very clear at this point that our nation has hard choices to make during the upcoming election, and that there are a wide swath of critical problems that must be addressed. However, those issues are not the ones that the Republican presidential candidates are basing their misguided campaigns on – illegal immigration, voter fraud, stripping women of their reproductive choices, Obamacare doomsday prophecies, “religious freedom,” and the threat of foreign terrorism. These “problems” are either entirely fabricated or blown way out of proportion. The real issues the American people are the result of conservative policies – egregious income inequality, stagnating wages, lack of health insurance, voter disenfranchisement, a crippled labor movement, a middle class sliding into poverty, the colossal mountains of debt that fall on our college students.
It’s the latter set of issues that show why over 48% of American millennials believe that the “American Dream” is dead, but it’s those same issues that make populist champion Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) so poplar among young people – a new Harvard poll found that 41% of those questioned preferred Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Having grown up through the frenzy of fear and deregulation that was the George W. Bush administration, millennials have been forced to try to find their way in the world with the baggage of his disastrous presidency on their shoulders. Laden with debt in an economy devoid of well-paying jobs, they have resoundingly rejected the Republican Party as the answer to America’s problems, favoring a Democrat to retake the White House by twenty points.
An important measure of a nation’s promise and well-being can be found in the attitudes of its youth, and this poll is a clear sign that millennials are feeling burned by the American Dream but are feeling the Bern of everybody’s favorite democratic socialist. After growing up watching our nation’s worst president run our economy and reputation into the ground, and then spending our formative years watching that president’s party work tirelessly to undermine President Obama’s herculean efforts to fix the mess that he’d been left, young Americans don’t have time or interest in the cheap ethnoreligious politics of the right-wing or their disastrous economic policies. Sixty-six percent of young Americans don’t care that Bernie Sanders is a democratic socialist – he represents redemption for the millions of us that have been dealt the short end of the stick by Wall Street oligarchs and Republican cronies, and we recognize that he is the best chance we have of restoring the American Dream to its former glory.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.