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Op Ed: Youth and the Democratic Party

If the youth of America wants to take ownership of the government, now is the time. Millennials are coming of age, and with this development comes a drastic shift in American politics.

This shift was first reflected in the 2008 election, when freshman senator Barack Obama won the presidency with the backing of the best youth voter turnout since 1972. Current Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders hopes to utilize Obama’s model to replicate the defeat of Hillary Clinton, who is once again vying for the presidency in 2016.

The 2008 election demonstrates the power of the youth vote. According to U.S. News, 18-29-year-olds made up a higher proportion of the electorate (18 percent) than the 65-and-older age category (16 percent). These younger voters tended to have more liberal sympathies, voting Democrat over Republican 2-1. This may have been a response to disillusionment of growing up under the second Bush presidency, which was characterized by the loss of over 6 million manufacturing jobs, the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act, and the failed Iraq War campaign.

However, the increase in youth participation in 2008 is most often correlated with the economy. U.S. News reported that in 2006 that 23 percent of youth voters named the economy as their top issues, against only 14 percent of older voters. This brings us to 2016, where once again the economy is driving the issues, and Bernie’s economic plan is at the forefront of his campaign.

While Hillary lists the issues in alphabetical order on her website, Bernie lists his by level of importance, with the top five relating to the economy. These include issues such as college debt, income and wealth inequality, and living wage creation, all topics that are extremely relevant for the younger generation.

Obama utilized technology, especially the social media boom, to inexpensively capture the hearts of America’s youth, something that Bernie has done successfully so far in his campaign. The youth Bernie has attracted are not only essential as voters but also offer support as volunteers, who give his campaign a flavor of diversity, energy, and technological savvy.

Recognizing the importance of the youth vote, progressive magazine Mother Jones identified ten states where the 18-29 demographic would be crucial for victory. These include, in order of importance, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada. Of these states listed, four have already voted, with Colorado and New Hampshire going to Bernie and Virginia and Nevada going for Hillary. While this seems to bode poorly for Bernie, the Nevada results are disputed and arguably the most influential youth-influenced states are yet to come, including Pennsylvania (210 delegates), Florida (246 delegates), and Ohio (159 delegates).

After Super Tuesday, Clinton opened up a huge lead in the primary, leading Sanders with 1,052 total delegates to Bernie’s 427. While Bernie has a significant uphill climb from this point on, there is one clear way for him still achieve the nomination: get out the youth. Bernie has dominated the youth vote so far, defeating Clinton by 70 points in Iowa and 67 points in New Hampshire according to the Wall Street Journal. The newer generation identifies more with Bernie’s liberal politics, with 41 percent of Democrats identifying as being liberal, a far step from only 28 percent a generation ago.

If Bernie can put Super Tuesday behind him and compel the younger voters of America, he will have a chance at the Democratic nomination, followed by the presidency. More importantly, the youth must recognize the vital importance of voting in this primary, as it will dictate whether the Democratic nominee is more liberally focused to correlate with the shifting Democratic Party dynamic, or remains more traditional to reflect the older generation within the party.

Jordan Long ’16 is a member of the Intro to Journalism class for which this piece was written. 

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Posted by on March 15, 2016. Filed under Around Campus,Opinions & Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to Op Ed: Youth and the Democratic Party

  1. Anna Topping

    March 15, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    hillary clinton for prez!!!

  2. corrigane

    March 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Great message Jordan, and thanks to The Hub for showcasing some great student work. Ernie Corrigan, adjunct professor.