Why students love Bernie Sanders

By Bridget Higgins

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Bernie Sanders looked like an unlikely candidate when he first announced his campaign. He was older, a self-declared socialist and had “crazy” ideas that most people considered near impossible to accomplish. Many classical party democrats criticized Bernie supporters as idealistic and young, just as GOP party elites pointed to Trump supporters as uneducated. How exactly is Bernie even competing with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination? The answer is quite simple: revolution.

The 2016 election is ruled by revolution, whether it is one of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders. Typical choices by political parties are being eschewed in favor of the candidates that appeal to the rank-and-file members of the party.

Students are no exception. According to a poll by the Reason Foundation, 43 percent of millennials called themselves democrats or leaned that way, as compared to just 22 percent for republicans—the remaining 34 percent identified as independent, which is three times more the number of older Americans who are independent. This means that millennials are more likely to follow their own opinions than the classic opinions of the main political parties.

While Social Security and Medicare are protected by many candidates, student loans remain the victim in most federal budgets. Student loan debt can affect people for decades, adding to monthly bills and creating challenges for young families who desire upward mobility. However, older voters tend to have a higher representation at the polls, so their wants and needs are prioritized first. According to a Nov. 9, 2012 article by USA Today, more than half of eligible voters ages 18-29 did not vote in the 2012 presidential election, while around two-thirds of the oldest voting generation voted. While Social Security and retirement stability came first, the youth suffered.

College student loan debt and economic equality were never quite at the front of a campaign’s platform like it is now with Bernie Sanders’ message. This is why Iowa could #FeelTheBern during its primaries, when Bernie won by 70 points among young voters.

Many of these millennials are not “Democratic Socialists” or even any type of socialist. They just do not want “more of the same.” Political legacies frighten them. This is because the interests of students do not follow legacy or party politics. History proves that such things have essentially grown beneficial programs for older Americans at the expense of the younger generations. If this were not the case, students would not be swamped with debt and find themselves paying more in loans than in mortgage payments.

On Monday, Bernie Sanders came to the Mullins Center at UMass Amherst for a rally, causing lines that began hours before the door even opened to the event. Students are rushing to support Bernie Sanders because he represents their interests. Bernie represents the revolution to ordinary politics that can bring swarms of students to the polls.

Bridget Higgins is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]