According to Rolling Stone, “Americans of all ages favored capitalism to socialism, with one exception: people ages 18 to 29, whose views of each ideology were equally positive.” Socialism is considered taboo to a lot of older generations; however, there is a reason why it is increasingly popular with Millennials and even those who are younger. Socialism itself is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” However, the message that the Democratic Socialists of America adapt is that “both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few.” Bernie Sanders coined himself as a Democratic Socialist early on in his political career. Sanders separated himself from the Clinton campaign and called Hillary the “Wall Street” candidate on multiple occasions during the early stages of the Democratic Primaries. While political commentators bashed Sanders for his “unrealistic dreams,” it was clear that he was gaining popularity, especially with the younger generation.
One of the reasons Sanders and democratic socialism gained popularity among Millennials is because recent college graduates are faced with a competitive job market, student debt and more often than not are living at home. Average student debt totals to about $35,000. On top of that, interest rates on student loans are usually high. The circumstances are much different for Millennials than they were for their parents and these circumstances affect how Millennials vote and simply think about the world. The equal distribution of wealth that Socialism aims to achieve would no longer allows the top 1% to carry the most of the nation’s wealth. According to Forbes, “44% of college graduates are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs…the number of young people making less than $25,000 has also spiked to the highest level since the 1990s.” The economic landscape is obviously changing for Millennials, but the political landscape seems to have remained the same.
Part of the reason why so many young people backed Sanders instead of Clinton is because of Clinton’s image that she only supported corporations and Wall Street while Sanders presented that he stood for the young people and promised to work for the people. To many young voters, politicians seem to have a universal track record of being in the pocket of corporations. Another reason why Trump and Sanders seemed to change the game for both political parties is that they both represented a sort of revolution within their party. This revolution pushed party ideologies to the extremes (however, in no way is the alt-right equivalent to the far left). In many ways, equal distribution of wealth is connected to other social issues such as the wage gap that affects women, especially minority women. Clinton’s campaign was not as inspiring to those that believe in social reform, at least not in the ways that Sanders’ was.
Democratic Socialism experienced a revival after Sanders’ bid for presidency. The Democratic Socialists of America surged in membership, reaching almost 20,000 due-paying members. There are clear values that the Millennials, who hold one of the highest voting blocks, believe in. The recent political election brought many of these values to light and, in many ways, these values were not met. If the Democratic Party wants to win back those “Bernie or Bust” voters, it is time they listen to what young voters have to say instead of condemning and dismissing them.