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Sanders Must Level With His Young Voters

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Sanders Must Level With His Young Voters

The crowd cheers as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Fort Collins

What happened in the South Carolina primary? Bernie Sanders was asked. “We got decimated, that’s what happened,” he responded.

Here was Sanders at his best. Brutally honest. Averse to spin. Though the independent from Vermont vows to fight on, his lopsided loss in pivotal South Carolina makes his prospects for winning the Democratic nomination increasingly slim.

The question for progressives is: What happens to his passionate followers in the event he leaves the race? Or more to the point: Is there a way to keep his ardent fans ardent about participating in the electoral politics? Will they keep voting when the candidates are less charismatic, when the election’s not in a big-deal presidential year, when the solutions are muddied in the reality of two-party politics?

Sanders’ feat in electrifying younger voters has been extraordinary. And that extends to his success with many young Latinos and African-Americans, whose elders went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

But the fickleness of the youth vote has been the bane of progressive politics. It is why the right wing controls Congress.

In 2008, a political rock star named Barack Obama energized the young electorate with talk of radical transformation. The voters’ idealistic fervor helped sweep him into office and expanded the Democratic majority in Congress.

The economy was in free fall. But in the first two years of his presidency, Obama helped steer America from the precipice of another Great Depression — plus he pushed the passage of the Affordable Care Act, bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It was hard work, not magic, that accomplished these remarkable things.

Many of his younger voters, led to believe in Technicolor miracles, were unimpressed. The 2010 midterms came around, and they stayed home. Not so the older tea party Republicans, who despised much of what Obama stood for.

Here’s the thing about these right-leaning activists: Sometimes they have a candidate they adore. Sometimes they don’t. But they vote. They vote in presidential years and in non-presidential years, when the public isn’t paying much attention. They vote for the state legislators who usually end up creating districts that favor their party’s candidates.

So as older conservatives marched to the polls, many young liberals did a vanishing act. Having represented 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, voters under the age of 30 accounted for only 11 percent in 2010, their poorest performance in two decades.

Democrats suffered devastating losses, and progressive priorities went into the deep freeze.

It’s true that younger Americans tend to move more often, and that complicates the process of registering to vote and finding the polling place. But still. The youth turnout in the 2014 midterm was even more dismal than in 2010 — actually, the lowest in 40 years.

It is the nature of liberal politics to be cerebral, and with that comes the “critique.” Rather than marvel that near-universal coverage happened at all, prominent voices on the left attacked the reforms as a surrender to business interests. They bashed Obama for not slapping more cuffs on the Wall Street operators.

These complaints were not without merit, but politics is always a work in progress. One keeps plugging away.

Sanders is a no-excuses type of guy. He’s in an especially strong position to do some truth-telling to the young electorate that has rallied to his cause. If they think that the economy is rigged against them, they have to vote out the politicians who have done the rigging. They must play the long game.

One politician’s magnetism isn’t going to do it. Just ask President Obama.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.


Photo: The crowd cheers as Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Fort Collins, Colorado February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY     

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Dominick Vila March 1, 2016

    A Democratic ticket without Sanders would pave the way for a Trump presidency. If Hillary chooses an establishment Senator or Governor as her running mate, the game is over for us. She really does not have a choice, she either chooses Bernie as her running mate, or she will lose the election.
    The outcome of this election depends more on our ability to mobilize our base, than on demonstrations of qualifications, relevant experience, and discussions of issues that ought to matter to the average voter. Mainstream Americans are anxious, some are fearful, others disappointed; and regardless of whether their angst is based on reality or a well crafted disinformation campaign, the fact is that ignoring their concerns or fears will inevitably result in defeat.

    1. A_Real_Einstein March 1, 2016

      I do not think she will choose Bernie. My guess is Sherod Brown. Yes we will lose and hopefully the damage will not to bad. We will not allow the DNC, Corp Media, and Establishment force another Plutocrat down our throats. We no longer see much difference between the two parties. We send a message today to get a better candidate in 2020.

      1. Dominick Vila March 1, 2016

        Without a united party, and motivated registered Democrats, we will lose in 2016. If Sanders supporters don’t vote for Hillary in November, they – and the rest of us – better get ready for President Trump.

        1. A_Real_Einstein March 1, 2016

          Then the DNC needs to put up candidates that support progressive policies and quickly move away from facism. Now that we have seen Bernie we can no longer vote for candidates that are on the take. It can be done. If we run away from our progressive values and run right of Obama in November we will lose just like we did in 2014. Where was our autopsy?

    2. I of John March 1, 2016

      I would just a soon have Elizabeth Warren on the ticket. She was always the progressive’s first pick. And she has some real practical ideas for curbing economic inequality. Plus it would be so much fun watching the GOP squirm on the end of the noose.

      1. Dominick Vila March 1, 2016

        That may be a winning ticket, if nothing else because the Archie Bunkers that constitute the most loyal base of the GOP will probably die of chronic indigestion.

    3. @HawaiianTater March 2, 2016

      *Sanders-Gabbard is your winning ticket, my friend.

  2. FireBaron March 1, 2016

    I worry when I read or hear Sanders supporters say they will stay home on election day if Bernie is not the nominee. The problem is that almost guarantees either Donald Trump, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz will be the winner in November. Bernie can gather enough delegates to make a decisive contribution to the Party Platform, but he just doesn’t have the backing needed to take the big states. We saw that in 72 with McGovern. While he drew the youth into participation, he drove away a lot of the older Democrats.

  3. Böcker March 1, 2016

    Clinton wrapped herself up in President Obama to win SC, she won’t be doing so well in other states outside the south, deal.

    1. Eleanore Whitaker March 1, 2016

      Oh contrare mon frere…Schumer has already endorsed Hillary in NY and Booker has endorsed her in NJ. So…The Confederate state freeloaders will vote for Trump and Sanders and the progressive workers supporting the Confederacy are not.

    2. Marv Nochowitz March 1, 2016

      We knew the south was racist. Now we find out it is also fascist. Makes sense though, racism and fascism go together. That is why Trump will do well in the south

  4. Eleanore Whitaker March 1, 2016

    Once again, men in the US do the “either or” commando dictates. First of all, what makes ANY American man think women in the US want to be told who we MUST vote for or who Hillary MUST choose for VP?

    So, if Sugar Daddy Sanders doesn’t get his shot in the White House the same way Cheney did, well, heaven help the future of the country right? Must must must have a man to tell the Female President what to do…Yeeesh you guys could bore the hell out of Satan.

    First of all, Sanders isn’t just NOT leveling with his younger voters…he isn’t leveling with ANY of his voters. And what makes men in this country think if Sanders is the frontrunner, Trump won’t rip Sanders a new one?

    So much for the “either or ” BS. If Sanders is front runner, Trump is the winner. Congratulations to the bulls out there who know all.

    Sanders isn’t going to do one single thing to change college education costs…Why? He would have to run herd over the 6$$$$-figure professors in US colleges. 2. He would have to singlehandedly remove the huge corporate influence who sit on nearly all major US college boards…And just when is Saint Bernard supposed to have the tiime for these 2 major battles? Will that be between duking it out with the GOP over healthare or women’s rights? Will it be between rewriting tax laws that have more voumes than an encyclopedia?

    Do yourselves a favor…Pop those pretty balloons you are all floating through the air and land on your butts back down to earth. Earth to Sanders supporters…..

    1. Marv Nochowitz March 1, 2016

      Either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would beat Donald Trump. I don’t think the country is ready for a fascist president.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker March 2, 2016

        How wrong you men are…First of all, Donald Trump is the dirtiest, lowest fighter on planet earth. We in the Metro area have seen and heard how he flies under the radar to get what he wants.

        Only Hillary, with over 4 decades of Republican harassment could properly put the GOP in its place. And, let’s be honest, Sanders is Jewish…you know damn well that is the first thing Trump with that motor mouth will go after if it is Trump vs. Sanders. Have you forgotten the number of times he used anti-Semitic slurs in public about Leona Helmsley?

        The only Jewish candidate right now who could stand up to Trump is Senator Charles Schumer of NY. He knows every detail of the Trump games…and is a far more polished, classy politician than Sanders has ever been. But the reality is that Trump knows to back off where Senator Schumer is concerned. He will not do that with Sanders..I cannot imagine that Trump won’t open his fat mouth about donations to Israel, Netanyahu or anything else that scumbucket bigot can concoct to win…IN Trump’s own words over the past 4 decades? “Winners win. Losers Lose.” And Trump doesn’t intend to lose. He will be just as bad with Hillary about her gender but that’s why he will lose…Two gender bashing words and he has no chance of getting women to vote for him.

    2. RED March 1, 2016

      So, what I’m hearing is don’t expect anything from Hill’s ’cause nothing will be done and we should just be happy to continue on the same path and Hill’s corporate masters are better than the Con corporate masters, huh? Right!

  5. Eleanore Whitaker March 1, 2016

    Nearly every major media commenter has stated the facts about Sanders…he has an identity problem among US minorities. And, Sanders wants more “change?” For whom might we wonder? Sure..let’s pretend he’ll don his gladiator suit and put the 1% in an arena along with all those corporations and Wall Streeters he claims to hate and little David Sanders will slay Goliath all over again for you. NOT.

    He’ll squeeze every dollar he can from his opponents all while they head offshore to stash their cash. The big problem with Sanders brand of “socialism” is the same kind of problems Communists in Russia of the early1900s had: Soviet Socialism meant rationing across the board. (Psssst…just not for the Party heads.) How is that going to work here i the US and who will Sanders patronize to insure they don’t lose a dime of their “wealth.”

    1. Marv Nochowitz March 1, 2016

      Russia was not a democratic socialist country. Instead of Russia, look to western Europe where democratic socialism actually exists. Higher standard of living, longer lifespans, and amore educated populace, would be found.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker March 2, 2016

        Wrong…And, I know the Sanderistas are a desperate bunch these days…But, in the USA, there are 2 major parties…none are called “Democratic Socialists”…So..do tell your Sugar Daddy Sanders to stop trying to fit his Socialism into the Democratic Party.

        Higher standards of living than the US already has? Where do you and Sugar Daddy Sanders live? Last time I checked, the Sanders brand of Socialism was overloaded with brainiac slacker college hippies who spent more time on the protest trails than in their books. He graduated in 1964, like many hippies, flower children and protestors did…with a BS in political science. Do your homework and you see he didn’t have a stellar performance in politics. It took him 7 tries before he was elected mayor…Now you want this socialist slacker with hidden ties to NYSE and some of the biggest Citibank and J.P. MOrgan Chase campaign donors to be president?

        And, don’t think for one minute people are too stupid to know that a certain number of his voters are voting for Sanders because of his religion. Sorry but we already have enough Madoffers ripping off the middle class. Try again…and this time try to post without your religious bias.

        Posts like yours are laughable…You try desperately to hide that sneaky back room agenda…and it isn’t working. Vote for qualifications…which Sanders doesn’t have…not because you and he share the same religion.

  6. plc97477 March 1, 2016

    The bernie followers are going to hopefully learn a lesson this year. If the rest of the country can’t rely on you don’t expect them to help you get what you want.

    1. TiredOfTheHaters March 1, 2016

      Definitely! What these so called democratic Bernie supporters don’t realize is that by alienating Hillary and her supporters, they are tearing up the party.

  7. David March 1, 2016

    Why do you think only young people are Senator Sanders’ supporters?? He is talking about uniting the country. Hilllary is talking about Hilliary. I only hope that if Hilliary is the Democratic nominee, that Senator Sanders will NOT Endorse. But instead un an Independent campaign. DNC and the Democratic hasn’t been fair to him.So why should he bring all of us over to that Rigged side?? Democrats and Republicans are but flip sides of the same coin. Big money owns both..

    1. Thomas Martin March 2, 2016

      Oh, so Bernie was forced to join the Democratic party? I don’t think so – he did it himself. He probably realized that in past elections independent candidates didn’t fair well. Would he run as an independent to take away votes from Hillary or the Donald? I am sure he’d take votes from Hillary and neither one would be elected. I would vote for Hillary over the Fascist any day.

  8. @HawaiianTater March 1, 2016

    If Dems want young liberal voters to stay involved in politics, then they need to stop pushing bought-and-paid-for corporate puppets on the electorate. The older voters are going to show up no matter what. The younger voters are only going to show up if you give them a candidate they can believe in. Guess what? The younger voters don’t believe in Hillary. That’s going to be a major problem for them in the general election.

    Rather than bash young liberals for not showing up to vote, solve the problem of why they don’t show up to vote. They’ll show up if you give them a good reason to show up.

    1. Robert Eckert March 2, 2016

      “The younger voters are only going to show up if you give them a candidate they can believe in” Candidates are only going to bother trying to appeal to the voters who actually show up.

      1. @HawaiianTater March 2, 2016

        Indeed. And that’s a problem.

    2. Marv Nochowitz March 3, 2016

      You need a reason to vote? What do you think would happen if republicans controlled all three ranches of government? Good by health care, Good bye Roe VS Wade, good e voting rights act, good bye public education, good bye Supreme Court. And the list goes on and on. Just think of what kind of world you would like to live and what kind of world a republican controlled government would bring. That is the reason to vote

      1. @HawaiianTater March 3, 2016

        Thank you illustrating my point, Marv. “Vote or us or else” isn’t getting young people to the polls. It’s time to try a different strategy.

  9. David March 2, 2016

    This is David responding to Thomas Martin. I have always been a Democrat. And I most likely will support the ticket regardless. You are correct. But I don’t appreciate the way Hiliary is cunning The African Americans. I only suggest goggling Dr. Martin Luther King”s speeches on Income Inequality two weeks before his death in 1968. And tell me who Dr. King would be supporting in this Election..???


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