Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, who is perhaps the eldest in the group of presidential hopefuls, is surprisingly receiving massive amounts of support from millennial voters, women included. Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary by a landslide, after losing in Iowa to Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton by the slightest of margins. Clinton and Sanders’ ideas overlap on numerous issues that directly impact millennial voters. They agree that college tuition costs need to be decreased considerably, federal minimum wage payments should be increased (Clinton $12/hour; Sanders $15/hour) and affordable health care should be considered a basic necessity. However, their contrast approach to implementing policy differs a great deal. Sanders’ is in pursuit of colossal changes for America – calling for a “political revolution.” Clinton plans to continue the practical and effective work of the Obama administration. A USA Today poll showed that Sanders leads by 19-points over Clinton among millennial women.
Although having over twenty years in the public eye, Clinton is still trying to persuade American voters that she is genuine, trustworthy, and likable. This election has proven to be a contest where “likability” and “authenticity” not only matter, but are paramount. Sanders and Presidential Candidate Donald Trump have been known to project a genuine eagerness and comfort in bluntly addressing topics that might not always be politically correct. Millennials are responding to the ideas of Sanders in a fervent manner similar to the way they responded to President Barack Obama eight years ago. Sander’s animated, candid speaking style is refreshing in comparison to Clinton’s monotonous politically correct way of addressing the masses. Clinton’s campaign had the potential to be revolutionary – after 227 years of relegated oppression America would elect the first woman to run the oval. So why aren’t young people tearing with joy? Clinton doesn’t address or provoke monumental change. President Obama did, and Sanders does. Millennials cling to that.
“This election has proven to be a contest where ‘likability’ and ‘authenticity’ not only matter, but are paramount.”
It is no secret that celebrity endorsements are very influential amongst millennials. Hip Hop Rapper Killer Mike endorsing Sanders and Actress Lena Dunham endorsing Clinton speaks volumes to their respective political strategies, brand imaging and social effectiveness of their candidacy. Both candidates were interviewed by their celebrities. Lena represents a voice that Clinton has already been introduced to – successful white American female who is the product of a middle-class family. On the other hand, Killer Mike challenged Sanders to see a new perspective from the lens of a Black American male with a completely different upbringing and background – opening the door for millions of other silent voices. The talk was rich and rewarding because it was an honest dialogue about how Killer Mike became a supporter, and what issues the two of them agree and disagree on, in light of their different backgrounds.
The fact is, Clinton’s gender is simply not enough to make her an exciting candidate. Astonishingly enough, the face of mainstream feminism has changed throughout the workplace, on college campuses and within the movement itself. Sure, she is a woman, but she is also white, affluent, heterosexual, and in most cases viewed as “part of the system” by millennials. The reality is that Clinton does not fall into enough marginalized categories to connect with the most amounts of people. Whereas, if she were a minority, homosexual, uneducated, financially disadvantaged—as well as female, millennial liberals might be more inclined to support her.
“The face of mainstream feminism has changed throughout the workplace”
Clinton may be able to understand the concerns of some women, but she does not first-hand understand the concerns of women who have suffered the most through oppression. It would seem that the focus on hardship has shifted from gender to privilege as the country has moved forward on gender equality. Millennials are taking a stance and expressing urgency in support of social movements, political candidates, law enforcement and financial institutions that are thoughtful and knowledgeable of the oppression of disenfranchised social groups. The days of blindly supporting structured organizations are gradually coming to an end. This generation is vocal, educated and mindful of whom they stand behind.
Jada Cash-Wilson is a Project Coordinator/Graduate Intern in the Department of Government & External Affairs and Community Impact and holds a BA in Political Philosophy. Before connecting with Wheelock, she worked as a Research Policy/Grant Analyst and liaison between the Mayor and City Council for a major city in the mid-west, and as a Legislative Aide for former U.S Senator Carl Levin. Jada aspires to someday make a positive difference in the world.