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The battle of ideas Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has brought into the fray of mainstream politics for the first time in several decades has only just begun. However, it is time to face the facts. The latest Super Tuesday was a disappointment for the Sanders campaign. Whilst this means the chances of an upset in the Democratic primary are increasingly unlikely, the ideas that Sanders espouses have the potential to create a future consensus for the Democrats in the very near future, just so long as people are willing to fight for it.
Let’s recap over what we know so far. The rise of Bernie Sanders was not predicted by the vast majority of mainstream media outlets, in fact, the mere idea of it was laughed off by pundits everywhere. In March 2015, he was polling at six percent. On the eve of the Michigan Primary, he was supposedly twenty points down in the polls and went on to win a resounding victory. Before this primary contest, the powers that be in the Democratic Party would have laughed at the idea of Bernie Sanders giving one of the most anticipated speeches at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
It is incredibly important to emphasise the huge role that millennials have played in the shock rise of Bernie Sanders. Not only did he take 84% of the millennial vote in Iowa, but according to exit polls from CNN, Sanders took 81% in Michigan, where millennial turnout made up 21% of the vote. The support network he has enthused across social media has translated into real life movements in the community. When they turned out in their masses to vote, they disrupted the most effective and organised political operation in the world – the Clinton machine.
However, if the likely scenario plays out and Hillary Clinton does indeed take the nomination, it is imperative that the Sanders campaign looks towards the future. That is where his ideas belong. Not only do the young have an equally positive view of socialism than capitalism, but they are the most economically stressed generation in the country.
This is why they have the opportunity and drive to shape a new consensus in American politics. Conventional politicians cannot seem to understand that millennials have a different view of the world to them. In ten or fifteen years’ time, they will have a cast iron presence at the polls. Baby-boomers see socialism as a dirty word, associated with totalitarian states and nuclear warfare. It is becoming all too clear that millennials think it is capitalism that is the dirty word.
What has the neoliberal consensus of Thatcher and Reagan done for them? They have seen greed and corruption cause the biggest financial crash in nearly a century and blind political posturing from both mainstream parties. Not only are they witnessing the marketisation of education, but even when they get a college degree, the chances of employment afterwards could look bleak. By 2023, student loan debt will exceed median income. This is why the anger and the passion of the Sanders campaign is just the beginning of something a lot bigger.
People have accused Bernie Sanders of being a throwback, but he is in fact the opposite. He is beginning a process that has the potential to create a new consensus. In the next ten years, millennials will be the foundation of the electorate. Their insistence that the United States needs to embark on a new path must be galvanized as we look towards future elections. If it is, American politics will not be the same for much longer.