Bernie Won’t Win the Nomination, But This is What His Success Says About AmericaMay 26, 2016
Bernie Sanders has always been about creating big change. From his days as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont back in the 80’s, to his current campaign for president of the United States, Sanders is a long time proponent for major reform when it comes to the American political system.
At the current juncture in the 2016 elections, having lost to Hillary Clinton by landslides across the South, and having been defeated by her in most of the northeast, the Democratic seat is not looking likely for Mr. Sanders. However, even if he doesn’t make it into the general election, Bernie’s campaign has already shown the country, and the world, that the kind of politics he represents is much more widely supported than most realized.
Millennials Love Bernie
Bernie’s coalition is a young one, whose influence will only grow in years to come. America’s youth are big supporters of his ideas surrounding free college tuition, breaking up big banks, doubling the minimum wage, and putting the entire country on Medicare. He attracts huge crowds to his rallies, garners press coverage for his policy statements, and raises unprecedented sums of money from a grassroots army, comprised mostly of those from the Millennial generation. Now that he’s got their attention, Bernie is pointing his youthful alliance in a new direction that lays groundwork for the future.
Transforming Campaign Financing
When it comes to campaign financing in American politics, Bernie is a rare breed. He has built a following of dedicated mini donors who donated a combined total of $60 million in the first two months of 2016, with the average donation being only $27.
In a conventional campaign, if Sanders fell behind Hillary as much as he has, he would find himself abandoned by his big-money donors, and essentially forced to drop out of the race. While it’s possible that his donors may soon stop providing campaign funding, it’s also plausible that if Sanders can convince his supporters that he still has a chance at the nomination, he’ll be able to raise more money to win the still outstanding states.
Money is a bigger issue in the more obscure races, where free media coverage is harder to come by, and small-donor money is difficult to obtain for the same reason. If Sanders can help raise money for these kind of candidates, he will have a meaningful impact on the 2016 election, and an even bigger impact on what kind of candidates get recruited in the first place in 2018, 2020, and beyond.
Getting People, Especially Young Liberals, To Vote
Bernie’s supporters may not be a national majority of Democrats, but there are a lot of them. They are young, very well-educated, engaged with politics, highly likely to give money or attend a rally, and also very likely to live in places that are represented in Congress by Democrats.
Throughout the Obama era, these young liberals have done a poor job of voting in midterm elections. Though they do vote for down-ballot candidates when they show up to vote in presidential elections, they’re not especially engaged with those races, which is why they don’t bother voting in midterms. Sanders has always and continues to encourage the mobilization of these young liberals to vote every two years rather than skipping midterms.
The Future Of Bernie’s Revolution
Sanders’ desire for a political revolution has always been the most compelling part of his campaign, but also the least plausible. In American politics, change takes time and a lot of work – not a single electoral victory followed by some intense campaigning. This was bad news for Sanders at the peak of his campaign, but as his odds of victory decrease, it becomes more favorable. He has a lot of demographic and ideological tailwinds at his back, and he’s proven to be a more impressive national communicator than people realize.
Though still holding out hope for that Democratic seat, at this point, Sanders’ likely best play is to work toward creating an institutional and financial infrastructure that will carry forward into the future, enabling other politicians to stand on his shoulders, rather than needing to reinvent the wheel.
Win or lose, the Bernie movement is definitely a symbol that a larger part of America than we thought is ready for a radical change.