One year ago, Senator Bernie Sanders was just another old, white, male politician to most millennials. Two weeks ago, at the Iowa Caucus, the 74-year-old, non-Christian, and self-declared socialist won the youth vote by a grand 70 points. He received even greater support on February 9th, at the New Hampshire Democratic primary, where 84% of voters 18-24 chose him over Former Secretary Hillary Clinton. In comparison, President Obama won 66% of the votes of young people in 2008. Obviously, Sen. Sanders is appealing to millennials in a way that Clinton is not.
America's youth enjoy Sen. Sander's sincerity. In fact, the Brooklyn-native attracts voters the same way Donald Trump does. He isn't afraid of speaking his mind and doesn't come off as company-owned. The only difference between Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump is that Sanders believes in rights and equality for all humans despite race, religion, gender, nationality, sexuality, and class.
Alright, so maybe Sen. Sander's and Mr. Trump's doctrines are polar opposites, but the foundation of appeal is the same.
Sen. Sander's advantage is the digital revolution. Pictures and videos have surfaced all over social media of a young Bernie Sanders marching behind Dr. King on Washington, defending LGBT rights in Congress, and starring in his own cable access show in the 1980s.
Young voters identify with Bernie Sanders because as a young adult he held the same views they do, and he still does. They find his diligence and dedication to key issues have spanned decades. Bernie Sanders was progressive when it wasn't cool, and it's paying off.
However, retweeting a candidate's tweets, liking their slogans on Facebook, and blogging about their political movements aren't enough. I used to think they were.
Last year, I swore I would never vote during an election. I spit the same argument everyone who doesn't vote does;"My vote doesn't matter."
"All politicians are corrupt."
"The Electoral College is the real voter."
"I don't want blood on my hands."
That didn't stop me from being vocal about key issues like healthcare, foreign policy, gun laws, women's reproductive rights, education, and the economy.
What I overlooked was this; I am privileged to live in a country that gives me the opportunity to voice my opinion and take a part in the election process. The Woman's Suffrage Movement made it possible for me vote, yet here I was claiming to be a feminist without taking advantage of the equal rights I already have.
Here's the thing, if you don't vote, you can't complain.
So I registered to vote.
Like most millennials, I didn't affiliate with any of the major political parties. I couldn't find the party that held my principles and all my hopes for a candidate. Eventually, I came to realize that adulthood meant I wasn't going to enjoy every piece of chocolate in the chocolate box, but that didn't mean I had to give up chocolate.
The youth of America don't just have an issue with political parties; they have an issue with politics as a whole. They are untrusting of political consequences, and they have a right to be. The U.S. has not seen a year without war since 1997. The last five presidents have all added to the national debt. Getting a full college education requires an arm and a leg, and mass shootings are a common news story. Millenials have accepted a future of chaos, but acceptance can't come with criticism.
Even with the massive youth support, only 18% of voters in Iowa were between the ages of 17-29. Yet, you won't find many millennials who aren't complaining about student loans, the U.S.'s involvement in the Middle East, the gun epidemic, or healthcare. We complain, and we do it at full volume; on social media, in college classes, and while on the phone with Sally Mae.
Millennials, you need to go out and vote. Vote because you can, because you should, and because you can't complain about no change when you're not contributing to the process. We are the future. Nobody is going to change our future but us.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage across America because of the heightened pressure from new, vocal generations. America's youth initiated the Black Lives Matter movement, helped shine a light on climate change, and are standing up against rape on college campuses. We are changing the future, and can continue to do so by taking part in the democratic process.
Don't just vote in general elections. Vote during the primaries. Vote in local elections. Find out where to vote. Many states have closed primaries, meaning you can only vote for the party you're registered for. Take advantage of your right to vote. Whether you agree with Former Secretary Clinton, Sen. Sanders, Mr. Trump, Sen. Cruz, or Dr. Carson; your vote matters. Even if you disagree with all of them, picking a lesser of two evils is better than nothing.
I'm starting to sound like an Uncle Sam ad, so let me clarify something; I'm not saying you can't complain. By all means, go ahead and write to your representatives, tweet the candidates, yell at the TV during a debate; but don't let that be the only thing you do.
I get it. The world we've lived in has never been a world of peace. It's been a world of war, hate, crime, and sadness. The person that gets the most votes doesn't always win. More money will get you more power. There is a price on education and a price on healthcare. It sucks.
Do something about it.