Why Was Bernie Sanders So Successful in Activating Young Voters?

Why Was Bernie Sanders So Successful in Activating Young Voters?
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What made the Bernie Sanders campaign so successful in activating young voters? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Becky Bond and Zack Exley, Former Senior Advisers to Bernie Sanders (2016); co-authors of Rules for Revolutionaries, on Quora.

The Bernie campaign's two biggest assets were Bernie's message and Bernie's authenticity as a messenger.

Young people were electrified by Bernie's political analysis and believed that he meant what he said because he had been saying it for decades. When Bernie asked for a political revolution they rose up to join it.

In my experiences on the campaign trail working with young people as staffers and volunteers, I came to be in awe of the younger cohort of millennials -- primarily folks who are aged 16-26.

The Clinton campaign pegged these younger millennials as naive takers who only wanted free stuff and were responding primarily to Bernie's support for free tuition at public colleges and universities. But if they'd spent more time with young people they would have understood that young people cared about all the issues because they are a truly intersectional generation.

Zack and I talk about this in the chapter of our Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything that's titled "There is No Such Thing as a Single-Issue Revolution." Everywhere we went, young people flocked to the campaign because Bernie was talking about all the issues they cared about. Consistently we found that climate and racial justice were at the top of their agenda. They also cared deeply about getting big money out of politics and immigration reform. Free tuition at public colleges and universities was usually the fourth or fifth issue they mentioned.

What the Clinton campaign missed but we understood right from the beginning on the Bernie campaign was that the younger millennials are an intelligent, diverse, digitally enabled, teamwork-focused, and solutions-oriented generation. They are searching for leaders, strategies and tactics to address the urgent crises they are inheriting from an older generation.

These under-26 millennials (and some of the older ones, too) are going through a nuanced and intense political awakening that questions current conventional wisdom. They recognize how the dominant orthodoxy of incremental approaches to change fall far short of the solutions that are needed. And they are willing to engage in the work necessary to fight for the change we need even if the odds of winning aren't great.

Going forward, I believe that young people are going to continue the work they started with the Bernie Sanders campaign. They are the vanguard that's going to go after the establishment and change things -- not from ignorance or idealism, but from a place of intelligence, urgency, nuance and a clear recognition that we are all in this together and all struggles are connected.

The sooner these young leaders who are more radical and diverse than the baby boomers or GenXers replace the current political establishment, the better. If the election had been decided only by votes by young people I would have been much happier with the result. And helping the young Bernie Sanders voters rise to power is one of the hopeful things we can focus on in these dark days.

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