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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Bernie, popularity from socialism or social media?

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When women graduate college today with math degrees, as my mom did, I recognize that she was among the first wave to contradict norms about women in STEM. When white and black children sit together in classrooms, I can say my grandpa fought for that. Yet, when my future children look back at my accomplishments, what will they say I stood for?

This past Tuesday, 84% of voters under 30 in the Democratic New Hampshire primary voted for Bernie Sanders. I have to wonder what the results would be if we polled Carleton’s student body on the presidential candidates. From conversations with friends, I imagine it would look similar to the New Hampshire results: 80% for Sanders, 15 % for Clinton, 4 % for Rubio, and one lonely Trump supporter.

Six months ago, the mainstream news laughed at the prospect that Sanders would still be in the race at this point. So, why is Sanders so popular among students in particular and young adults in general?

Well, the easy response is the proposed elimination of tuition fees and student debt. For any student struggling under the financial weight of a college education, this sounds like an incredible deal. The alleviation of this significant financial burden explains some- not all- of the youth support for Bernie Sanders.

Students want a place in history. Like my grandfather fighting for civil rights or my mom proving that women can do anything men can, and that they can do it in heels, we desire social change. This is a chance at revolution. Whether it be single parent health care, dramatically increasing the minimum wage, or welcoming refugees, Sanders’ agenda departs from the status quo. His revolution contains not a singular “idea” but instead a vision of the United States in which capitalism is upended into radical socialism.

Enter Hillary Clinton. After decades of fighting gender inequalities, many argue that electing a woman as president would be the capstone to an ongoing feminist revolution. Bernie supporters, however, contest that this revolutionary step is purely symbolic. Hillary’s revolution is not our generation’s revolution.

This past week, iconic women Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright expressed their support for Clinton and shamed young, female Sanders supporters by saying, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Yet, when I look around Carleton, I see women in almost every department, teaching math, literature, and environmental studies. Hillary’s significance should not be forgotten- but when confronted by the enormity of Sander’s ideas, her symbolic status does not compare to Bernie’s proposed overhauls.

Yet, is Bernie’s success solely the result of his political, revolutionary message? It seems to me that when my friends’ support Bernie, there is an undeniable element of social cohesion. In our age and position in society, a lot of students are looking for their chance to enter the history books, not as a footnote to their parents’ movements but as their own chapter. It’s a group of impassioned young people that want to make these dramatic changes. That’s something you want to be a part of.

One critical difference between the beginnings of this political movement and the revolutions of generations past is the appearance of social media. For some, whether acknowledged or not, the mass spread of political ideas through Facebook and Twitter lead to a rapid bandwagoning effect. It’s not simply about the revolution, but also one’s status as a revolutionary. Status on campus and status online, college students feel the same urge to make a difference that their parents and grandparents did. In this sense, it becomes less about the revolutionary ideas themselves and more about becoming a revolutionary.

Many supporters of Bernie are well researched and base their arguments in political ideals, but that is not the full story. Choosing a candidate is a social statement, and conformity to a group might be just as powerful as revolutionary thought.

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