Why are so many Millennials so in love with Bernie Sanders? Might it be because we raised them right. We told them to tell the truth. We told them that decency matters. Not to be a bully; learn how to play together. That the best way to live in the world is to imagine yourself as part of a community: a family, a religion, a culture, a country?
The Millennials now old enough to vote are young enough to remember the gut-searing feeling they got when their elders demonstrated with rank hypocritical insistence, their way or the highway. They clearly understand abuse of power,( from the denial of our history relative to the treatment native peoples and people of color to the current political hijinks in the white house) and have had enough of a system so corrupt and duplicitous they are searching for a new one. No return to the comforting Papa Joe, Mama Amy or good boy Brother Pete will do. Rather, the outsider cranky Uncle Bernie who speaks truth to power.He stands to champion their future. Who consistently stands for unwavering principles and dares to imagine a world that includes all communities, all religions, cultures, in the fruits of our country and who understands that the boundaries of countries do not stop the spreading toxic poison that we now acknowledge is global environmental destruction.
The elders call Sanders a populist, and draw invidious comparisons. Sanders is not like Trump. The most glaring difference is his commitment to telling the truth no matter how uncomfortable. Millennials see in him an idealist who is willing to spend his old age still fighting for right over might. He is willing despite the threat to his life (a heart attack) to take on the powerful forces of greed and corruption.
So much in the media has focused on the idea that Bernie is not willing to compromise, that he is dogmatic in his insistence on freedom and justice, and that he is frankly unelectable. If the corporate media continue with this focus, they may be right. Just as major networks gave Trump, the supposed “unelectable,” countless hours of airtime and print attention, they vacillate between exclusion and bias in not taking Sanders’ remarkable support seriously.
Do we need a plan? Do we need to work with others to effect the plan? Do we need to be reasonable? Yes, yes and yes. But most of all what we need is a leader not a compromiser, not one who plays it safe, but one with character. One with the strength of character to fight for those very values and dreams we talked about in the books we read to our two-year olds; in the dreams we allowed our preteens to harbor; in the parables we told our teenagers; and in the opportunities we tried to give our young adults. Now they are Millennials who define their own futures: the Gretas and Alexandrias, who see race, class and gender as obstacles to the very sense of connectedness and community we wanted to instill in them.
Yes, Aunt Liz is extremely articulate and has a plan for everything, but she has already begun to compromise on health care. When she ever so slightly began to back away from her position on Medicare for All, Millennials and some of us older folk, too, took notice. Compromise and electability are terms that presuppose time and intention. We now know the intention of those in power in government. We can all see the compromise, the cynicism and the hypocrisy that appears to have transformed the hearts and souls of people who might otherwise have remembered what it was like to be young and to dream. They appear to have abandoned their interest in their children’s future, and the ideals we used to call the “American Dream” of democracy and justice, for a comfortable place in a system that protects them
Now, as we yield to a new generation, it is time to have faith in their ability to define the future. There is no time for going back, only forward, and as I approach my old age I have faith in our Millennials, and I am proud and willing to join them …. for a better world. If my hope rests with them it is because I refuse to allow the wisdom of old age to blind me to a vision of a future that differs from the romanticized past that has brought us to this present predicament.
So yes, it comes as no surprise that at this point in time an old white man who carries the label of “democratic socialist” is the leader of a diverse and enthusiastic following of the young–black, white, male, female. They see through all labels that define, separate, and divide. They see in him a reflection of their own passion for truth and justice, and find him the most attractive of characters.