By Alexandre Silberman
WANT Esteemed Contributor (Burlington, Vermont)
Over the past year of the presidential election cycle, many young Americans felt “the Bern,” drawn towards the progressive political platform of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Now that Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination, where will Sanders supporters go?
Despite his loss, Sanders has run a remarkable campaign, surpassing the expectations of countless political analysts and making a real impact on the Democratic platform. He has drawn millions of Americans, many of them young, into the political process for the first time. They have seen someone who cares about the issues young people face today; the burden of college debt, income inequality and access to healthcare.
Sanders has yet to officially endorse Clinton or drop out of the race, insisting that he is going to take his fight all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this July. Many supporters of his anti-establishment, pro-big government movement have mutual feelings. Only 55 percent of Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton, according to a June 14 Bloomberg Politics poll. Of the remaining Sanders supporters, 22 percent plan to vote for Donald Trump and 18 percent support Libertarian Gary Johnson. A significant percentage also support Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who was not included in the poll.
On a recent trip to Providence, Rhode Island I had a conversation about the 2016 election with Paul Tavarez, an advisor to Providence Student Union, a student-activist group. Tavarez expressed his support for Sanders, as well as his disappointment with the current outlook of the presidential race.
The part that bothers me is that the whole political revolution is just leading up to a president, just one person in power who is expected to make change, he said. People should be involved in making change themselves, in their communities, Tavarez told me.
After hearing Tavarez’s thoughts on the movement, I could not agree more. It is clear from the countless cheering supporters at Sanders rallies from Maine to California, that millions of young people are passionate about seeing change in this country. They are tired of a rigged economic system that only benefits the wealthiest of Americans and frustrated with our corrupt campaign finance system. They see the many issues affecting them, their families and their communities everyday.
Although Senator Sanders is not longer a viable presidential candidate, the energy and the grassroots movement that he launched does not have to end here. If we, the young people who launched it want it to continue, we need to stand up and take the desire for change into their own hands. Get involved in your community or local government, support politicians at your local level with similar platforms and do not be afraid to make change.
I have confidence that from the overwhelming support Sanders received this election, that his sizeable delegate count will be enough to leave a mark on the Democratic platform. I also truly believe that millions of young Americans standing up and taking action have the power to bring immense change to our country.
Will this “Sanders-inspired” political revolution continue past the convention? This question will ultimately be decided by the millions drawn into the campaign and many, like me, who will be first time participants in the political process this November. We have the power to make change, we just have to go out and do it.
Photo Credit: AFGE