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Feeling the Bern: What Young People want from the Political System

Bernie Sanders did not win the Democratic Party nomination to be President. He did however, inspire passion amongst a new generation about “the real issues” facing their country today. It’s astonishing that a 74 year old, white, male Senator from Vermont acclaiming himself as a Democratic Socialist has been able to acquire such a cult-like following amongst the youth of America. Yes, I understand he was up against the 2nd most publicly despised presidential candidate ever – Hillary Clinton (guess who is the most?) – but how did he manage to pull this off?

Well maybe the youth were just genuinely sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s damn emails (a quick google will get you up to speed here). Believe what you will, but I personally think it was something more than this. Our generation genuinely cares about politics and the issues that will have an impact on our futures. Student loan debt is skyrocketing out of control, there are high levels of youth unemployment, and affordable housing is a thing of the past. Notice that the aforementioned issues are not only limited to the USA but are also major issues facing youth in New Zealand, and across the globe. If this is the society that we are being led into, it’s no wonder the youth of America are standing with Bernie in a fight for a future they can believe in.


“Climate change is a planetary crisis. We’ve got to act, and we’ve got to act boldly”

Sen. Bernie Sanders


Disregard for the environment infuriates our generation and this is a major issue fueling interest in the political system. Young people do not want to sit back and watch as the world we live in and will pass to our children, gets destroyed. So excuse Bernie for saying “if the environment was a bank, it would have been saved already,” because sadly, this appears to be true across the globe.

Around the world, more and more young people are getting on-board this movement: refusing to give up on universal healthcare, free public university tuition (we can still dream of this happening in NZ), economic, racial, social and environmental justice. But we are also not willing to compromise by losing our freedom. Liberty is the cornerstone of modern civilization and this needs to be preserved. Young Americans don’t want some person in Washington telling them how they should live their lives or how they should spend their money. And neither should we.


“It costs a lot more money to put somebody in jail than to send them to the University of Virginia”

Sen. Bernie Sanders


Across the globe, young people are not getting a fair deal. The difficulties attached with achieving higher education are leading far too many down a life route which ends in a prison cell. Governments have misguided crime policies and allocate too much funding to incarcerating people. Young people want to see this spent on providing training and education to up-skill our generation and create jobs for those who will otherwise get lost in the criminal justice system.

A political revolution is strongest when it starts from the bottom up. Our political ideologies are going to be the way of the future. Justice is a central idea as we seek to help the oppressed in society and close the gap between the poor and the so-called ‘elite’. Perhaps now is a good time for our politicians to start listening to us. Sanders may not have won the Democratic nomination, but he received more votes from young Americans than Clinton and Trump combined. The impact of him bringing so many young people into the political process will have a lasting effect.

Now is not a time for us to say “we will have to wait and see what happens” or “it doesn’t affect me”. As a young person, it is much more powerful to get up and get involved in the political system which will determine our future – even if it is a less exciting affair here in New Zealand *sniff*.