Sanders, Socialism, and the Youth Vote

For the election watchers who were dissatisfied after the statistical stalemate in the Iowa caucuses, here’s a result worth wondering over: six to one!

That’s the margin by which Iowa Democrats between 18 and 30 favored Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, still the primary favorite. There’s a generation gap in one of America’s two great parties: across the country, the older Democrats are, the more likely they are to side with Clinton, the establishment pick.

sanders support age

We’re wondering what’s in the minds of a new generation of young voters and activists. For starters, they don’t seem to share their parents’ worries about “socialism,” as WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan noted this week. The endless knock on Bernie Sanders is that he has ambitious proposals — and no way to get them passed. But friend of the show Bernie Avishai would argue that you need some radical clarity when confronting a Congress in which compromise has become impossible.

Pew-2011-pollWhen the under-35 set flocks to an old-school, New Deal Democrat (who calls himself a “democratic socialist”), is it Obama-style idealism — “that hopey-changey stuff” — or a new pragmatic politics? Another question: in 2016, is Sanders’ socialism a vulnerability — or a selling point?

Our guest Thomas Frank reminds us that the millennial generation in America is economically hard-put: weighed down by big loans, treading water in a labor market full of part-time, on-demand jobs:

[Young people] have every right in the world to be furious, OK? I’m quite serious about that. And it’s a refreshing thing to see them flocking to Bernie. But it’s not idealism, per se… At the end of the day, these people are screwed, and they know it. And they’re reaching out to someone who promises to unscrew them.

We’ll be talking over the prospects with Sarah Leonard, senior editor at The Nation and the mind (with Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin) behind a new book of political essays, The Future We Want: Radical Ideas For A New Century. Tim Barker, a PhD student in political history at Harvard who contributed to the book, and Khury Peterson-Smith, a Black Lives Matter activist involved in the International Socialist Organization, join us in studio.

Finally, David Simon, the Baltimore Sun beat reporter who went on to dramatize American city life in The Wire and Show Me a Hero, offers a dark diagnosis of corruption in America. Simon says that between cost-cutting governors, rampant payouts in Congress, and the stranding of the lower and middle classes, it’s the tide of maldistributed money that’s driving gridlock and frustration everywhere.

Hear more from Thomas Frank and David Simon

Sanders photo by Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons.

Guest List
Thomas Frank
founding editor of The Baffler magazine and author of What's The Matter with Kansas? and the forthcoming Listen, Liberal!
Sarah Leonard
senior editor at The Nation and co-editor of The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century.
Tim Barker
graduate student in history at Harvard University and Dissent editor and contributor.
Khury Peterson-Smith
activist for Black Lives Matter, member of the International Socialist Organization, and graduate student in geography.
David Simon
creator of HBO's The WireTreme, and Show Me A Hero.

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