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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  • Potter

    Excellent show!
    I was reminded that Bill Clinton won the presidency with “it’s the economy stupid”, triangulation, and his centrism (the Democratic Leadership Council), thus moving the Democratic party to the right beyond recognition. This was “the third way” “neoliberalism”, the way Democrats had to go in order to win elections again.

    Sanders is an old fashioned Democrat, call this democratic socialism, whatever. Its heartening that “socialism” is not a dirty word in the electorate as it was. As Bill Clinton used to say, “that dog does not hunt anymore”.

    Sanders has won already regardless of whether he wins the presidency. I am encouraged listening to the folks on this show. I hope Sanders is really only part of change already underway. I agree with Thomas Frank. This is not idealism. I agree that Hillary is a fake populist. She is not going to get rid of a system that keeps her going.
    Thank you!!

    • Pete Crangle

      Well done Potter.

      • Potter

        Thanks Pete. Jack Cassidy has an interesting piece in the current New Yorker. I am realizing that criticizing Hillary, though warranted, too much too long will put us in a bind because we may have to vote for her. We will be weakening her in this process. Still and again, I hate having to choose this way. The Republican side is so much more frightening to me ( I know I keep saying I am afraid, I am). So the Cassidy piece I think has this in mind. Still, while we are in this primary season, I can’t bring myself to compromise. I know too that we, or some of us, are looking for some savior.

        Hillary Clinton Should Play to Her Strengths

  • Thinkfreeer

    No mystery there. Young people have less – less possessions and less income. Of course they would like a candidate who would lavish free benefits on them. They don’t care about the cost or where it will come from.

  • rick

    The power of the narrative is an amazing phenomena. The masterful power of the media has led to the people in the U.S. having been lied to for so long, most of them are incapable of seeing the truth right in front of their eyes. At the same time most people can feel that something is very wrong.

    Government in its modern form is an instruement of death and destruction. In addition to that problem A stealth coup d’etat set up a secret contol branch of this government mass murder machine more than 100 years ago. What’s called the central bank is really a manifestation of a tenticle of an ancient Global Mafia designed to enslave the masses through manipulation by means of deception and violence . Without understanding this basic situation no course of action for a remedy can even be contemplated.

    We keep choosing between the lesser of two evil choices to be commander and chief of the most powerful destructive murder machine in written history and expect different results.

    We need to put our energy into new institutions that employ means of inspiration and support creativity and life and stop trying to use institutions designed to murder and enslave. Institutions designed or structured to use force, deception, coercion and dependant on ignorance don’t magically, randomly, accidentally get better. This dark age institution is the embodiment of the spirit of psycopathy.

    For those inside the Leaning Ivory Tower of Power, the comments from someone on the outside could feel spiteful and biting. As long as those taking comfort in the towers of the empire and watch the machine pull the ladders up on the next generation……..

  • highlandbird

    While I agree with some points in this show, I believe your guest, touting socialism, is naive and young. Capitalism has raised up many more people than socialism, and led the advances in societies. It leads to innovation and progress. Go live in Denmark to get happy, lazy, stifled, well fed, but not to advance and feel “free.” Anyway, if you add up what we spend on our lowest quintile (medicaide, welfare, housing subsidies, etc) it is basically the same as what the socialist scandinavian countries spend on their “socialist” societies. We are already largely socialist.

  • GuestAug27

    Excuse me, but saying that opening the borders is socialism is BS. Imposing strict sanction on the elites (the wealthiest 0.1%) of any country where people are poor enough to risk their lives to come here illegally IS what I would expect President Sanders to do on his first day in office.

  • GuestAug27

    Similarly, saying there is anything socialist about a small union (teachers) taking advantage of their bargaining power to extort money from the community is also BS. There are plenty of reactionary unions in the US that are happy to benefit from weapons production or from environment-destroying economic activities to enrich themselves at the expense of other working people. How about one big union representing everybody?

  • Potter

    People listen to David Simon above making his point about the prison industrial system.. our privatized prisons that are in the business, NOT of reforming offenders and turning them into productive citizens, but getting more “customers”. One way is to work hard make $ure that drug law laws are not reformed and enforcement is strong.

    Why did Hillary Clinton say, in the last debate, that she was against tuition free college because students need to have “skin in the game”? What is the idea behind that? Where I came from, in the 60″s New York City, college was tuition free. What happened to us?

    What chutzpah for Madeleine Albright to say that there is a “special place in hell” for women who don’t vote for Hillary.

  • rick

    I have to comment on the rediculous logic behind the cannibalistic “skin in the game” comment. It’s apparently a wall street analogy that suggests that the people who raise money for a financial vehicle should have money invested also. The metaphor is so tortured that it is actually illegal for promoters to have a financial interest in some transactions for fear of frontrunning and other diabolical financial trickery.

    The idea of loading young people up with debt so the gatekeepers in the ivory towers can ride off into retirement on magic silk carpets and bankers can collect there million dollar bonuses makes me feel ill.

    I have another idea. Let’s take all the money away from these priveledged psychopaths so they can feel what it’s like to have no capital and be surrounded by a bunch of jackals as and hyenas. We can find out how they like having “SKIN IN THE GAME”. This sick game has to stop.

    • Potter

      The “skin in the game” remark that Hillary made on that debate with Sanders, that alone, made me so angry, but also made me feel that she just does not get it. It stuck with me because were it not for tuition free college in those days, the 60’s for me, I and many many more young people would never have gone to college at all, never had a higher education. I tried working for a couple of semesters at the end, but it was a terribly hard thing to do and also keep up with my studies.

      I can only think of so many who suffer from this blockage on their lives, their future possibilities, their potential ( really our potential as a society) today. They just do not go to school at all or saddle themselves with increasing debt as even public colleges get more expensive.

      I can never say this too often: I only had to pay to register each semester ($24) and then for my books. That was my money in the “game”, this yet-to-be casino economy.

      I would love for an interviewer to get Hillary to expound on that “skin in the game” thing because we all have skin in this “game”. The word “game” by itself upsets me.

      If Bernie Sanders gets nowhere near the presidency, at the very least, these issues are being given validity.

  • BenBochner

    Chris mentioned the we could hear the rest of his interviews with Thomas Frank and David Simon on the website – but I’m not seeing them. Can someone point me to them?

  • “The real life Gordon Gekko is supporting Bernie Sanders because of a basic economic principle”