Bernie Sanders and Generation Z Minorities

Bernie Sanders is running for president in 2020. According to BBC, his campaign raised one million dollars within the first three and a half hours of launching.

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It’s worth pointing out that when Bernie Sanders campaigned for the 2016 election his plans were seen as radical, but now they are promoted by many 2020 Democratic candidates. Other politicians saw how in 2016 voters really liked the ideas Sanders pushed (such as Medicare for all, free public college, and a $15/hour minimum wage), so they began fostering similar agendas. A shift in party ideology could also explain the sudden swing to the left in the Democratic party.

Sanders’ switch from the outskirts to the forefront of the Democratic party likely has to do with the fact that a majority of Generation Z will be able to vote in the 2020 election. The Pew Research Center has defined Gen Z as those born between 1997 and 2012, but no official end year has been determined yet. A shift in Democratic party ideology could very well reflect a shift in American values, as Generation Z proves to lean farther left than its preceding generations.

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Gen Zers who were old enough to vote in the last election made it clear that they wanted Sanders. In 2016, Clinton and Trump combined received less than 1.6 million votes from people under the age of 30, while Sanders won roughly 29% more votes from the same age group. Additionally, in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Sanders beat Clinton by 70 percentage points in the 18-29 age group.

However, in 2016, Sanders’ voters were primarily white. In the four biggest states - Texas, Florida, New York, and California - Clinton won 75% of African-American voters. Clinton also won 70% of voters ages 65 and older, while Sanders won 70% of voters ages 18-29. Overall, Sanders did excellent with young voters but lacked a connection with people of color.

Sanders was criticized for not having a diverse staff in 2016, with his African-American outreach team saying they felt like Sanders had black staff just to say he did. The black community has been disappointed with Sanders in the past, and considering they made up 59.6% of the 2016 voter turnout, Sanders had better work to recognize their needs. Moreover, 48% of Generation Zers are from communities of color, so it is crucial that Sanders understands their perspective because they will be making up a large portion of voters.

If Sanders better connects with minorities, specifically those apart of Generation Z, he may have a good chance at the primaries. As said by the Pew Research center, “When it comes to views on race, the two younger generations [Millennials and Gen Z] are more likely than older generations to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the United States today.”

Sanders strongly advocates for racial equality, which aligns with the views of Generation Z. Even so, he is up against the most diverse candidate field in history. So how will Sanders, a white man, get minority voters to support him when there are other candidates who better represent them? At the end of the day he is a white man, and with increasing diversity in the United States, Generation Z looks for people who can best represent them. It will be interesting to see what tactics Sanders implements to win over minority Gen Z voters.

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