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Young Bernie Sanders Supporters Wait for Reward

FILE - Sen. Bernie Sanders participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington, March 15, 2020.

Young people who avidly supported Senator Bernie Sanders for president before he urged them to vote for Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden in the November 3 election are waiting to see what rewards Sanders might reap.

“I thought that was a really good show of leadership back in March or so, and I'd love for him to just keep being a figurehead on some of these major progressive legislative actions going forward,” said Peter Ditzler, a senior at Temple University in Philadelphia, who was the co-leader of Temple for Bernie.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is an advocate for the environment and health care, issues that many young voters between 18 and 29 feel passionately about.

Sanders dropped out of the presidential race April 8 and asked his supporters to endorse Biden, who defeated Republican President Donald Trump in the election.

"Bernie Sanders. He [was] the only candidate truly dedicated to including students and young people in the movement. We need to transform our nation,” tweeted Christopher Badillo in response to the question, “What candidate do you think excites young people the most?”

Sanders reached young voters by campaigning for universal health care, free public college tuition and cancellation of student debt. On the Green New Deal — a legislative package on the environment with an emphasis on sustainability — he partnered with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New York congresswoman, 31, represents a new and younger wave of governmental leadership to many younger voters.

“I think young people have loved very old candidates, and they have sometimes loved very young candidates,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research at Tufts University (CIRCLE) in Medford, Massachusetts.

“Values and authenticity are very important,” she said.

“I think what stood out to me was his authenticity,” said Ditzler. “Every time he spoke, it really felt genuine.”

Green agenda

The Green New Deal calls for making energy systems 100% renewable, providing the Green Climate Fund with $200 billion and rejoining the international Paris Agreement on climate change.

“With the Green New Deal, I think that's really kind of what really spoke to me because I am pretty concerned about the environmental impacts of climate change and us as a country working to mitigate any kind of oncoming damage and destruction from climate change,” said Ditzler.

“I think Bernie recognized the anxieties that come with a huge economic transition that the Green New Deal would require,” he said.

Sanders’ campaign included support for universal health care, a leading issue for young people in the presidential election.

“All Americans are entitled to go to the doctor when they're sick and not go bankrupt after staying in the hospital,” Sanders said on his campaign website.

Sanders is not a member of either major party but usually sides with the Democratic Party. He is serving his third term in the Senate.

He has served longer than any other independent member of Congress in the United States; he has been a senator since 2007 and spent 16 years in the House of Representatives before that.

Once Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, many people questioned whether young voters would turn out for Biden. After Sanders endorsed Biden, about 89% of Sanders supporters said they would vote for Biden, according to YouGov data from August.


“It's tough because, I mean, I voted for Biden and I'm already getting extremely disappointed with some of his Cabinet picks and the people he's intending to appoint to his transition team and everything,” said Ditzler.

“I think the media and a lot of people are praising [Biden] for picking a very diverse Cabinet, in terms of he's picking a lot of women and people of color,” said Ditzler. “I think that's great and all, but if you look at their track records, they haven't exactly been great at fighting against systems of oppression like Bernie's campaign and movement were kind of hoping to dismantle.”

Sanders has expressed interest in joining Biden’s Cabinet as labor secretary.

"If I had a portfolio that allowed me to stand up and fight for working families, would I do it? Yes, I would," Sanders told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview on November 11.

Biden hinted in a recent interview with NBC News that he would rather have Sanders continue his role in the Senate than join the new administration.

Holding Biden accountable

Ditzler said he would love to see Sanders continue to have a large role in the Senate.

“He helped us help educate a whole generation on what we could fight for, what's reasonable to fight for, and he offered explanations for why we would all be better off if we fought for someone we didn't know,” said Ditzler.

“Since young people have less of a tendency to identify with a party as older voters, I do think that you'll continue to see young people really pressing on issues and holding Biden accountable to things that he said during his campaign,” said Abby Kiesa, CIRCLE’s director of impact at Tufts.

Biden is to be sworn in on January 20.