Over 14,000 people gathered near the ocean, hoping to create a blue wave that will carry presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders to the White House. The candidate’s rally held in Venice, California earlier this month brought guest speakers and performers, most notably, professor and activist Dr. Cornel West and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“One of the things that makes this campaign different is that we know that we can’t go back to the way things were before. Because the way things were before, is how we got to where we are now,” Ocasio-Cortez said on stage, underscoring the progressive agenda to advance drastic reform rather than return to a status quo before Donald Trump.
Sanders walked on stage to John Lennon’s “Power to the People” with rousing applause from the Californian crowd. Sanders enjoys status as a top-tier candidate in the race. He’s achieved this despite identifying as a democratic socialist, a label that can be sour for some moderates and especially conservatives.
Notably, younger Americans view socialism about as positively as capitalism. A November-released Gallup poll found that 51 percent of Americans ages 18 to 39 have a positive view of capitalism, while 49 percent of that same demographic have a positive view of socialism. In contrast, 68 percent of Americans over the age of 55 have a positive view of capitalism but only 32 percent feel the same way about socialism.
A recurring topic of this primary season has been who has the best chance of defeating President Trump. Some argue a moderate is more likely to win key voters, such as independents, swing voters and maybe even Republicans dissatisfied with the president. Others argue otherwise.
“There’s a lot of areas in this country of people feeling left out by both Democrats and Republicans… Bernie can make a case to them that you know if we come together regardless if you identify as a socialist, or you identify as a liberal, or you just identify as somebody that needs a break, like, he can bring that coalition together of all these different types,” said Erin O’Neal-Robinson, co-chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
She said the organization is independently campaigning on behalf of Sanders. O’Neal-Robinson and her colleagues had a booth with “cut-out” displays of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez across the rally inviting folks to join their chapter.
Rally attendee, Jonathan Buckley, expressed skepticism of a moderate candidate being the key to defeating Trump. “We’ve tried centrism. We tried nominating one in 2016, we tried nominating one in 2004, 2000… it doesn’t work. The one time we’ve won a massive election was with a black man who had Hussein in his middle name.”
The 26-year-old echoed Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, “I don’t think centrism is the way, I think it’s just a continuation of a system that’s already failed and I think people see that. They don’t want more of the same. They want something different. That’s why they voted for Trump.”
The moderate candidates have argued progressive policies, such as the ones proposed by Sanders, can be alienating to general election voters. A highly liberal proposal from Sanders is the massive expansion of free public education.
“I want every person in this country, regardless of his or her income to know that they will have the opportunity to go to college, to go to a trade school and not worry about how to pay for that,” Sanders said on stage, eliciting cheers from the crowd. He added, “If congress can bend over backwards for the rich and the powerful, we can cancel all student debt in America.”
Buckley, a business major graduate, is thankful he completed his education without any debt but he’s concerned about the growing student loan debt in the U.S. “Moving forward… I don’t see how my generation can contribute positively to the economy when we have trillion of dollars hanging over our head.”
Student debt is an issue affecting 44.7 million folks across the country, according to a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That number includes Aidan Patterson, a 23-year-old UCSB graduate that’s $25,000 in debt. While sitting on a bench near the rally entrance before the event started, Patterson said a moderate like Biden would only return things to the “status quo.”
Parallel to how younger Americans have a more positive view of socialism in contrast with their older counterparts, Sanders has a large young base of supporters. A national poll conducted earlier this year by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School showed that out of the candidates at the time, Sanders lead in polling among 18 to 29-year-old’s.
Though, not all millenials are feeling the burn. Dalila Minter, 35, called both Sanders and socialism a “very bad idea.” The Cal State LA sociology major wrote via text, “Socialism creates a state of dependency on the government. Instead of each person being responsible to support themselves, they rely on the government to do so.” Certain social programs, including free college, are something “great” if not provided in excess, which they currently are, she stated.
“Brothers and sisters, when we stand together, when we fight together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. Thank you all very much,” Sanders said concluding his rally. The crowd roared as he left for his next campaign stop in Las Vegas.