The youth vote and the socialist moment

BY: Maicol David Lynch| March 25, 2020
The youth vote and the socialist moment


After the first three rounds of “Super Tuesday” which followed Bernie Sanders’ victories in the Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada primaries/caucuses, it has become clear that a majority of primary voters believe that Joe Biden is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump in the November 2020 elections. Unfortunately, the youth vote is being blamed for “not turning out for Bernie.” The truth is, they are not turning out for Biden either. Why not?

Polls show that 70% of millennials (ages 23–38) prefer socialism or would not mind voting for a socialist presidential candidate. But if this were the case, why are they not out there voting for Bernie and “socialism” as they understand it? Some analysts argue that the youth vote is a “third party” of its own, which has divided the Democratic vote. Others claim that voter suppression contributes to low voter turnout. Difficult registration processes, for example, disproportionately affect youth, since people under 30 years old change their address twice as often as those over 30. Voter suppression also takes the form of mismanaged polling stations which make you wait for hours in line after closing.

But even with these factors considered, does the overwhelming majority of youth feel their interests are represented by the candidates? Maybe not. If 70% of millennials were out there voting for Bernie in the primaries in addition to the people over 40 who support him too, why has Biden taken three primaries? And does this mean that the “socialist moment” will die with Bernie’s campaign? Absolutely not.

The progressive, left-of-center campaign of Bernie Sanders has shifted the conversation to the left, literally! “Socialism,” now a household word, is not as feared as it was decades ago.

Even the majority of voters who believe Biden to be more electable still support Sanders’ message and program. African-Americans who have turned out in record-breaking numbers to support Biden are contrasted with Latinos who prefer Sanders. Not to mention that exit polls show that Biden supporters in some areas approve of Sanders’ program when it comes to Medicare for All. But where is the youth vote in all of this? And what role will the youth play in the November elections? Can Biden defeat Trump without the youth vote? Maybe not.

The baby boomer generation has overwhelmed the youth vote, and therefore Biden is winning the primaries. However, we should also beware of compiling the “youth vote” into one homogeneous block. After all, white youth in the Middle and Deep South vote differently than white youth in the Northeast and the Black youth of the urban North, not to mention the Latino youth of the Southwest and West Coast. Over-generalizations regarding the youth, Latino, and Black votes are not helpful in the struggle for unity against the extreme right. With that said, there are issues that these groups can overwhelmingly agree on: student debt forgiveness, affordable healthcare and housing, quality and/or free education, and an end to police violence and inhumane deportations. This is why working-class unity around the issues must be emphasized above unity around any bourgeois candidate.

The Communist Party USA does not endorse bourgeois candidates and emphasizes how workers of all ages should unite, and organize around the issues rather than around individual personalities. As we head into the 2020 presidential elections, youth must mobilize to fight the fascist danger represented by Trump despite their dislike for the two-party system. It is our future that is at stake. But the struggle goes beyond electoral politics, of course. We must defeat Trump and the GOP while working to build a mass movement for socialism in this country. Voter registration is a good way to start this conversation. Local candidates and issues often resonate more deeply for younger people. Bringing youth and students into the process at this level by registering people to vote can help down the road guarantee an electoral win for liberals and progressives over the reactionary right-wing in this country.

Let’s be clear: even a centrist Biden presidency could prevent further setbacks for civil rights, women’s reproductive rights, immigrant rights, and labor rights provided there is mass pressure from below. Thus, we must be sure that the working-class define this struggle instead of the Democratic Party machine. Also, Sanders may be the face of the “socialist moment,” but it is the youth that will carry on his legacy and continue to build the movement long after Sanders, Biden, and Trump are dead and in the ground.

So, let’s ask ourselves: if it does come down to Biden vs. Trump, who would be more likely to forgive student debt, expand healthcare, protect immigrant families, and take actions to mitigate the climate crisis? Who are we more likely to convince to shift their decisions in a more progressive direction? Who would our Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan comrades prefer to see in the White House, considering the U.S. imperialist blockade loosened up during the Obama administration? Our short-term tactics and strategy are not limited to voting for the “lesser of two evils,” since, at the end of the day, we are building a mass movement for socialism and that means we must continue to push for unity, organization, and radicalization around the issues and not around bourgeois politicians. The youth must play an essential role in this struggle so that the socialist movement will continue to live on. We will define the struggle and the socialist moment. We shall overcome!

Image: Bob Simpson, Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA 2.0).



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