bernie sanders and millennials

It’s not even June and the whole election of 2016 has already jumped the shark: Hillary vs. Bernie, Trump vs…well, most of humanity, emails, Panama Papers, superdelgates, brokered conventions, Ted Cruz mistress allegations and penis size comparisons on the debate stage.

Kids, we’re not even halfway done.

Perhaps most surprising, this election cycle has seen the emergence of two viable candidates that violate conventional wisdom: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Imagine someone mentioning that a reality TV blowhard and a septuagenarian socialist Senator would prove competitive in presidential politics in 2004. Karl Rove would have laughed himself into a hernia! And yet, here we are.

Divided entitlement

Ironically–or perhaps appropriately in a disturbing way–the same energy has propelled both Trump and Sanders into the spotlight. On a fundamental level, it’s all about entitlement and how the two groups approach the notion that divide them into their two respective clans.

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 11.36.19 AMConsider: Millennials have flocked to Bernie Sanders in droves despite his advanced age, long tenure in the Senate, and relative inexperience in foreign affairs. Why? His message of income disparity resonates with them. Millennials grew up believing they’d have it all at a very young age: a college education, a healthy income, and a prosperous future. They expected as much because their parents and their grandparents taught them to. Unfortunately, the same generations which raised the late Gen X-Gen Y cusp on Up With People, Getting High On Yourself and “You are Special” as performed by Mr. Rodgers also managed to squander a budget surplus & bankrupt the nation fighting pointless wars, widen the income gap, and let businesses take advantage of the middle class. The Y Generation struggles to afford housing while not making a living wage. For all the teachings of love yourself, the greater takeaway from the “ME” Generation seems to be that avarice trumps all!

trump-kkk-duke1And speaking of Trumping…this brings us to the Donald, who both epitomizes the greed of the Baby Boomers and corporate America, as well the rage of white men. Along with shifting economic conditions, the past 20 years have seen the rise of women in the workplace, increasing equality and acceptance of the LGBT community and demographic shifts in ethnicity and religion.

To white men raised with a superiority complex, who feel entitled to power and wealth and who feel left out of the national conversation of civil rights (they don’t understand, they already have theirs), America has become unrecognizable. In many ways, Barack Obama’s administration has become emblematic of this cultural shift. Donald Trump’s bullying rhetoric, therefore, speaks to this sense of entitlement, sometimes covertly, others, in literal terms. He’s become the symbol of white male authoritarianism, and a leader for those who would take back power from women, from people of color, from LGBT citizens. In essence, they would restore institutionalized discrimination, all the the name of a racial-gender entitlement.

Trump and Sanders supporters can both take heart: there’s good news for both. Though a brokered GOP convention seems increasingly likely, Trump’s unlikely victories have reminded the world that white men still wield power in America, even if no longer a preponderant majority. The youth and vigor of the Sanders movement has started a national conversation on business greed and the social responsibility of all Americans to foster a middle class. Though the chances of Sanders becoming the Democratic nominee have all but collapsed, he will leave a lasting impression on the rest of Election 2016, not the least of which on Hillary Clinton.

The question of entitlement reform will no doubt manifest in the general election. The issue before the voters, however, is which entitlements best serve the nation alongside the three originals: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.