Fifty-two years after young people changed history with the New Hampshire primary election, a new generation is ready to do it again — this time by mobilizing behind Bernie Sanders.
During early 1968, thousands of young people volunteered in New Hampshire to help the insurgent presidential campaign of Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy — who went on to stun the party establishment by winning 42 percent of the state’s primary vote against President Lyndon Johnson’s 49 percent. Three weeks later, Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election.
What propelled McCarthy and his young supporters into the snows of New Hampshire was their opposition to the war in Vietnam. Five decades later, in effect, what’s propelling Bernie Sanders and his young supporters is the grim reality of class war in America.
The New Hampshire Youth Movement — which its leadership calls “the largest youth power organization in the state” — endorsed Sanders last week. NHYM could provide the margin of victory in New Hampshire’s Feb. 11 primary.
The strategy has been methodical. “People involved with NHYM have been canvassing nonstop,” the state director of the organization’s field program, Dylan Carney, told me. “We’ve gathered over 9,500 pledge-to-vote cards from people aged 18 to 25 and will be working to get them voting for Bernie Sanders on Feb. 11th.”
I asked Carney for his assessment of why polling nationwide shows young people prefer Sanders over every other Democratic contender by a lopsided margin.
“Sanders is a movement candidate — who will be accountable to our generation,” Carney replied. “He has proven that he is aligned with the version of the world that we want to create. And since before our generation was born, he was fighting the injustices that we are fighting today.”
New Hampshire Youth Movement is a natural ally of the Bernie 2020 campaign, as the organization’s website makes clear:
- “Scientists tell us that we have less than 10 years left to prevent irreversible damage from the climate crisis. Our ability to act on the climate crisis depends on who we elect to be our president. We need a president that is committed to passing a just and robust Green New Deal.”
- “Everyone deserves access to quality healthcare regardless of their ability to pay. People across this country are drowning in medical debt just to receive the services they need to stay alive while pharmaceutical and insurance executives accrue unimaginable wealth. To address the healthcare crisis, we must elect a candidate who will fight for a Medicare for All system that includes everyone and eliminates private insurance companies.”
- “Students and alumni are drowning in debt while private loan providers are making obscene amounts of money. Providing free college for all will be a massive investment in our work force and our economy. We can build a system that eliminates tuition and fees at all public colleges and all existing student debt if we turn out to vote for a candidate who will fight with us.”
After living in New Hampshire for all of his 23 years, Dylan Carney is keenly aware that the state’s margin of victory often hinges on a small number of votes. When he says that “we have the reach to turn out 10,000 young voters for Bernie Sanders,” he quickly adds that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in New Hampshire by only a few thousand votes in 2016 while the incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte was unseated by just 1,017 votes.
Young voters have the potential to make Bernie Sanders the winner of the New Hampshire primary — and young voters across the country have the potential to make him president of the United States.
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