During his primary race earlier this year, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was able to rally more young people than his political rivals, but where did those millennials turn their attention to after Sanders lost the race?
Sanders’ presence was felt at Murray State by the group Racers for Bernie, which garnered a lot of attention by students who were eager to get involved politically. Students had to turn their attention elsewhere after Sanders’ loss in the primaries.
When The Murray State News interviewed Racers for Bernie president Brandon Simpson in the spring, he said if Sanders didn’t receive the nomination, the students in his organization would be disappointed.
“A lot of newcomers probably wouldn’t vote,” Simpson said. “They’ve never been involved with the process before and they are disenchanted with it. They’ve felt like their vote wouldn’t count. This is the first time they feel like their vote would count.”
Two months away from the presidential election, Simpson said though a lot of the young people in Racers for Bernie might be too discouraged to cast their vote, there are many who still want to be involved.
“I think half the people [in Racers for Bernie], especially a lot of the people who were already involved in the political process, stayed involved and went on to be more involved with the Democratic Party as a whole,” Simpson said. “Whereas a lot of the newcomers kind of dropped off or went to the Green Party.”
Janice Thomasson, a Green Party supporter, was heavily involved with Sanders’ primary campaign and said the amount of involvement young people had was beyond her expectations.
“My house was Bernie central; I had millennials there day and night helping with Bernie’s campaign,” Thomasson said. “If you would have told me five years ago that 18 to 23-year-olds would step up in such a way, I would have said, ‘That’s a nice thought,’ but I didn’t think I’d actually see it.”
Thomasson has been involved with Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign and said the switch to Jill Stein is a natural choice for Sanders’ supporters.
“Jill mirrors Bernie’s positions, she wants to erase college debt,” Thomasson said. “Most millennials will look at politicians like her and say, ‘If they are a friend of Bernie, they are a friend of mine.’”
Party affiliation doesn’t bother the former members of Racers for Bernie as Simpson said he believes most of his members want to vote for the candidate, not the party.
“Most of the people really couldn’t care less about which party someone comes from as long as they align with them, like ideologically.” Simpson said.
Some are even rallying behind Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Jared Fuentes, sophomore from Benton, Kentucky, was in Racers for Bernie and explained why he chose the libertarian candidate.
“I am going to vote for Gary Johnson because I am a Libertarian,” Fuentes said. “I know for a fact anyways that voting for Gary Johnson would be a throwaway vote, but as long as I voiced my opinion that’s all that matters.”
Simpson said he can see why some past Sanders’ supporters are choosing to support Johnson’s candidacy.
“Some people do go for Gary Johnson,” Simpson said. “Those people generally align with Bernie on a lot of the social issues and foreign policy issues, not necessarily so much the economic issues because they’re polar opposites economically.”
Besides the campaign trail, Thomasson said she still sees millennials being involved in different ways all the time.
“I get on Facebook and see that they have a picture of Jill on their profile,” Thomasson said. “Or if they were lucky enough to meet her like I was, they will actually have their profile picture with her.”
A lot of the members who were in Racers for Bernie were between 18-21in age, making this the first presidential election they will be able to vote in. And even though it isn’t the election many of them envisioned, like Fuentes said, their opinion can still be heard.