A Message to Gen-Z: Bernie Sanders Dropped Out, But Our Fight is Not Over


Photo courtesy of Helen H. Richardson

Bernie Sanders at a lively campaign rally in Denver in September 2019

Foster Cowan, Editor

“The younger generation tells me now how tough things are — give me a break… I have no empathy for it.” – Joe Biden, in a 2018 interview with the LA Times

Dear Generation Z,

We find ourselves in a precarious position. I, like many of you, supported Bernie Sanders during the 2020 primary process before he suspended his campaign on April 8. In fact, I actually got the chance to cast my vote for Sanders before early voting was shut down in Georgia due to the COVID-19 outbreak. And yet, despite Sanders’s overwhelming support from us young people, Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee, and we are left to choose between him and Trump. 

Still, the above quote is a testament to one thing: Joe Biden does not represent the interests of our generation whatsoever. And although I am 100% committed to voting against Donald Trump in November, it is still hard for me as an 18 year old to accept Biden as my candidate. His campaign has been centered around a return to normalcy, but as young people, that isn’t what we’re looking for. With the looming climate crisis, a healthcare system that leaves millions uninsured, the ever growing weight of college debt, the imminent threat of a mass shooting in our schools and public spaces, and numerous other issues, we want more than just fixing the mistakes of Trumpwe want a revolution, a series of positive social and economic reforms that will directly affect our future. It’s a massive task, and with Biden in the Oval Office, it seems like an impossible reality.

At first, I felt discouraged; I had cast my ballot for someone who is now out of the race, and I was surrounded by my parents and news outlets basically shoving the reality of Joe Biden down my throat. Frankly, I was tired of being told to just accept defeat when at my core I know that Biden does not care about people our age whatsoever. He said it himself; he has no empathy for us or the struggles of our generation, and he even went as far as to belittle us by comparing it to the issues of his time. I find it laughable that he could diminish the efforts we are making to change the world and even bring up the civil rights and women’s rights movements when he opposed busing, pushed for much of the legislation that has lead to our current era of mass incarceration of minorities, did nothing to stop the Senate’s mistreatment of Anita Hill, voted for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA, and so much more. It is beyond ironic that he could tout the effort made by civil rights activists in the 60’s and 70’s when his track record speaks for itself and shows that he had a very much negative role in these battles.

In addition to his policy, Biden’s debate performances and the way he carried himself on the campaign trail did nothing to convince me to vote for him either. His record with touching women and children inappropriately is inexcusable, and his numerous “slip-ups” while campaigning are more than suspicious. For me, Biden appeared unprepared and ill-informed while debating, which is a worrying sign for when he has to face Trump in debates later this year.

So clearly, Biden is a hypocrite and far from an ideal candidate. But still, despite my opposition to him morally and politically, I still think it is wrong to stay at home in November and not vote just because Sanders is not the nominee, as many (especially Gen Z) voters intend to do. Biden isn’t what many of us want in a president, but our fight doesn’t have to end when the Democratic primary ends. We can still vote for progressive candidates in the House and Senate, making it easier for Democratic legislation to make it through Congress. Having a Democrat in the White House could also be pivotal to the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, especially with both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer in their 80s. Additionally, in the event that Joe Biden wins the presidency, it is our responsibility to continue to fight for these issues we believe in and push Biden to the left. It is easy to criticize his policies and record, but it is also important to keep in mind that not only can people’s opinions change, but if we raise enough hell, we can force them to change. 

Right now, we are at a low point in our fight, but we cannot give up when the going gets tough. If we want any movement towards our goals, then it is clear that voting for Biden will at least start us moving in the right direction, even if it is only incrementally. Expanding Obamacare and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement may not be Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, but they could lay the groundwork for achieving such legislation in the future, and are certainly leagues better than what four more years of Trump could do for healthcare and the environment. And as I said before, as hard as it may be to accept voting for Biden, there are still Congressional elections as well as rallies and demonstrations to put our passion into and make our voices heard. 

The general election in November is about more than just Biden himself; it’s about tipping the balance on the Supreme Court and setting the stage for future progressive action through Democratic legislation. Just because Bernie didn’t win the nomination doesn’t mean the need to address climate change, gun violence, abortion, and racism has ended. So I encourage us young people to do the right thing, as hard as it may be, and vote for Joe Biden. From there we’ll fight our hardest for the change we want, and even though Biden himself doesn’t believe in our struggles, we’ll prove him wrong and show him that our generation is a force to be reckoned with.