At the New Yorker, writer Alexandra Schwartz wonders if “millennials” should “get over Bernie Sanders,” owing to the outsized political hope that “youth” have before they realize that every politician is a shill, nobody with real values is actually electable, and also that God Is Dead. The writer knows this because she’s been through it before, with Obama, and because she has spent much time on this earth as “a voter north of twenty-five, south of thirty.” Oh.
At the risk of being a Schwartz age truther, it is unclear to me how a person under 30 would actively conjure the phrase “a fist-shaker and haranguer who makes the ‘Yakety Yak’ dad look chill,” but maybe she’s just listening to a lot of oldies radio, and besides, that’s the least of this piece’s problems:
So purity, a highly useful principle to make use of while running for office, is all but useless to politicians who actually arrive there, and the voters least likely to see that are young ones. The belief in the possibility of true purity might be a delusion for most voters, but it’s a privilege of youth, the province of people for whom the thrill of theory hasn’t yet given way to the comparative disappointment of practice. It’s a rite of passage into political adulthood, when the contours of the world seem sharper than they may ever be again, and the notion of the correspondence between the politician one votes for and the one who arrives in office is still intact—that moment of “very heaven,” as Wordsworth’s famous line about witnessing the start of the French Revolution as a young man has it.
A chortle of a paragraph that, not unironically, makes the “Yakety Yak” dad look chill, it’s a lofty notion to fault anyone for voting according to a set of beliefs and aspirations about how the country in which they live should be; it’s what Trump supporters are doing, too, however vilely, and it’s also not helping the writer’s presumable support for Clinton that she’s telling voters slightly younger than she to suck it up and vote for the candidate that they might reasonably think kinda sucks.
Because she’s been there, kiddos! Obama’s sheen wore off, and besides, Sanders will never be as cool as Obama, because cool factor is definitely the reason we should vote for candidates!
But Obama as a candidate may be as close as many of us will ever come to a twenty-something’s ideal politician—the sheer force of that fluid, academically honed intelligence! The nuance and honesty of the race speech! The dancing!—and a comparison of the two on that count yields something very odd. Bernie’s crankiness to Obama’s cool, his age to Obama’s freshness, his nagging to Obama’s rhetorical deftness, his hokiness to Obama’s humor, his gout to Obama’s jump shot: all make for a strangely conservative vision of a youth idol.
By this premise, I should be voting for Marco Rubio despite his desire to strip a woman’s right to choose and confounding immigration stance because he and I both like Pitbull and Nicki Minaj. But then, I’m a grizzled old woman who had the distinct pleasure of voting for a cretin so ancient as Al Gore, the climate change guy, so assertions such as these don’t quite resonate with me:
Sanders’s attention to socioeconomic justice is stirring and necessary, but when his campaign tweets that it’s “high time we stopped bailing out Wall Street and started repairing Main Street,” you have to wonder why his youngest supporters, so attuned to staleness in all things cultural, are letting him get away with political rhetoric that would have seemed old even in 2012.
So now the problem is that Bernie is—dated? Schwartz’s logic switches: instead of tweeting some OLD shit from even BEFORE the archaic days of Occupy Wall Street, Sanders should be focusing on issues that really, truly affect millennial voters, such as dabbing. Free college tuition? Pshhh. Tell it to your Tumblr, bro.
Of course much of the disdain towards Clinton is gendered and vile, particularly when coming from the group we have come to call Berniebros; Sanders supporters, like any progressive politician’s supporters, often act in a way that’s unsettlingly far from the progressive politics they espouse. (And, for the record, this ol’ bag is still undecided.) But faux-sage ideating that the best stance is one in which everyone is automatically compromised is garbage that’s easy to lob from the position of someone who can afford the privilege of being jaded. Expect better, no matter your age.
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