Don't even try to talk yourself into spinning Tuesday night's New Hampshire primary results as being good for the Hillary Clinton camp. It was pretty much impossible to find something positive to cling to there for Clinton. Bernie Sanders crushed her outright, winning not only the overall vote but securing wins in most voter demographics, including those who consider themselves "moderates." He obviously scored huge in districts on the border of his current turf of Vermont, but from top to bottom Sanders owned the Granite State. While Sanders can claim the momentum and the narrative at the moment, what Hillary Clinton has going for her moving forward is twofold: First, no one expected her to perform well against Sanders in a state right next to his home state, a place where even moderate liberals are pretty damn liberal, and second, every current poll predicts that Sanders's path to the nomination gets much, much harder very soon, as the contest moves south. All Hillary has to do is avoid panicking and she'll be okay. Nevada is only eight days away and South Carolina is two weeks -- and while Nevada is tied at the moment, she's favored heavily to win in South Carolina and to win big come Super Tuesday.
While Bernie Sanders's campaign can claim inroads with women and center-left voters with his impressive New Hampshire win, there's one bloc he doesn't even need to tout his popularity with because he's got it locked and everybody knows it. As with his near-win in Iowa last week, the youth vote went almost entirely for Sanders in New Hampshire; he took home an astonishing 84% of it. It's Sanders's rabid fanbase among college-aged Millennials that led The Atlantic to publish an article on Tuesday titled "The Kids Are for Bernie" (with the extended slug-line in the address line adding "...but the Kids are Alright.") In the piece, political reporter Molly Ball details Sanders's "rock star status" with young Millennials: how in their "puffy jackets and knit caps and uncombed hair" they come out by the thousands to his rallies; how they feverishly repeat Sanders's mandates for "pot legalization and campaign-finance reform"; how they represent "a new leftist movement... rising on college campuses" and a "rebellious" next generation of liberals.
If you feel like you've heard quite a bit about both this movement and the generation of young liberals behind it, that's because it feels like every few weeks there's news of another campus "uprising" of one kind or another, with students attempting to exert pressure on institutions they perceive as racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, etc. in the hope that those institutions will bend to their will. Ball writes about this new wave of self-styled radicals: "It has its own buzzwords, inscrutable to older generations of liberals: white privilege, rape culture, microaggressions, safe spaces. It has marched against its proximate oppressors, university administrations, and gotten college presidents fired; it has demanded apologies for the sins of the past; it seeks to exorcise the ghosts of Woodrow Wilson and John Calhoun. At a rally against police violence at Dartmouth in November, a protester screamed at a frightened girl, 'Fuck your white tears!' They are the children of the children of the ’60s, and they are tired of being talked over and ignored. They are rebelling against the establishment, just as their grandparents did—only now, their grandparents are the establishment against which they're rebelling. They are the most liberal generation in American history, and they want their due."
It's tough to tell for sure whether Bernie Sanders truly represents most or just some of the various factions within the social justice-obsessed college kid set. It's impossible to imagine him being the voice of all of it, simply because it prides itself on not being a monolithic movement and, in fact, a key issue with today's collegiate left is that it hosts so much petty infighting and so many accusations between aggrieved parties that it's difficult to get it to coalesce around one set of demands. When everybody has a different priority and a different gripe and when every group seems to be jockeying for the status of "most oppressed," good luck getting anything accomplished long-term. Still, the numbers would suggest that Sanders has been successful at mustering the unyielding support of, at the very least, white college kids who consider themselves soldiers and dutiful allies in the war against injustice of all kinds. (He's bringing in some minority students as well, but Sanders still has had trouble up until now cutting deeply into Hillary Clinton's support with minorities overall.) The problem is -- well, go back and read the above quote from The Atlantic again and, if you're not a young Millennial, remind yourself how many times you've heard these buzzwords and seen this kind of behavior recently and practically snapped your optic nerve rolling your eyes. How often you've considered some of these complaints and the proposed draconian solutions to satisfy them and thought it was all a lot of sound and fury from entitled, spoiled children, signifying and solving nothing. Remind yourself how utterly unbearable the collegiate left is in the year 2016.
Maybe Bernie Sanders does speak for the youth, for reasons that are kind of incomprehensible given that he's a 74-year-old 60s-style radical. But over the past few years, "the youth" has proven itself to be perhaps undeserving of being taken very seriously, much less having a voice in the highest seat in our government willing to pander to its many petty grievances. It's been well documented, both here and at many other outlets, just how bizarrely fragile and self-infantilizing the collegiate left has allowed itself to become -- how violently it reacts when presented with language or ideas that challenge its sensibilities, pierce its self-sustaining protective bubble, and violate its strident orthodoxies. The Atlantic mentions campaigns to retroactively erase the name and presence of John Calhoun at Yale and Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, apparently for their racist history, but at the University of Oregon a student debate is reportedly being held over whether to remove a quote in the student union from Dr. Martin Luther King. The reason: it's "not inclusive enough for modern understandings of diversity" and doesn't represent the students as they are now. While it's a trite term and one the right has derided as an excuse for its idolization of a bigot like Donald Trump, an absolutist form of political correctness is now the order of the day on many college campuses. Violate that absolutism in any way and prepare for the heavens to open up over you and the fist of almighty God to utterly crush you.
There was a time when the collegiate left rose up against the threat of being drafted into an unjust and ultimately futile war, against a brutal crackdown on those who took part in the civil rights movement, and against genuinely shocking governmental corruption -- all set to a backdrop of liberal icons being assassinated by those who feared progress. There was a time when the collegiate left was made up of genuine warriors who could confront the weapons of the police and national guard and not back down, even when they were being killed for it. But that has now given way to college "activists" who demand "trigger warnings" so that they can shield or even remove themselves from conversations that might be "emotionally damaging" to them. Many college students now live in a world of microaggressions rather than the macroaggressions their forebears faced and yet still they need a "safe space" -- sometimes with teddy bears, Play-Doh, bubbles and images of puppies -- to calm them amid the storm that exists only in their heads. They've attempted to turn college campuses from places where youthful transgression and a free exchange of sometimes challenging ideas was the norm to oppressive, even Orwellian panopticons where books and lessons are deemed objectionable, journalists are literally threatened, and professors' and administrators' jobs are at risk should they not categorically submit to the demands of these privileged little boys and girls.
And that's really what's at the center of the collegiate left's ongoing tantrum: privilege. If you're a regular reader of The Daily Banteryou've seen this argument before, but American college students, almost irrespective of their identities, have been raised in a country where they were largely safe and secure. They’re privileged — yes, privileged — to be living in a society where their biggest concern is a thoughtless, accidental or ill-informed comment or an opinion or joke they happen to dislike. They’re privileged to be able to blindly rage against “problematic” issues rather than the actual problems those who came before them faced. They’re privileged to have been coddled and indulged their entire lives. They’re privileged that they have the luxury of obsessing over minor insults and offenses. There's little doubt that today's college students are saddled with often crippling debt right out of school -- and that's something Bernie Sanders regularly hits on in his stump speeches -- but anyone who shouts to you that this current generation has had it rough is simply being melodramatic. As that Atlantic quote states, these kids "want their due?" Honestly, what are they possibly owed? Certainly not a national "political revolution" that's anything like the revolution they've tried to bring to America's universities. But as with all who spend their lives being obliged, they automatically believe they've earned comfort and acquiescence to their needs and demands. They've earned getting what they want right now, no matter what.
This Veruca Salt caucus may yet have a serious impact on the election moving forward. If nothing else, it won't be surprising that if their guy, Bernie Sanders, doesn't win the nomination, they'll stay home in a huff on election day rather than -- if nothing else -- vote against a sinister demagogue like Donald Trump. But despite Sanders's strong showing so far, the youth vote is historically notorious for coming for the party and leaving when they're asked to do something important. In other words, they show up for the rallies but don't actually vote. Given how politically motivated so many students seem to be that's hard to imagine this time around, but it is a very real possibility. It would be foolish to underestimate their power. And that's precisely the issue, because they do have real electoral potency and they've rallied around Bernie Sanders -- as one student ironically notes in Atlantic piece, "a cis white male" -- as an extension of themselves and their hope for a future that's the one they've tried to engineer on campuses across the country. Molly Ball is right: they're angry, but they're also wrong when they claim that they've got it bad -- worse than those who came before them -- and that the country has, for lack of a better term, gone completely to shit.
There are indeed serious issues out there, ones that specifically impact Millennials and would need to be confronted by either Democrat as president. Yet if we're to believe The Atlantic, many of the young people vociferously supporting Sanders, collegiate and otherwise, don't question him on those issues; they simply have a vague notion of Sanders as the "most liberal" person running. More than that, though, they've created a cult of personality around Sanders and have turned him into a kind of weirdo folk hero: the guy with the wild hair and the Brooklyn accent who preaches fiery sermons about how they're being kept down and it's time to rise up. He listens to them and empowers them, so they reward him with their loyalty and idolatry, making them far more like Donald Trump's outraged acolytes than they'd like to admit. And sure, a vote is a vote, but in the end it's support awarded for largely superficial reasons, even if, ironically, they flock to Sanders for his "authenticity." They've made Bernie "cool" and that's a self-fulfilling prophecy in which students exponentially adopt Sanders as their candidate because, well, that's just what you do when you're a member of the collegiate left in 2016. It's what everyone does.
It should go without saying that not every young Sanders supporter, or even college liberal, thinks and behaves in the manner described at length above. Doubtlessly there are many who don't behave like children -- children who are at turns shrill and fragile -- and many who believe Bernie Sanders to be, issue for issue, the best choice for president of this country. But there's a reason for the pervasive stereotype about the collegiate left in general and about young Sanders faithful in particular. There's a reason for the aforementioned eye-rolling among most other other demographics when this overall subject comes up. There's simply too much truth there for it to be discounted or ignored. It's been too well documented. The kids are for Bernie -- but, man, why do so many of them have to be so insufferable?