In a new interview with Democracy Now, Michael Moore urged voters his age to follow the leadership of young people and to vote for Bernie Sanders. Senator Sander’s campaign has received broad support from 18-35 year olds. Not only is the youth vote important for 2020, it will be crucial if the democratic nominee hopes to defeat Trump.
Young voters generally turn out in low numbers, but when they do go to the polls, they make all the difference. In 2008, over half of 18-29 year olds voted, overwhelmingly favoring Obama. This was a higher youth turnout than had been seen in the previous 20 years and the highest since. Motivating students and young people was a key reason Obama won in 2008. Bringing out young people who don’t normally vote will be especially important in 2020, as demographic shifts are leaving middle aged and older voters with a smaller share of the electorate.
Sanders is consistently the top choice of young voters, followed only by fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren. While Joe Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner among democratic candidates, his support among young voters is abysmal. In Iowa, less than five percent of Biden’s supporters are under forty.
Winning in 2020 is looking increasingly difficult for democrats. Even with impeachment, a recent poll shows Trump beating all of the democratic contenders head to head. The path to victory in 2020 is narrow. The election hinges on Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida, all of which Trump won in 2016. The caveat is that he won many of those states by very small margins. Michigan, for instance, only went to Trump by 11,000 votes.
This is where Senator Sander’s strength in motivating youth voters can really make the difference. In 2016 only 36% of Michigan’s 825,000 voters aged 18-24 participated in the election, compared to 73% of voters older than 65. In Florida, out of 1.5 million 18-24 year olds, only 33% voted, while two thirds of Floridians over the age of 65 did so. Older voters tend to vote republican, but only by 5-10%. Younger voters on the other hand overwhelmingly vote democrat, often by margins of 20% or more. If youth participation in 2020 even comes close to the 50% seen in 2008, then defeating Trump looks much more feasible. This is why nominating a candidate that can turn out the youth vote is so imperative.
Millennials have always been a strong base of support for Sanders. In 2016 they were one of the main reasons his upstart primary bid was so successful. In addition to consistent support among youth, Sander’s support has become more and more diverse. He has more female supporters than male ones, and currently has the most support of any candidate among latinx voters.
Besides the pragmatic reasons to support Sanders, Michael Moore points out that younger voters have to grapple with the pressing threat of climate change. The decisions made now will impact future generations in a way that wasn’t the case in a pre-global warming world.
“Maybe we owe it to the young people, because we were supposed to leave them a better country. We were supposed to leave them a better planet. And we, the ’60s and ’70s generation, we haven’t done that. So maybe we owe it to these young people to get behind the person they want. It’s their future. That’s our responsibility.” Moore said.
Millennials and Generation Z aged voters have increasingly taken the lead in the fight against climate change. Young people like Greta Thunberg and youth led groups like the Sunrise Movement have been keeping the issue in the news, forcing elected officials to acknowledge it. Older progressives applaud these efforts. They like to see young people lead on issues like climate change and gun violence, but when it comes to selecting a presidential candidate, that willingness to follow too often disappears.
The gap in youth support between Biden and Sanders is striking. If older voters ignore younger ones and nominate Biden, it will be at great risk. In 2016 many unenthused millennial voters stayed home or voted third party. In places like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, this may have been enough to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
If democrats are going to win in 2020, it will have to be with a candidate that can energize their base. Democrats need young voters who normally don’t vote to turn out in high numbers. It won’t be enough to run a campaign against Trump, they need a candidate who can motivate young people on their own merits. Everything points to Sanders being that candidate.