Progressive voters under 30 years famously helped President Barack Obama take the presidency in 2008. Similarly, throughout this campaign they have been unquestionably the largest supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders—presently the only 2016 candidate who Millennials view favorably. But after last night’s results in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the nomination of former Secretary Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for the presidency is now all but inevitable, leaving millions of young progressives disappointed. However, the future of progressivism cannot be about any singular candidate, and much work remains for those who wish to give our children a more compassionate and just America. The following 7 goals are where those who #FeelTheBern can turn to continue the fight.
- Vote this November.
While the Democratic primary has been more substantive than the other side, a majority of young progressives who support Sanders still feel hesitance toward Clinton. However, she is the closest in policy and priority to Sanders of any other candidate this election. A Clinton victory in November would protect women’s rights, ensure another progressive on the Supreme Court, and raise the waters for down-ticket progressive support, such as Congressional candidate and Sanders supporter Zephyr Teachout. Even the most anti-Hillary progressive should consider her come November; the alternative—Donald Trump—is simply too disastrous.
- Bottom-up governance.
It is well-documented that Democrats have failed at electing people not named Barak Obama over the past decade, allowing the GOP to control the House, Senate, 70% of state legislatures, and a majority of governors. At the federal level, since the 2010 midterm elections we have seen how difficult making progress can be with a Republican-dominated legislature. And while progressive Millennials like to dream nationally, the mechanisms for enforcing many of our policy positions—from universal healthcare (including mental health) to education reform—lie at the state and local level. Perhaps more importantly, state elections are the only place where redistricting and criminal justice reform can occur. If progressives do not think and act locally, we will continue to be politically out-flanked by conservatives for a generation.
- Structural reforms.
Before going straight to emotion-laden policy goals like immigration, a woman’s right to choose, and gun control, the new progressive generation needs to focus serious energy on structural improvements to how the game of politics is played. Overturning Citizens United and the intricacies of primary voting has grabbed our collective attention, but there has been less rage about the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the legalized voter suppression which followed it. Just as important are reforms for judicial elections: while the framers of the U.S. Constitution prohibited elections for federal bench, states—where over 90% of all cases are heard—have free reign to decide how to select their own judges. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and organizations such as the Brennan Center for Justice have spoken out about the influence of seeking reelection has on how judges decide cases.
- Criminal justice.
The frequent murders of unarmed black men and mass shootings in 2015 have rightfully made criminal justice an important topic for 2016. Common sense gun control, reforming the training and diversification of police forces, and cultural changes at both the national and community level must be achieved if we hope to reduce the instances of similar tragedies in the future. Further, progressives should push for sentencing reforms which no longer target communities of color, as well as oppose the expanse of privatized prisons (though Clinton seems to hold a mixed position here). For Millennials, moving beyond President Obama should mean opposing the continued expanse of government surveillance which he continued from the Bush Administration, as well as the discriminatory Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative.
- Social justice.
Movements like #BlackLivesMatter have worked to push social justice to the fore of our national discussion leading up to the 2016 elections. Coming to age during these time have made Millennials particularly sensitive to ethnic and racial inequalities. Young progressives of all colors should be allies of communities which have been marginalized, disenfranchised, and underserved. While much of this remains cultural change which cannot be legislated, progressives can make policy accomplishments by fighting poverty, rejecting xenophobic immigration policies, requiring equal pay for equal work, advancing disability rights, and accepting more refugees from war-torn countries. And while the Supreme Court delivered a major victory for gay rights, the “religious freedom” bills—legitimized discrimination—being introduced in state legislatures throughout the country show that work remains undone.
- Equal economic opportunity.
This was the central issue of the Sanders campaign, and it behooves those most effected, those with college debt or little work experience, to continue the fight. To properly address the causes of income inequality, we must look to expanding early education, public school finance reform, and college affordability. These achievements will allow future generations of disadvantaged Americans to compete on a more level ground than exists now. For the present workforce, we must continue advocating for more progressive tax structures, increased employee rights, such as paid parental leave, benefits for part-time workers, and a living wage for all full-time employees.
- Principled foreign policy.
Lastly, progressives must support policies abroad which are in line with our founding principles of democracy and human rights—yes, even for the Palestinians. The United States must lead by example in supporting these ideals while conforming to domestic and international law, in contrast to the Cowboy Diplomacy of the Right. This stance requires measured and limited use of an efficient Department of Defense which protects Americans without unnecessary expenditure. And those who serve us must be treated with the respect they deserve when they come home, including educational and employment opportunities, mental and physical health services, and an expanded Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) program.
These 7 goals can help to frame and structure the energy and passion that Millennial progressives have shown in support of Senator Bernie Sanders. While his 2016 presidential candidacy has little hope of succeeding, the policy stances Sanders brought to the fore—income inequality, education reform, and limited military force—are worthy of carrying beyond 2016 to create a future in which our generation can believe.