What does Socialism mean to millennials? It means Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and my friend, Lee Carter, 50th VA District Delegate. These are nominated and elected Democratic politicians who are self-proclaimed champions of Socialism. Socialism means leaders who want Medicare for all, job guarantees, worker and women’s rights, and compassionate politics. It is a far cry from what a baby boomer thinks. Ask a 65-year old, who did Duck and Cover drills in elementary school, and you will most likely get a visceral negative reaction to the word Socialism.
Words really matter and for the Democratic party to attract millennials, understanding their lexicon is important. We are not talking the same language. Literally, the association people have with words dictates how they vote.
Catnip for Millennials
Watch these 2 minutes of video from a 2017 CNN debate between Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Bernie Sanders. Observe how both try to define Socialism to position their politics. Cruz takes the opening shot using a Cold War “Socialist” label to make connections that don’t actually exist, an old political trick. Sanders counters by re-defining Socialism in a modern context. The values Sanders articulates resonates with millennials and is what they associate Socialism with today.
Millennials entered the workforce during the Great Recession. This experience has left our belief in Capitalism shaken. This life experience combined with no negative association with the word Socialism, makes it a very appealing concept.
Next year, Millennials (1981-1996) will surpass Baby Boomers (1946-1964) as the largest block of potential voters. The time has come to listen to, learn from and engage with young adults in new ways. Let’s learn how to speak Millennial. I will be posting more about “Speaking Millennial” soon.