This article is moderately liberally biased.
I’m 19 years old, and earlier in the month attended a national conference for a youth organization that I am a part of. We had somewhere near 300 attendees from across the country – all young people wanting to shift our politics for the sake of our future.
On Monday night, we watched night one of the debate together, and while the performance of the candidates was, to me, almost entirely predictable, what was not was predictable was the general magnitude, but more importantly direction of the passionate outcry that I saw from our room of 300+ young people.
It is no secret that as young people, everywhere on the political spectrum, we are a fired up, passionate new base of voters. Across the country we are seeing my generation shift the national conversation on issues like gun violence prevention and environmental justice in intersectional manners that we’ve never before seen. We are the most populous voting base in this country. Prior to the recent midterms, young people (considered 18-24) historically showed up to the polls at a rate of one in five.
But here’s where it gets interesting: showing up to the polls at a rate of two in five numerically gives us the power to swing any race. And with what was essentially the highest youth voter turnout in the history of this country last November, the opinions and output of the young people in this country, who are more engaged than ever before, is something you’re downright foolish to ignore.
So here is both a young person’s perspective on what went down, as well as the collective reception in a room of 300 passionate young voters.
It’s safe to say that in this room of 300, almost everybody leans further left than myself. Despite what is a common, and justifiable topic of discussion right now, I can say boldly that my generation is not choosing who we vote for in the primaries with a “Who can beat Trump?” mindset. Adults can tell me that the Democrats need to stand united against Donald Trump in these debates, specifically on key issues like healthcare, rather than use debate time to attack the plans of one another. I couldn’t disagree more. For any American feeling disdain, disgust, or dissatisfaction with the Trump presidency, it is no secret that this a crucial turning point in this country.
There is no middle ground — you’re either in a camp of people who love the work this administration is doing, or you are ashamed, scared, and very much dissatisfied with that very work. For every American in the latter group; it will be a disservice to this nation if we strive for “better” rather than “best” from the most diverse and talented field of candidates we’ve ever had such a unique opportunity to chose between. It’s simply not about what can be seen as advantageous for Donald Trump right now.
So no, it is not the time for the Democrats to stand as one happy family when we discuss healthcare during these debates. Healthcare is the number one issue amongst Democratic voters. Exactly where and how these candidates differ on this policy must be something distinguishable. Right now, there are twenty candidates to take the stage. An undecided Democratic voter needs to know these very distinctions in order to feel confident in making an informed decision. If healthcare is the number one issue for Democratic voters, then they don’t want “better,” they want “best.” And I can tell you with confidence, that despite where we may differ on policy, as passionate young people seeking revolution within our politics, we are looking for “best.” And it’s a search that we won’t take lightly.
Despite her momentum, the thunderous applause Elizabeth Warren received in this crowded room was something that I (naively?) did not expect. We all know that Elizabeth Warren is a rockstar among the “ultra-progressives.” But even Bernie Sanders, who rivals Warren as far as who is most “progressive,” was notably booed by the people around me when walking on to the stage. As similar as they are on policy, the vast majority of what Sanders argued throughout the debate got passionate applause like Warren.
The same people who “booed” as he walked on stage were cheering in agreement with what he had to say. And it comes as no surprise as he and Warren are preaching to the same choir. But what is striking in this situation is how, unlike Sanders, Warren’s mere presence received applause and passion not dissimilar to that for which you see in concert venues or sports arenas. In fact, many in attendance took to Instagram later to point out this very thing, one person even referring to the group’s’ reception of Warren as being reminiscent of a football game.
When Warren would speak, the applause was continuously so boisterous that I had to go back and rewatch much of the debate on my own to be able to hear the ends of her sentences. Staunch Kamala supporters can tell me that this is not truly indicative of anything major, but I can only really tell you what I know and saw to be true: in a room of roughly 300 young voters – many of whom had not met before the conference – the support for Elizabeth Warren was not only overwhelmingly passionate but frankly, almost unanimous. Warren is a force to be reckoned with — and that is becoming increasingly evident with each passing day.