Sunday, January 31, 2016

Millennials and Bernie Sanders.

Tomorrow is the Iowa Caucus, the first vote in what promises to be a raucous presidential election year in the United States. Around this time four years ago, I posted something in this space about Millennials and Ron Paul, noting the enthusiasm that many Americans born in the 1980s and '90s had for a presidential candidate who was born during the Great Depression but nevertheless managed to speak to the interests and priorities of young voters in a way that many Boomer politicians evidently could not. Here is a bit of what I wrote at the time:
. . . the candidate who is currently drawing the most enthusiastic response from young voters is also the oldest person running. . . . Baby Boomers should pay close attention to what is going on here: the '60s mantra about not trusting anyone over thirty doesn't apply to many Millennials. Indeed, it is tempting to draw a parallel between young voters' support for Ron Paul and the affection that many young Catholics have for Pope Benedict XVI, an even older man who impresses youthful audiences with his genuine personal humility and his willingness to deliver a challenging yet inspiring message. To say the very least, it is striking that many of the most engaged and committed members of the Millennial Generation are looking beyond the Boomers and taking their inspiration from leaders who came to maturity in the 1940s and '50s.
Moving forward to 2016, it seems that Millennials are once again lining up behind a feisty septuagenarian who presents himself as an anti-establishment maverick, albeit of a very different political persuasion. The support of many Millennials for the insurgent Democratic presidential campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been noted by the media for months, with polls suggesting that Democrats under 45 favor Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a thirty-point margin. In Iowa, where recent polls have shown a nail-bitingly close race, Sanders is hoping to eke out a win on the basis of his popularity among Millennials and an aggressive GOTV operation focused on turning out college students and those high schoolers who are eligible to vote.

Regardless of how the Sanders campaign performs tomorrow in Iowa, it seems that the septuagenarian socialist has struck a chord with many young voters. Noting the candidate's Millennial-friendly views on issues like education, healthcare, and campaign finance, Bre Payton of The Federalist opines that "Bernie Sanders is a champion of the millennial cause. He has taken up the issues that affect young people the most and is using them as a battering ram against milquetoast candidates who do nothing more than shill for the status quo." Sanders' social democratic policies set him at odds with the libertarianism of 2012 Millennial favorite Ron Paul, but I can't help but notice some affinities between the two, even if only on the level of style and the sense in which both present themselves as the principled outsiders challenging the powers-that-be.

In the short term, strong Millennial support for particular candidates may not yet be enough to turn elections - it certainly didn't do so for Ron Paul - but the long term implications of all this still fascinate me. Is Millennial enthusiasm for candidates like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders a harbinger of major shifts in political attitudes among a rising generation of American voters, or does it merely reflect the passing fancy of idealistic young people who will move on to "status quo" issues and "milquetoast" candidates as they grow older? I wish I knew the answer. AMDG.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


In observance of the Feast of the Theophany (or Epiphany) of the Lord, widely celebrated on this date, here is an oldie but a goodie posted here once before: a Theophany sermon by the late Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, who discusses the place of Christ's baptism within salvation history and considers how the act of divine self-manifestation commemorated today offers an example we can follow:
Christ did not need cleansing. But these waters, into which all the sinners who had come to John the Baptist confessing the evil of their lives had washed themselves, were as it were heavy with the sinfulness and therefore the mortality of mankind. They had become waters of death, and it is in these waters that the Lord Jesus Christ merges Himself on that day, taking upon Himself the mortality resulting from the sin of man.

He comes, immortal in His humanity and His divinity, and at the same time He vests Himself with the mortality of the sinful world. This is the beginning of the way to Calvary. This is a day when we marvel at the infinite love of God. But as on every other occasion, man had to participate completely in the ways of salvation which God had provided. And this is why Christ comes and becomes partaker of our mortality, to save us. The culminating point will come on Calvary when He will say, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' It will be a moment when God as He was in His humanity will have lost communion with the Father by partaking of the destiny of mankind. This is the ultimate act of divine love.

Let us therefore today wonder and marvel, and worship this love of God, and learn from Him; because He said in the Gospel, 'I have given you an example. Follow it.' We are called, within the limits of our sinfulness and humanity, to carry one another's burdens, unto life and unto death. Let us learn from this. We find it so difficult to carry the burdens even of those whom we love; and practically impossible to shoulder the burdens of those whom we do not love with a natural, direct tenderness. Let us learn, because otherwise we will not have learned the first lesson which Christ gives us when He enters upon His ministry.
My prayerful best wishes to all who today celebrate Christ's divine manifestation in our midst. May the blessings of this great feast remain with us throughout the coming year. AMDG.