Photo of The Sanders Secret, or Why Millennials Love Bernie

The Sanders Secret, or Why Millennials Love Bernie

You know something is a hot topic when SNL pulls out the big guns. This past Saturday, Kate McKinnon donned her wig and pantsuit to play Hillary Clinton in a faux ad targeting those all-too-elusive yet populous Millennials.


McKinnon then morphs into Clinton’s Democratic rival and Millennial champion, Bernie Sanders, proclaiming, “I’m whoever you want me to be, guys.” Every media outlet and their mother is trying to crack the Sanders Secret when it comes to attracting Millennials. Luckily, BridgeWorks plays the game of generations, and we may be able to break down his appeal. There’s so much to say about this guy, but to try and keep this as concise as possible (TL;DR, am I right?), our take on why Millennials are feelin’ the Bern boils down to a few things:

#1–Disruption.
Millennials are a generation that has grown up in a world that is constantly disrupting the status quo—from banking and shopping to turning “traditional” jobs on their heads. Taxis? Goodbye cabbies, hello Uber. Expensive hotel rooms? Nope, try AirBnB instead. “The way things have always been done” doesn’t resonate with the Millennial generation, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing that desire for disruption play out in the political sphere. There’s no question Sanders is definitely overturning the “traditional” political atmosphere: (as is Trump, but that’s another blog entirely) he is pressing for political revolution, massive bureaucratic change (especially when it comes to big banks) and truly making the U.S. the people’s country. Millennials are eating up these philosophies.

#2–Socialism is the new capitalism.
Millennials are the generation most likely to have a favorable opinion of socialism and we have history to thank for that. This generation grew up during a time when “socialism” brought to mind images of prospering countries, Sweden and Norway for example. For their parents and older generations, the term evoked widespread fear: The Red Scare, the Cold War, and McCarthyism to name a few. By labeling himself as a Democratic socialist, Bernie is tapping into Millennials’ need for meaning—specifically, meaningful change. When you look at Millennials in the workplace, it’s incredibly important to them that they make a difference in the world through their jobs and otherwise. Throw in the fact that many Millennials are still struggling financially—paying off college loans, mortgages, etc.—mixed with his arguments for free college and equal distribution of wealth, and you’ve got an idealist’s dream, one that many Millennials are hoping will become a reality.

#3–Authenticity, and maybe, eccentricity.
In a way that Hillary—and many politicians before her—is just not doing well, Bernie is showing personality, and it’s endearing. He’s authentic. His crazy hair, his thick accent, his unfiltered opinions and wildly flailing appendages—he is what we call in the generations business, a “hot mess.” He’s unflinching and impassioned when it comes to the topics that mean most to him, and his passion hits home with a generation told to follow their dreams, no matter how big. Millennials love seeing a politician in this light because they feel they can connect to a real person. Clinton, try as she might, has just not been able to connect with Millennials in the same way that Bernie has, and not for lack of other incredibly important characteristics: she’s super polished, professional and experienced, but generally isn’t seen as witty and relatable. The poise and polish is missing the mark with a generation that wants to have a president they can relate to and maybe even be “friends” with. (Or secretly wish was their grandpa, who are we kidding?)