Regardless Of What Happens, Bernie Has Already Changed America Forever

by John Haltiwanger
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When Senator Bernie Sanders announced he was running for president, it seemed like a complete long shot. How could a 74-year-old, Jewish, self-declared democratic socialist from Vermont ever come out on top?

We've never had a Jewish president, the word "socialist" is evil and dirty in the minds of many Americans and Sanders would be the oldest president ever elected.

Not to mention, Sanders was going up against Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and secretary of state with a huge donor network who's widely respected across the Democratic Party.

But Sanders has continued to defy the odds.

It's true Clinton has a significant lead over Sanders right now in terms of the race for the Democratic nomination, but he's still put up a tremendous fight. Clinton narrowly won in Iowa, and Sanders proved to be a legitimate contender with wins in New Hampshire and Michigan.

Yes, Bernie Sanders certainly has an extremely tough road ahead, but this election is far from over. And even if Sanders ultimately loses, his "political revolution" will continue.

Sanders' campaign has sent shockwaves across America and ignited passions and perspectives that will not soon dissipate.

Regardless of what happens, the Vermont senator has already changed America forever. He's helped inspire a progressive movement that will endure far beyond 2016.

This is particularly evident among Millennials, who've turned out to support Sanders in droves.

The members of this generation, which happens to be the largest and most diverse generation in US history, are evidently quite taken with the notion of radically altering American politics. They are fed up with the status quo and completely turned off by the moderate politics of Hillary Clinton.

They want a candidate who calls for an end to a system dominated and dictated by wealthy campaign contributors. They want a candidate who calls for Citizens United to be overturned. They want a candidate who fights for free healthcare and education (and, yes, they understand it's not free).

They want a candidate who doesn't have a Super PAC. They want a candidate who's been consistent throughout his or her career. They want a candidate who accepts climate change science unequivocally (and doesn't support fracking). They want a candidate who addresses the legitimate grievances of minorities and stands against systemic racism.

They want a candidate who doesn't support stupid wars and is willing to admit America's past mistakes. They want a candidate who calls for an end to the death penalty. They want a candidate who supports the legalization of marijuana and so much more.

In the eyes of young voters, among others, Sanders is that candidate.

Hillary tells voters all of these things sound nice, but we have to be reasonable in terms of how the system functions -- a little at a time, she seems to say.

Contrarily, Sanders appears to argue it's past the time for excuses, and it's time for the people to rise up and demand radical change. While not everyone is with him, a massive number of people has heeded this call -- and Millennials are leading the charge.

Even if Clinton meets many of the qualifications liberal or Democratic voters are looking for in a president, many Millennials just don't trust her -- they believe she's saying what people want to hear during the primary season, but will rush back toward the middle once she secures the Democratic nomination.

The implications of all this for both the Democratic Party and American political culture are enormous. To borrow from Jamelle Bouie of Slate,

Sanders is already a historic candidate — the first socialist in a century to build a genuine mass movement in American party politics. And whatever the Democratic Party is in the next 20 or 30 years, it will owe a great deal to Sanders and all the people — young or otherwise — who felt the Bern.

Like it or not, Millennials are the future of this country, and it appears they will not rest until they see the changes Sanders calls for.

Millennials are the most liberal generation in American history. To put this into perspective, they comprise the generation responsible for catapulting the first black president to office and they have a higher opinion of socialism than capitalism.

Sanders has finally given a voice -- and a major one at that -- to the left-leaning perspectives of this generation. The progressive movement he's inspired is not going anywhere -- the largest and most diverse generation in US history will make sure of that.