As we approach the end of the Bernie Sanders campaign, I have been making it a point to try to understand the Bernie phenomenon that is especially strong among Milwaukee and Madison Millennials. As I have engaged in these conversations, I have discovered a significant amount of irony and confusion.
Let's address the national phenomenon “Bernieism” (aka Socialism) compared to the local political reality in Wisconsin which highlights the way Bernie campaign centers on rhetoric as opposed to policy solutions that address their underlying concerns.
1) Free College Tuition: Without a doubt the number one selling point for Bernie’s Millennials is that Bernie offers a solution to the crushing student debt that is delaying many from home ownership and starting a family. I have significant concerns with the fiscal and non-fiscal cost of offering free college, but let's agree that affordable college is important. If Wisconsin liberals believe college should be affordable, then why do campus faculties largely oppose Wisconsin tuition freezes? Why are the Democrats in the State Senate and Assembly opposed to the tuition freeze contained in the last two state budgets? The truth is Wisconsin Republicans have delivered on making college more affordable.
2) Affordable Housing: If Democrats have a monopoly on affordable housing, why is housing generally more expensive where liberal policies are strongest? Because over-regulation creates additional cost. Compare California and New York to Texas or Tennessee. We know lower property taxes directly and indirectly affect the cost of housing. In Wisconsin, Democrats have continually and unanimously opposed our objective of lowering property taxes in order to keep housing affordable.
3) #BlackLivesMatter: At this point, we’re sounding like Rodney Dangerfield "I just don't get no respect.” With very little fanfare or recognition, Wisconsin Republicans passed legislation that addresses a concern of the Black Lives Matter movement. Although most Republicans believe the vast majority of police officers act professionally and ethically, 2013 Wisconsin Act 348 mandates that officer-involved shootings include at least two investigators from outside the police department and require district attorneys to release the detailed reports of the officer-involved shooting to the public.
4) Consider Bernie's recent quote "You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants.” Imagine the response if you told all Millennials that the world of Bernie Sanders would include only one type of deodorant. The Bernie Sanders Millennials are unable to connect the fact that Socialism is government control of production. Bernie’s rationale could extend to beer, cars, etc...
5) Take comfort in this: most Bernie Sanders Millennials didn't know what they were voting for. Test Millennials yourself. Ask them, “What Wisconsin businesses would you like the government to own?” They may be confused because they have been taught that Socialism is good, but not what Socialism is. A credible conversation points out that Socialism replaces individual liberty and choice with government decision- making. Historically, Socialism has failed and is currently causing humanitarian crises in places like Venezuela, Brazil, and Greece.
The Millennials are the most diverse generation our country has ever seen. If we can educate them on what Socialism is, then the rejection of this growing Uber-riding, micro-brew drinking, choice-loving group of consumers will be “swiping left” at Socialism's one-size-fits all policies.
Dale Kooyenga is a Wisconsin state representative.