“I don’t know if we’re angry, but we’re frustrated,” Sam Watkins, a 26-year-old who lives in Manchester, told me. “It seems like the voice of the people is an afterthought, and people are sick and tired of that.”
Like the supporters of Donald Trump, the kids have a sense they’re being kept down—shafted by a system in which they lack power. They are rising up against the sinister cabal that has shut them out. And they have found their man.
A couple of days after the Franklin Pierce rally, at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, Sanders held a rally featuring performances by several hip bands, such as the Fantastic Negrito and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. The line began forming before 4 p.m., two hours before its scheduled start, despite a bitter, driving snowstorm.
Inside, through the Secret Service metal detectors, past the concession stands and rows of bleachers, on the floor of the hockey rink, a group of friends talked about their hero.
“I’ve got a third-degree Bern!” said 22-year-old Sam Richardson.
“I’m lit on fire right now! I’ve got the Bern so bad!” said 25-year-old Greg Smith.
“Bernie’s an arsonist!” cried Daniel Pontoh, 23. And they fell apart, laughing.
Emily Ratajkowski, the swimsuit model best known as the girl in the the “Blurred Lines” video, emceed the event and began with a fiery repudiation of Gloria Steinem, who had implied that young women only supported Sanders because they wanted to meet boys. (Steinem later apologized.) “I’m a young woman, and I want to make one thing clear: I’m here because I support Bernie Sanders. I’m not here for the boys,” Ratajkowski said. “I want my first female president to be more than a symbol!”
Sanders would not arrive for several more hours. A band called Big Data played, its two singers, a man and women in tight black shirts and sunglasses, performing a choreographed dance routine at the front of the stage. A 20-year-old sustainable-agriculture major named George Bolosky told me about the military-industrial complex, which “is probably 80 percent of our tax dollars,” and the importance of labeling genetically modified food, “because we don’t know about the health effects.”
The final act, the Magnetic Zeros, was fronted by a charismatic hippie named Alex Ebert with a messy updo, a trench coat, and khaki capri pants. He played an original composition called “Feel the Bern,” then went out into the crowd and sat down in the middle of the floor. The students around him all sat down, too, and he urged them to put their arms around each other. It had the feel of an old-school love-in. He led them in an a cappella rendition of “Lean on Me.”
When Sanders finally took the stage, around 8:30 p.m., the crowd was ready. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” he cried, urging them to come out and vote. The pundits, he noted, are always saying that young people don’t bother to vote. “I don’t believe that!” he said. “I believe that you understand that while the decisions made in Washington affect every American, they impact the younger generation even more.”
Sanders reached the section of the speech about student debt. “You tell ‘em, Bernie!” someone cried.
“I’m going to tell ’em!” he yelled back.
The kids roared. The kids were ready. The kids were going to do it. The kids were going to give Bernie New Hampshire—and maybe more.