"I originally come from West Virginia, and then every time I go home, you see that the mountains are just cleared. The trees are gone. Coal dust covers the roads. But as if no people are improving there. It's just recovery. It's recovery. all the time, he says.
"I think we have to restructure society in a different way. There has to be more regulation. There has to be a vision for the future where the people who work are valued higher than they are now."
Last year, the DSA endorsed Sanders, announcing that it would run an independent spending campaign to get a vote for Sanders in the 2020 presidential election.
"I'd say I've been a socialist all my life," said Sam Lynn, a student at UNC Chapel Hill. "I didn't know until Bernie Sanders started running in 2016."
& # 39; Y & # 39; allidarity & # 39;
McClelland and his friends spilled out of their vans into a hostel in 15-degree weather. Their car trip had taken 14 hours. Some of the women refreshed the makeup in a fluorescent tube with six bunk beds, and then, frightened by the idea of finding another parking space, they all took an Uber to the conference. There they mingled with the rest of the 275 high school and high school students who had come to learn how to become better organizers. The non-vegans were reminded not to take the vegan pizza.
Sanders inspired many of these students to take up local activism. Last year, the group in Eastern Tennessee State campaigned to raise the salaries of the lowest-paid assistant professors on campus.
"You don't expect a bunch of young socialists to be in the middle of Tennessee, but I think we're one of the biggest political clubs on campus," said Aria Inaba, who celebrated her 21st birthday at the conference.
Her friend, Carson Morgan, wore a "Y & # 39; allidarity" needle on the suit, "to raise awareness that there are leftist movements in Red States." Another pin said: "Fashion."
"It's not an official attitude of the YDSA, but a personal belief," he said. "Fashion, not fascism."
The students listened to panels about the Green New Deal, the union that organized in Chicago and chose Sanders, who was interrupted by periodic singing and waving flags. At a workshop on how to deal with the press, they learned how to get the word out. One instructor said of journalists, "They are ultimately capitalists, most of them. They want things they can sell, because of a better word. Fortunately, socialism sells."
If you want to feel the generational shift evident in the 2020 election, you can listen to young socialists explain how the 2008 financial crisis affected their families – reminding them that they were in third grade when it happened.
"Some millennials remember that [the 2008 crisis] pretty good, and they have a lot of feelings about it and how it has changed lives, "McClelland said." People who are very young like me – who are just coming in now, old enough to vote – may have even seen their parents struggling under it. "
Sometimes his family had his insurance and other times they didn't.
"Some things people forget are, like in my case I had a single mother and it was like she just couldn't leave. You can't leave the job, you can't stop working," he said. "I remember how difficult it was and how much of a fight it was."
Given the sharp ideological age gap, one might expect that these students had struggled with their older relatives about politics. But it was striking how many students said they were socialists because of their parents' experiences.
Austin Cable, who co-founded the East Tennessee State University YDSA chapter with McClelland, said his father is a Trump supporter. Cable says he got the father to be OK with his political views by not criticizing the president, but instead explaining Sanders policy.
"I asked my dad, & # 39; When's the last time you've had health care? & # 39; He said, & # 39; I've never had health care. & # 39; And he's almost 60 years old. said, "Well, Bernie Sanders wants to get where everyone has health care," said Cable. "At the end, I just said, & # 39; Dad, you know, I support Bernie Sanders because I support you. & # 39;"
Lynn, a student at UNC Chapel Hill, said he and his sister had no health care growing up. "I have health care now, it still affects the way I look at my health and the health of the people I love," Lynn said. "And I feel that I still feel like today. I'd rather I really believe I would rather die than be a financial burden to my family."
Beth Girma's parents immigrated from Ethiopia in the late 1990s.
"I've seen my parents and family members really work hard to achieve the so-called American dream … which is, in a way, as impossible," she said. They were both nurses who worked a lot of overtime. "I've never seen such hard workers… But they shouldn't have had to work so hard to afford my basic needs." Girma, a student at Western Washington University, seemed to have the toughest time convincing her parents.
"Politics ends up being a difficult thing for my family to talk about," she said. "They so much regime change in life."
& # 39; They will lose by 2020 if it is not Bernie Sanders & # 39;
But as enthusiastic as these students are about Sanders, many in the Democratic Party are concerned that the "socialism" label would be an electoral poison.
"I would say that 'panic' would be the adjective to describe the mood right now," former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel told CNN. And former Secretary of State John Kerry was overheard by NBC saying Sanders would take the Democratic Party "all the way down."
That could translate into an obstacle for Sanders. The New York Times spoke to 93 Democratic super delegates "and found overwhelming opposition to handing over the Vermont senator nomination if he arrived with most delegates, but did not want a majority." Someone floated the idea that the Ohio sen. Sherrod Brown grabbed the nomination at the convention. Representative from Virginia, Don Beyer, suggested that Sens. Mark Warner, Chris Coons or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be a nominee that the party could rally behind.
But the young democratic socialists here predict that blocking a Sanders nomination would not go well for the Democrats.
"If Bernie Sanders goes to the convention with a number of delegates and doesn't come out as nominees, I really think that will be the end of the Democratic Party," Lynn said. "They will lose in 2020 if it is not Bernie Sanders. They will lose in 2024. They will lose in 2028."
McClelland said that in 2016, people wanted hope, and "Trump, no matter how twisted and ugly, gave some people hope," while Democrats did not. He sees an opportunity for 2020 to be different. "Bernie Sanders, I think, is the only candidate in the Democratic Party who can do that. He can give people hope."