The dust from the Iowa Caucus debacle was barely settled as presidential candidates descended on New Hampshire for the week leading up to the first-in-the-nation primary. At the center of the action: young voters.
Millennials face countless issues: student loan debt, a climate crisis, unaffordable healthcare, and rising rents, to name a few. That’s why groups like the New Hampshire Youth Movement are organizing people to demand concrete answers from presidential candidates.
“Young people have a lot of skin in the game right now,” said Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, co-founder and organizer of New Hampshire Youth Movement. “Young people in New Hampshire have an incredible amount of political power.”
The New Hampshire Youth Movement was born out of the 2016 presidential election. Sinclair-Wingate started the organization with friends who were involved in the fossil fuel divestment campaign at the University of New Hampshire. Dismayed by Donald Trump’s win, Sinclair-Wingate had a goal of sustaining long-term political power in the Granite State with a movement built by and for young people.
“We saw this opportunity where, if we could organize young people in New Hampshire to not only turn out to vote but to also work after the election to hold leaders accountable, we actually have a lot of political agency,” Sinclair-Wingate said.
Fast forward to now, the New Hampshire Youth Movement has moved 11,000 allies to pledge to vote with them in the primary. They are taking the opportunity to educate voters on three main issues they’ve identified: free college for all, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All.
“Currently, students and alumni are drowning in student debt while private loan providers are making obscene amounts of money,” Sinclair-Wingate said. “I pay roughly the equivalent of my rent every month in college loans. Students in New Hampshire graduate with the highest average student debt in the country.”
Sinclair-Wingate added that a comprehensive education reform plan should eliminate tuition and fees at all public colleges, in addition to cancelling existing student debt. Furthermore, the New Hampshire Youth Movement calls for investment in historically black colleges and universities, while organizers also said the climate crisis is an existential threat that the fossil fuel industry profits from. The Green New Deal, they said, should focus on communities that are most impacted by the climate crisis.
“Everyone deserves access to quality healthcare regardless of their ability to pay,” Sinclair-Wingate said. “People across this country are just currently drowning in medical debt [for] the services they need to stay alive while pharmaceutical and insurance executives are accruing … wealth. To address this healthcare crisis, we need a Medicare for All system that’s going to include everyone and eliminate private insurance companies.”
In the eyes of these advocates, most candidates are lacking on this front, influenced by big-money donations. Sinclair-Wingate said that Bernie Sanders, who is endorsed by the New Hampshire Youth Movement, remains the candidate least clouded by corporate interests.
“You have candidates like Sanders whose average donation is $14 and is not taking money from billionaires and pharmaceutical companies and big money interests and [is] instead taking money from people like us,” Sinclair-Wingate said. “That means he’s not going to be accountable to them, he’s going to be accountable to us.”
Ahead of the debate at Saint Anselm College on Friday, New Hampshire Youth Movement will stage a protest under the banner, #OurFutureOurDebate. They are working with 350 New Hampshire and Rights & Democracy to call on moderators and candidates to talk about the climate crisis.
“We haven’t seen the debates really address the climate crisis to the extent that it deserves,” Sinclair-Wingate added.
350 New Hampshire also showed up to a Joe Biden event on Wednesday to demand that the former vice-president pledge to move away from fossil fuels and shut down coal power plants.
Come primary day, Sinclair-Wingate said he expects a large turnout of young people. Organizing, he added, extends beyond the primaries.
“One of the things that’s really important for young people to do to stay involved in politics outside election season is being involved in legislative battles to make sure we’re staying in touch with our elected officials and pushing them to make important votes and vote with young people on significant bills that come up in the House, in the Senate, not only here in New Hampshire, but nationally as well.”
This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Manchester Divided coverage of political activity around New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Follow our coverage @BINJreports on Twitter and at binjonline.org/manchesterdivided, and if you want to see more citizens agenda-driven reporting you can contribute at givetobinj.org.