Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of the forthcoming book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.” Follow him on Twitter: @julianzelizer. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
(CNN)Monday night, the two Democratic frontrunners each had a turn to speak to South Carolinians a few days before a critical primary, and to make their case to the rest of the nation as Super Tuesday approaches. Stepping before the cameras, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg offered two fundamentally different political styles, one rooted in the tumult of 1960s grassroots activism and the other in the pragmatic, computer savvy mentality of the Millennials.
Sanders is a movement politician who draws his energy and excitement from his base. He carries on the ethos of 1960s progressives who, long after the Age of Aquarius, continued to fight for the ideals that animated younger Americans in that decade. They were perpetually taking on the establishment. Sanders is clear-headed and consistent
about the struggle for social justice, economic fairness, and democratic rights. He sees the world through the prism of right and wrong with little gray in between.
Even though he has been a “democratic socialis
t” for most of his political life, Sanders has been an unabashed enthusiast
about the New Deal and Great Society traditions, promising to push those agenda to deal with issues that have been at the forefront of recent mobilizations, such as the environmental movement
. Sanders believes that the only way to win an election, especially one against an incumbent president who will be as ruthless and vicious as Donald Trump, is to tap into the fervent energy of a movement to win control of the White House.
Meanwhile, Buttigieg is a child of the 1980s
and 1990s, not the 1960s. He approaches politics in a clinical style, constantly attempting to bring the most sophisticated data-laden analysis
to the problems that we face. He promised to provide intelligent, thoughtful and realistic solutions as the leader of the country.
In stark contrast to Sanders, Buttigieg rarely speaks with the passion of a movement leader