Can Sanders' millennials switch to Clinton?

Clinton wants to unite her party after New York win
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Clinton wants to unite her party after New York win 01:12

Story highlights

  • Dasha Burns: Clinton firmed up lead in NY, but if she is nominee must work hard to win over Sanders' supporters
  • She offers tips for how to make the case. One thing, don't condescend to millennials, expect women to vote for you

Dasha Burns is a writer and works as a strategist and creative content producer at Oliver Global, a consulting agency where she focuses on leveraging media and digital technology for global development. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Bernie's Brooklyn mourned Tuesday's New York primary results as Hillary Clinton solidified her lead over the shaggy, endearing ideologue. This may be the beginning of the end for Bernie Sanders, but that doesn't mean Clinton can coast. Far from it.

Sanders recently stressed that if Clinton does become the nominee, she'll have to do a much better job of engaging his supporters -- namely millennials. He's not kidding: Sanders has had an astronomical lead with this demographic, earning more youth votes than both Clinton and GOP front-runner Donald Trump combined. And 25% of his voters told McLatchy-Marist pollsters they would not back Clinton in the general election.
    But let's take a breath. I think we've all been wearing our primary goggles a little too long. The fact is that Clinton and Sanders agree on a majority of the issues when it comes to actual policy.
    Yet this is not resonating with millennials: Clinton cannot repeat her ritual misstep of assuming she will get their support when she hasn't fully earned it.
    Dasha Burns
    To ensure a win for Democratic and progressive values in the general election, young people need to show up. And for this, Clinton needs to work harder to remind young voters that she, too, will fight on their behalf.
    Just as devoted patrons of the local organic-fair-trade-small-batch coffee shop won't suddenly wake up with a Starbucks skinny vanilla latte, avid, anti-establishment Sanders supporters won't suddenly start feeling the Bern for Clinton.
    So, I would urge the secretary to rethink her relationship to this demographic. Some suggestions:
    --You don't believe in the kind of revolution Bernie is talking about. Show young people that you've heard the cheers for his ideas and you understand why they matter to us, and tell us — without condescension — how you're going to do better. Then, show us what your revolution looks like. Because you ARE campaigning on a progressive platform, and you DO have goals — like the New College Compact and profit sharing -- that will change flawed and failing systems.
    --Don't tell young women to vote for you because we're women. But tell us to vote for you because you're going to close the wage gap. Because you'll make sure we have every opportunity afforded our male colleagues. Because with you as president our rights to our own bodies will be protected and expanded.
    --Don't try to adopt Bernie's swag; it's inimitable and everyone is surprised that it worked (including him, I bet). And don't try to do "cool" things you think young people do; you're a grown woman and we like the gravitas and dignity that brings. So do what YOU do but show young people you'll support what they do, too.
    --Policy matters, but for young voters, the intent and ideals behind those policies matter, too. If you're not going as far as Sanders on issues like education and the minimum wage, make sure we understand why and show us your goals are worth fighting for. Show us the heart behind your strategy and explain why it will work for us.
    --We know how experienced you are, and that you know how to "get the job done." But show that you're still willing to see different perspectives and to seriously consider criticisms and counterarguments.
    --Most of all, show that you're engaging with young voices. Show that you'll listen to those with few years but many ideas. Show that you're ultimately on the same side as your current opponent, because you will need his zealous support come November.
    It's true that even if Clinton does all these things, some millennials may angrily disengage from the political process if she is the nominee. But as a fellow member of the cohort, I hope and believe that most will be thoughtful in their decision.
    They'll see that the Republican candidate is the direct antithesis of everything that Clinton, Sanders and their collective supporters stand for.
    They'll see that both the Democratic candidates stand on platforms that will move our country forward, not backward.
    They'll recall that before the candidates went hoarse yelling over each other in the last debate, they spent most of the earlier debates so "vigorously agreeing" that a "Glee"-style "Don't Stop Believin'" duet seemed almost imminent. From immigration to abortion to even campaign finance reform, rarely are the differences meaningful.
    Ahead of the upcoming primaries, Clinton will need to start removing her own primary goggles and making that case to her current opponent's supporters. Because if they turn their backs before the real battle begins, her presumptive primary victory could vanish before our eyes.