The Disillusionment Of Young American Voters, And The Power They Still Have To Fight

United States (Pontiac– A dark, spectreous shadow looms over America following the presidential results. With Donald Trump now elected to office, Americans everywhere are asking themselves some very tough questions. Very few of those questions involve the young vote, which came out in near unprecedented numbers during the primary. Where are we — America’s youth — to go from here? What is to become of our future? Will the issues we care about see any response at all? Most importantly, can youth be galvanized again to speak out, march, and debate when the need arrives? It appears it already has.

Even months after the primary, Hillary Clinton struggled to woo American millennials. During that contest, voters under 30 instead flocked to her opponent, Bernie Sanders, in record numbers. An opponent, as it turns out, who was systematically denied the candidacy by the Democratic establishment. It was this revelation, as well as other unfavorable aspects of Clinton, which slew her campaign.

Clinton herself was even fed debate questions ahead of contests by high ranking DNC officials. During the primary, her husband made legally questionable appearances at polling sites on election day. To top it all off, Clinton’s voice was recorded dismissing the young vote entirely.

“They’re children of the great recession”, she said in the leaked audio, “and they’re living in their parents basement.” She mentioned the many who feel college hasn’t granted them the well paying jobs they were promised. By consequence, Clinton pointed out how a “political revolution” is attractive to those people. Her statements completely dismissed any notion that millennials can be taken seriously. We’re too “idealistic”, Clinton proclaimed while also brainstorming how this could be used to her advantage.

All of these things, behind the scenes and not, contributed to the November 8th outcome. Young voters who attended rallies, volunteered, and got involved in activism for the first time were cast to the wind. Some traded their choice for Trump, such as the 48% of white millennials who rejected Hillary Clinton. If you think it’s a coincidence that just 8% of blacks and 24% of Latinos voted for Trump, then rethink your assumptions.

Trump’s xenophobic, racially fueled, sexually derogatory campaign galvanized white nationalist America as much as Sanders did young people. Clinton failed to combat this parallel, and now Trump’s half is celebrating. The Southern Poverty Law Center has already documented white nationalist and/or hate groups nationwide celebrating their victory.

One of their figureheads, former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke, made a series of heated Facebook posts. In them, he referred to non-Trump supporters as “parasites”, “arrogant”, “ungrateful pieces of shit.” And while some studies suggest divides in whether millennials are more tolerant than their parents, a large portion did initially stand against Trump. More young people voted for Bernie Sanders than Trump and Clinton combined in the primary.

Bernie Sanders’ youthful support included 80% in Oklahoma and 40% in Alabama, with 27% of young voters turning out in Michigan. “Similar to Trump”, read a Pontiac piece from March, “Bernie’s massive support–particularly among youth–stems from a genuinely authentic vibe voters get. However, whereas Trump supporters enjoy his lack of respect for ‘political correctness’, Bernie supporters enjoy his ideas.” All those young voters cared about ideas, Bernie’s or not. And they still do.

The racial voting divides in millennials may be explained through sheer lack of understanding of another person’s experience. For example, white millennials who switched to Trump perhaps aren’t psychologically affected by his rhetoric the same way as their minority peers. Things like putting I.D cards on suspected Muslims and nationwide stop and frisk don’t necessarily strike them like those who are targeted by those policies. They may disagree with Trump’s proposals, but it doesn’t impact them in the same way. Just as a man can’t claim to understand the fear of women who don’t want their birth control to be discontinued.

However, the millennial generation aren’t just “liberal”, but progressive. Sanders showed them their ideals aren’t fantasies, and can be reached through action. Not only that, but Sanders himself showed them that he respects their right to speak their opinion, and to even be critical of him. It all would’ve been empty, however, without those millennials rallying, protesting, and casting ballots.

–To My Generation–

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Isiah Holmes

This piece isn’t about wishing Sanders wasn’t disfavored by the DNC, but to remind my contemporaries of something. You have the power. If you happened to go to a protest or rally, remember that feeling of hope and solidarity which motivated you. Remember what it was like not only to vote for the first time, but to believe in your vote. Remember what it was like to be surrounded by people with ideals, and the motivation to voice them. Remember, and never forget, what that was like, use it to earn your future. Even if Clinton had won, large question marks over progress and reform would still overlord our lives.

Use what you still have; the internet, your wits, your numbers, your energy, your dreams, cameras, voice recorders, art in its infinite forms, anything! Use anything and everything to stand up for what you believe, and get it done. Teenagers in LA were able to get their school district’s police department demilitarized through two years of tireless activism.

You are capable of that success, those kids and others have proven it. You can support initiatives like Wolf-PAC–a movement to get a constitutional amendment passed to remove big money from politics. You can speak out about the behavior of police, or your disinterest in participating in another war. Already countless numbers of people are getting out into the streets and expressing their right to assembly, protest, and expression. It’s deeply critical, though, for said movement to preserve itself by not engaging in the same ignorance as those it opposes. An exchange of ideas, not fists and spittle, is what is needed right now. A fearless exchange of ideas, not catharsis or rage.

Create; write, express, speak and most of all read, wield this as the force you felt at the Sanders rallies. Bernie wasn’t that feeling, you and your compatriots were. All he did was light a fire in the guts of thousands at once. You’re all American citizens, you have the power, but we can only live in the now. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is yet to come, meaning now is the time to wield that power again.