Hillary Clinton’s Millennial Problem Is Because of Her Policies, Not Her Gender

If Clinton wants young people’s votes, she needs to break with the status quo.

Kate Aronoff October 6, 2016

Bernie Sanders has come out in support of Hillary Clinton, but many of his supporters are slower to embrace the status quo candidate. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)

This piece first appeared at the​guardian​.com.

So what is it that millennials actually want? Around 70 percent favor wealth redistribution, one Gallup poll found, and many are eager to avoid six-figure debt for things like education and routine visits to the doctor’s office.

Hillary Clin­ton is hav­ing a hard­er time beat­ing Don­ald Trump than she bar­gained for. Accord­ing to a recent poll, a stag­ger­ing 44 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als say they’ll be vot­ing for either Green par­ty can­di­date Jill Stein or Lib­er­tar­i­an Gary John­son. The chief rea­son for Clinton’s dip in these polls is not — as Barack Oba­ma claimed on Sun­day — that she’s a woman (though sex­ism does have a lot to answer for). It’s because Clin­ton has assumed a third of the elec­torate — mil­len­ni­als — would vote for her out of fear of her opponent.

Sim­ply put, we want more.

Mil­len­ni­als are the gen­er­a­tion that has occu­pied Wall Street, shut down bridges for black lives and chained our­selves to the White House fence to stop the Key­stone XL pipeline. Dis­il­lu­sioned by Obama’s embrace of war and aus­ter­i­ty alike — espe­cial­ly after knock­ing on doors to get him elect­ed — we know bet­ter than to put blind faith in any can­di­date for the Oval Office.

What Clin­ton can do now is prove that she’s lis­ten­ing. Doing so could bear fruit in the polls, but only if she shows she’s will­ing to part ways with her bil­lion­aire friends and push for poli­cies that are in line with what mil­len­ni­als real­ly want.

Since the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nation­al con­ven­tion, Clin­ton and Trump have ped­dled their own pol­i­tics of fear. Hers: of an ascen­dant far-right. His: of immi­grants and the prospect of a tru­ly mul­ti-racial democ­ra­cy. If Bernie Sanders’ pri­ma­ry cam­paign showed any­thing, though, it’s that young Amer­i­cans are eager to vote for some­thing – not against it.

Lay­ing out plans for sin­gle-pay­er health­care and a $15 min­i­mum wage, Sanders beat Clin­ton among mil­len­ni­als in each one of the 27 states where they faced off in the pri­maries. And he might still be the most pop­u­lar politi­cian in the US today.

Clin­ton team: Trump appears to have bro­ken Cuba embargo

At a time when Amer­i­cans across the polit­i­cal spec­trum are turn­ing against the sta­tus quo, Clin­ton seems to be embrac­ing it. She spent weeks in August woo­ing mil­lion­aire donors in Sil­i­con Val­ley and Martha’s Vine­yard, and has chased endorse­ments from Bush-era offi­cial and war crim­i­nals like Hen­ry Kissinger. It’s out of frus­tra­tion that mil­len­ni­als will reg­is­ter protest votes, not ignorance.

Make no mis­take: a vote for either Jill Stein or Gary John­son in a swing state is a vote for Trump, and could land the US in a sit­u­a­tion more dan­ger­ous and unsta­ble than any it has known yet. Clin­ton is this country’s best hope right now. Espe­cial­ly if we want to avoid a future defined by hos­til­i­ty towards immi­grants and peo­ple of col­or, the near cer­tain­ty of cat­a­stroph­ic glob­al warm­ing and a dis­as­trous eco­nom­ic plan ripped straight from the Tea Party’s playbook.

But mak­ing sure that painful, hate-filled future nev­er comes to pass is up to the Clin­ton cam­paign now, and its abil­i­ty to make an earnest and heart­felt appeal to the future of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic party.

So what is it that mil­len­ni­als actu­al­ly want? Around 70 per­cent favor wealth redis­tri­b­u­tion, one Gallup poll found, and many are eager to avoid six-fig­ure debt for things like edu­ca­tion and rou­tine vis­its to the doctor’s office. The Move­ment for Black Lives released a detailed pol­i­cy agen­da this sum­mer with plen­ty of ideas for senior Clin­ton staffers, and round-the-clock protests against the Dako­ta Access pipeline should give them a sense for where young Amer­i­cans stand on new fos­sil fuel infra­struc­ture and vio­la­tions of indige­nous rights.

For the most pro­gres­sive and diverse gen­er­a­tion in his­to­ry, Trump rep­re­sents vir­tu­al­ly every­thing our gen­er­a­tion is against. Clin­ton rep­re­sents every­thing that hasn’t worked for us. Her embrace of pol­i­tics as usu­al these last few months could cost her the elec­tion, putting Trump in the White House and embold­en­ing his most dan­ger­ous sup­port­ers. Either way, Trump­ism will grow so long as elites are set­ting the polit­i­cal agenda.

Mil­len­ni­al-led move­ments, mean­while, are show­ing a way for­ward, free of fear-mon­ger­ing and full of hope­ful visions for a fair­er future. If defeat­ing Trump means vot­ing for Clin­ton — and it does — defeat­ing the tox­ic ide­ol­o­gy that sur­rounds him means she needs to take these move­ments’ advice seriously.

Kate Aronoff is a Brook­lyn-based jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing cli­mate and U.S. pol­i­tics, and a con­tribut­ing writer at The Inter­cept. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @katearonoff.
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