Shocker of the day: Millennials can’t stand Trump. Compared to Romney’s final percentage of the millennial vote in 2012 (36%, according to Pew Research Center), Trump’s doing spectacularly bad at his current polling level of 25% (Harvard IOP Spring 2016). So much for winning over the younger generation with conservative ideals
But let’s examine why. It’s not that millennials have suddenly become even more liberal. It’s that the Republicans nominated a terrible candidate who represents everything wrong about the past.
I’ll admit that much of this is shamelessly anecdotal, given that I’m considered a millennial myself and thus primarily associate with other millennials. But it’s also worth noting that even nationally respected polls put Trump’s support demographic right at the intersection of “old” and “male.” (See the WSJ piece about it) Disregarding the gender gap (which could be another article entirely), age is a significant factor in this election. And maybe not even for ideological reasons. I think it shouldn’t be that way, for a number of reasons. This should have been the election cycle where the conservative revolution swept up a bunch of new, young, loyal voters. Why?
Young People are Industrious
Obviously I’m not talking about the Feel-the-Bern new wave socialist types. I mean the large group of potential voters in their twenties, holding down two or three jobs, paying off a mountain of debt, and living with their parents to save money. No, we aren’t “lazy”, as the generation sitting on big Social Security checks and government pensions would like you to believe. We piece together multiple part time jobs to get as many hours as possible. We don’t buy houses because that’s a risk we simply can’t afford on a modest income – not to mention, who wants to be saddled with the burden of selling a house when you’ll inevitably have to move to a major city in a couple years because you were the most junior employee and got laid off?
But this hardworking group is largely apathetic to political causes. They don’t pay attention because they don’t have time. However, I’d contend that this is the group who really could be won over by conservative values if older Republicans didn’t nominate the worst candidate possible.
Young People are Classic Conservatives
Many don’t know it, but they really do embrace common free market principles. Just look at their embrace of Uber. Millennials love innovation and tend to dislike government intervention in their lives. Aside from social issues, which one could rightfully argue drive millennials to the left, they really are a fiscally conservative bunch. Gay marriage, however morally corrupt it may be, doesn’t bankrupt the government. Millennials have less disposable income and make what they do have go further. They avoid credit card debt because Gen X scared them off. Millennials have all the characteristics of fiscal conservatives, but simply can’t stomach voting for the current “conservative” option.
Old Folks Who Call Themselves Conservatives Often Aren’t
There have been several articles examining the strong support for Trump amongst former Blue Dog Democrats (one example here). Now, I’ll concede that a big reason for this is that the Democratic Party has swung so far to the left, especially with regard to the sexual revolution, that these old Democrats likely don’t even recognize their own party anymore. But another factor is the type of ideology that essentially says “we want free stuff, but none for the people who are brown and talk funny.” They demand Social Security benefit increases on the backs of young workers (completely disregarding the overall inflation rate), complain endlessly about their $120/month Medicare Part B premium, and at the state level, are nearly bankrupting school systems with massive pension liabilities. Yet at the same time, like to blame all of our problems on “whiny millennials and free loading illegals who collect welfare checks.”
I’d like to make another purely anecdotal comment here – I live in a predominantly Hispanic area (77% Hispanic to be exact) and I swear to you these folks will work their asses off for a much lower wage than any Northern union thug ever did. And without ever demanding more benefits or anything. At my day job, full time employees are offered zero sick days or vacation days and I’ve never heard a single one complain about it
The point is, that majority of voters aged 50+ who support Trump aren’t conservatives at all. At best they’re nationalistic and xenophobic. At worst they’re just racist Democrats.
No doubt, this election cycle has severely damaged the conservative reputation with the younger generation. And don’t discount the importance of that – young loyal Kennedy voters created a whole generation of reliable Democrats. I really was excited that we were doing so well for a while there, with rising stars like Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. But, it looks as though the revolution will have to wait, at least until the Baby Boomer generation stops dominating the political process.