“Young voters just don’t vote.” “Kids aren’t engaged.” “They’re lazy and entitled.” “Millennials … right?”
I’ve heard these things about Millennials. They’re usually spoken by GenX types. Every time I hear those similar statements, I feel an equal mixture of humor and annoyance. The humor part is simple. That’s just generational bias. My parents complained about my generation. The most succinct example is in music. Parents hate their kid’s music.
Have you ever heard a GenXer say something like “This music is terrible” or “The music when I was growing up was so much better?” Then they try to explain the nuance of why cassettes are better than Spotify? There’s a straightforward reason for all this … we’re old. We’re less adaptable and change is scary. Just like our parents were. They heard the same thing, and they ended up saying the same things. Just like the youth of America will, as well.
That’s the humor.
The anger is coming from an adjacent place. Younger voters differ from older voters, even if the generation is just a few years’ difference. Remember, GenXers clawed their way into college, became saddled with debt, fought for demeaning, low-paying jobs, and struggled to pay bills. And we’re burdened with the mess of prior generations. The problem is that we haven’t fixed that mess and, in some cases, we’ve made it worse. Our world wasn’t nearly as messed up as the one younger people are inheriting.
Let’s focus on the biggest issue. Climate Change. All previous generations have screwed things up. Some knowingly, some not. Each generation is getting worse. Wildfires. Hurricanes. Superstorms. Wild temperature extremes. And it is getting worse. We’ve not created enough solutions, and as a whole, though some of us fight, we’re not changing our ways to slow things down.
More immediately, since March 2020, the nation has been an utter disaster because of COVID-19. Lockdowns. Openings. Lockdowns. Masks. Social Distancing. You can’t just blame Donald Trump for this. Too many to count “leaders” can’t get their act together because of political differences. By the end of the year, well over a quarter of a million people will have died because of their pettiness.
The economy is in shambles. This is the second economic meltdown in a dozen years. Forget buying property or having retirement accounts and pensions. How about being able to afford a place to live? Being able to afford to see a doctor? Having enough money to buy food? And the best they can do is maybe one $1,200 check months ago.
GenX is angry. But they’re not angry with you. No, they’re angry with themselves for not making the hard changes. They’re angry with their parents for creating these problems. They’re trying to blame you for things out of your control because it is easier than looking in the mirror and doing the hard work.
Here’s the thing, though. You can do something. And it is something they haven’t been able to do. You can vote. Even if it isn’t easy during a pandemic, it’s still easy. The most important thing to remember, though, is to not get caught up in their story. The one they spin about you being the problem. You’re not. Though, you could probably be more of the solution.
In the 2016 General Election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. By almost three-million votes. Because of the Electoral College, she ended up losing, which is heart breaking, but it could have gone differently. The stats are interesting. There are nearly 250,000,000 eligible voters in the United States of America. In the 2016 General Election, nearly 100,000,000 people DID NOT vote.
That’s about forty percent. Crazy.
Now, GenZ wasn’t old enough to vote in that election. They’re defined as people born after 1996. A small number were eligible in 2016, but it was tiny. Now, in 2020, they’re expected to make up ten percent of eligible voters this year. Twenty-five million people.
Millennials could vote. They’re people born between 1981 and 1996. In the 2016 election, there were over sixty million eligible Millennial voters. They’re the second-largest voting block. Only half of them showed up at the polls. Now, that’s still a big number. Thirty million. Still, they made up one-third of non-voters.
For non-white voters, the picture is even worse.
Eligible non-white voters didn’t vote in droves. The point isn’t necessarily that the outcome would have been different, though it likely would have been, but non-voters have no basis to complain.
Getting back to Clinton vs. Trump. Conventional understanding has three battleground states being the clearest factors in Trump winning. Pennsylvania. Wisconsin. Michigan. Trump won all three states by a combined total of about 107,000 votes. That’s about the same number of people who attended each day of Coachella that year.
Those three states aren’t the sole reason Trump won. It’s just the easiest to describe. Among Millennials, fifty-five percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Thirty-seven percent of Millennials voted for Donald Trump. 107,000 votes. Thirty million Millennials didn’t vote. That math is straight-forward. Had more Millennials voted, the outcome probably would have been a lot different.
And it’s not just enough to talk about those three states. Trump won twenty-seven other states. Do you think he would have won that many if more Millennials voted? Trump is wildly unpopular with Millennials and GenZ. Less than thirty percent approval. Those two groups make up more than a third of all eligible voters.
Let’s try this another way. 25,000,000 GenZ voters and 30,000,000 Millennials that didn’t vote in 2016 but can make up for it now. 55,000,000 potential votes that could go to Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. With your involvement, you could nearly double Hillary Clinton’s numbers from 2016. The older generations are afraid of you. Imagine what changes would have to come if you stood up and said, “no more.” If you voted for someone who listened to you when you demanded change—we could fix the climate, fix the economy, instill health care for all, have gun control laws, and get the pandemic under control.
And all you have to do is claim your power and VOTE.