It may just be time to take Millennials seriously. For too long Millennials have been derided as lazy, complacent, and entitled. But Millennials overwhelming support of Senator Sanders in both Iowa and New Hampshire prove otherwise. This is not me endorsing Sanders, my thoughts on the race remain complicated and neither candidate quite does it for me. Moreover this is an argument that Millennials are under appreciated as a voting block and constituency.
If Iowa and New Hampshire have taught us anything it is that Millennials are not complacent or lazy, they are angry and they are energized. There has been a long enduring myth that Millennials feel entitled and lazy, however this is far from the truth. Millennials are deeply concerned about their future; they are saddled with more than a trillion dollars of student loan debt, they are facing a changing climate with no direct action from the Congress, an economy that is not geared toward their success, and have seen the bedrock institutions on which their parents rely become less and less a reality and more and more a dream. With this as our reality it can hardly be surprising that the candidate to which most Millennials cling is an independent who offers a stunning and effective critique against the systems that have failed us. If we can be said to be entitled in any way it is that we feel we are entitled to the same chances and opportunities afforded our parents and grandparents. Not just for us, but for our kids and grandkids too.
Sanders provides an excellent and cathartic outlet for our rage and anger at the systems. We are outraged that the cost of a college education has become so costly that it requires a loan that will take decades to pay off. Our parents and grandparents faced a much different financial landscape: they could afford to go to college and if necessary could actually work at a wage that allowed for them to work and pay for college. That is by no means still the case. Our parents and grandparents presided over a time of critical importance for the environment and sadly not enough was done. Our consumption instead has increased and made our living unsustainable. Despite the overwhelming evidence that Climate Change is man-made, there remain no drastic steps being taken to ensure that our lives and those of our children will be as safe as those of generations passed. The economy certainly doesn’t work for us either. With wages low, and unions eroding the good paying jobs with rights and benefits are few and far between. We must work two or three jobs to make ends meet, rent is sky high and nearly impossible to afford while supporting a family and the notion of owning a house is foreign to most of us. Social Security, Medicare, Political Parties, Religion. These are some of the institutions that Millennials have lost faith in or have begun to lose faith in. We no longer believe Social Security will be there for us, nor will Medcare. Political Parties have become agents that pander to us for votes without results rather than actually embrace and support a growing constituency. Religion has become an isolating force for many Millennials who do not see the same love and redemptive qualities as their parents, instead seeing hatred, discrimination, judgement and bigotry.
Millennials also don’t give a damn about electing a woman as President just for the sake of electing a woman. It has to be the right person, regardless of sex, gender, orientation, race or ethnicity. For many Millennials, Hillary Clinton is too much a product of the Democratic Party apparatus and her political roots lie too close to the issues that we have spent the last seven years undoing such as equality, criminal justice reform, the war on drugs etc. This is why icons such as Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright seemed to have stepped in it so badly in their support of Clinton. They, as members of an older generation, have a different view of the systemic pressures on women and see the need to Hillary to win in much different terms. Millennials do not see this at all. We see a candidate that is talking to us about our needs, That is why the comments by Steinem and Albright caused such a stir. To Millennials, these attacks seemed to imagine sexism where there was none and seemed to reinforce our distrust of the systems at large.
Millennials are done with being taken advantage of and being talked down to. This election cycle we have decided to make our voices known. The political establishment and mainstream media ignore this at their own peril.