Fred’s Focus: The Millennial Vote

The contentious 2016 election has created and exacerbated divides at every level of the country. Our polarized campaigns often tell voters the story of winners and losers. So what happens when large chunks of voters “lost” in the primary? Are these groups going to “lose” in the main election?

A Harvard study showed that Senator Bernie Sanders was overwhelmingly favored by millennial voters, age 18-29. In the study, Sanders drew support from 54% of the voters, while Secretary Clinton pulled 37% and Donald Trump pulled 17%. But millennials did not totally lose when their candidate, Senator Sanders, came in second to Secretary Clinton. Elections are just as much about ideas as they are about the candidates. Every four years the parties get to refocus their directions – and it is here that the value of the ideas millennials promoted show they are not the “losers” of this election. For the Democratic party, they promoted and fought for a platform that is the most progressive of any major party in decades.

To steal a line from the distant past: platforms, however, aren’t worth a warm bucket of spit if they don’t get implemented. This is where millennials and all progressives need to get real.

Election results are but the beginning of the creation of public policy. Conservatives have known this for decades but progressives are still discovering this basic fact.

Secretary Clinton will almost certainly win a decisive victory. However, she will take office as an unpopular president. Now more than ever, Donald Trump is pushing the idea that the election is rigged. Many of his tens of millions of voters will likely feel he is right, that their nation, their culture, has been stolen. His claims have received backlash from President Obama and others, but the sentiment has taken root. An astounding 73% of GOP voters believe that the election could be stolen from Trump. The consequences of this are far reaching: while it is likely that the Democrats will win the Senate, it is more likely that the GOP will retain the House. With this deep rooted mistrust along party lines, it is unlikely that the new president’s immediate priorities will be passed.

But these priorities are powerful steps that could result in opening up the American economy to all – not just to a select few in a rigged system. They can create a new American system that reflects the priorities of families, of workers, and yes, of millennials.

Secretary Clinton aims to provide assistance for working Americans via tax cuts and training. Pulitzer winning writer Paul Starr said in an article that ran in the American Prospect “her support for paid family leave, universal pre-K and assistance with childcare costs reflects a commitment to bring national policy in line with the contemporary realities of family life.”

The platform proposes raising taxes – but only on financial elites earning more than $250,000 a year and to raise the estate tax. We are all familiar with the platform plans to reduce and even eliminate college costs for the average American student. And Secretary Clinton intends to move to help restore democracy via appointing justices to repeal Citizens United.

The above are but a few of multiple ideas to restore both and economic and a political fairness back to Americans. The goals are laudatory and eminently practical. Although they will help the nation, they will undoubtedly be challenged. But what has been lost with the all or nothing attitude, is the fact that these very ideas will help ALL Americans. Every American benefits when our economy is inclusionary and growing. Each of us is better off when our Congress responds and listens to the needs of constituents and not simply to corporations or mega donors.

As the likely next president, Secretary Clinton will need the support of millennials as she battles those who like the American economy just the way it is. Like all presidents, she will be buffeted by multiple forces of her own coalition, each with its own set of priorities. Millennials should recognize this as a fact of political life and welcome the chance to engage in the intellectual give and take that is meat and bones of public policy.

Patriotic Millionaire Fred Rotondaro has had a varied career that includes journalism, teaching, anti-poverty and civil rights work, and national association management. He was a senior fellow from 2003 to 2015 at the Center for American Progress where he concentrated on poverty and inequality. He has written extensively for academic and popular publications. He holds a PhD in American Studies from New York University, an honorary doctorate from Wheeling College, and is currently Chair of the Board of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

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