We’re going to be talking a lot about Millennials this election season, primarily regarding radicalism and secondarily regarding apathy. These are intertwined concepts.
Voice of America reports that Millennials, while the new majority, are still less likely to vote than other generations.
Reasons: They’re fed up with status quo; they’re tired of lies and plastic promises, and they don’t think politicians are actually listening to them.
That will breed one of two things: apathy and radicalism.
I have a piece on Millennial apathy in this winter’s Trends Journal; I’ll speak more about it when it publishes. But radicalism – that’s what people are slow to talk about here.
We’ve been regularly ridiculing supporters of Donald Trump, who seem to be tired of not just a world where they have to give money back to black people, or share their neighborhoods with non-white people, but also tired of a world where perception never meets their expected reality. Every politician, even the most Tea Party of Conservatives, seems to back away to appease mainstream voters, or the media, or minorities.
Then in walks Trump, who doesn’t seem to care about who he angers. Suddenly the swagger Trump projects – the mainstream doesn’t matter; the media doesn’t matter; minorities don’t matter – somehow bleeds into other pockets of America. Suddenly other voters, who probably would have accepted a more centrist candidate for president, start agreeing with Trump because, hell, nobody else has the audacity to stand by his principles, and hell, I deserve to live in my happy American bubble with my happy nuclear family without feeling unsafe, without worrying about who’s moving in, without worrying about my job being taken away.
And really, that’s the kind of platform every politician has run on, forever: I’ll make sure you live safely, without fear, and you’ll be able to keep your job. Only Trump says it with fewer words, in a louder tone and in an entirely casual approach.
Some Millennials have been swayed to Trump, but many more have been swayed to Bernie Sanders, who promises to break up the big banks, bring an end to income inequality, and in foreign relations, practice a more isolationist strategy.
Like Trump, Sanders doesn’t seem to care about the image. His hair is never combed down. He retains his thick Brooklyn accent. He seems to talk more frankly about issues than Hillary Clinton, the polished politician who makes buttoned-up an art form. Millennials have joined the Sanders cause because this Vermont senator is perceived to be an outsider, a longtime independent voice who’s stood by his principles and is now seizing a moment where socialism can swell throughout America. Millennials like this: We can all live happily together without profiling each other, helping our fellow man, rethinking the American Dream and embracing a country that quickly adapts to whatever change comes.
But again, this is eerily the same as the usual political stump speech: Sanders wants you to live safely (instead of bombing countries to bits we simply pull back and smile), without fear (the antidote to fear is acceptance), and the opportunity to work and make your hard-earned pay (opening the economy). And Sanders says it with fewer words than Clinton, in a louder tone, and in an entirely casual approach.
No, Trump and Sanders are not the same. Their American futures are different, and the methods in which they want to get there are different. But in this age when Millennials are fed up, searching for a voice, and tired of a status quo run by the Baby Boomer vote since Reagan, radicalism seems like a hell of a way to go.
Of course, it’s simply perceived radicalism. It’s still politics.
So is apathy worse?