Millennials (people born around 1983-2000) and their parents got along better than any generation measured before (many millennials even partially support their parents) and yet there is a fundamental difference in the political actions of millennials and the generations before them. I know, I stereotyped a whole generation, but we are talking trends (instead of individuals) and the trend says that the political ideal of the young and old are rapidly rupturing. Trump is pure theater to me; so are the GOPTeens and the Tea Party supporters but these outlets speak to the believes of a large portion of Americans. And they support them wholeheartedly. These are the views that speaks to older generations; to our parents, our grandparents, and the people who vote in America. This group feels isolated and fearful of the world, which only serves to further isolates them. You must decide if we want to wait for the hard-edge right to die out or reach out to them in an attempt to realign the structural rules with universal moral codes.
Who are the millennials? What do they value? Why are the millennials different than their parents?
Millennials care about social issues, are more diverse group of people, and are the first true internet natives; they have information at their fingertips more readily than ever, yet don’t vote. They have debt from student loans (24% of their debt) and bank cards (27%) and even more overall debt than the generations previously. Yet don’t have the umph or the urgency to change their political landscape by voting in larger numbers. Only 19.9% of 18-29 year olds voted in 2014 as compared to the 24% just four years earlier in 2010. The concerns of the present generation are hugely different than the concerns of the previous. Instead of buying a house and supporting their unions, they are concerned with affording rent, paying off student loans, and letting people around them live. What do the millennials truly value in the political scene, why does that matter for the future, and why aren’t they voting?
What do they value?
Millennials value a variety of issues, but the biggest set of problems consistently plaguing them are human rights inequalities. With the breakdown of the core family unit, many millennials focus externally: protecting immigrants, helping the LGBT community, and yearning for quality of life improvements.
This is a generation that can be defined by the phrase ‘have their cake and eat it too’. They believe that you can support human rights without risking the security of a nation, and that you can support lower income families without significant tax hikes. They believe in solutions that don’t compromise on values, money,or morals.
How are they different?
Millennials live in cities, and their baby-boomer grandparents focus on suburb life. Millennials push for gentrification in urban areas and have attempted to leave the suburb life behind. The physical separation between generations causes a shift in ideological growth and what is valued as important. While rural areas may not have a visible drug problem, urban areas inflicted with an equal amount of turmoil will have a harder time ignoring the problem. This means that while more young people are moving into the city and exposed to human conditions (like the homeless), they are more likely to prioritize that set of problems.
Fear And Concerns
The values between each generation is all the more evident in the concerns each group clings to. While the older generation is more concerned with personal and monetary success, millennials are more concerned with transparency in their government and how it can help everyone. While baby boomers want to be rich, millennials want to be happy, and they want everyone else to be too.This means that while a baby-boomer would be more likely to pick the highest paid job, and the strongest politician; millennials will pick the job that makes them the happiest, and the politician that shows the most community collaboration/transparency.
Fear is a powerful motivator for the older generations: fear of losing their money, losing jobs, and losing to another country are deeply ingrained fears in the older generation of voters. It’s why many of Donald Trump’s supporters are older and poorer, he’s addressed those fears incredibly well. It’s not that they are angry at muslims or genuinely hate other people, it’s a fear of ISIS, of their money being taken away, or a general loss of control in the world. It’s a part of a defeat-the-enemy view-point, rather than the raising-ourselves-up mentality that marks millennial moral. If you listen to rhetoric from the right, you can understand why many people feel a real pressing fear about muslims, trans-people, or even just being super-ceded as the greatest nation in the world.
News Source Differences
The way that millennials get their information is enormously distinct when compared to the previous generation. While millennials use their smartphones at almost twice the rate of older boomers and get their news from an average of 3.5 sources, older voters will be lucky see more than 2 sources of information when it comes to political decisions.This means millennials are devouring news at a more rapid rate, with a multitude of sources. Limited access to a variety of information caused by tech-illiteracy in a large group of the voting public limits the voting potential of some of America’s most active voters. And that is causing a gigantic difference in political views, how issues are perceived, and how quickly voters can make informed decisions.
How Different Are We? And What Problems Can the Future Hold?
Old people vote the most. This means that that while the general public might lean towards positions like legalized marijuana (53% agree) or universal healthcare (51%), the people who vote are typically against viewpoints that have newer, or have just recently gained support. Typically a changing political landscape takes years to be acted upon, and even the public can have difficulty accepting it based on moral, religious, or personal conflicts. One example of political progression that moved beyond the age gap was when gay marriage became legalized. While only fifty-five percent of Americans support gay marriage, a whooping seventy percent of millennials do! Political progression that jumps the age gap is typically dependent on changes set above the typical legislative process, like when the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of an issue, or when the President makes an executive decision.
Reconciling core values
While there are significant difference in the political beliefs between millennials and baby boomers, the core values of each group are remarkably similar. American political culture values: liberty, equality, diversity, individualism, and unity. For example, while it may seem obvious that standing up for universal healthcare is part of an equal and unified system, funding the system on a taxation of already existing healthcare is something many opponents of single-payer healthcare see as an infringement on their individual right to chose a healthcare option. While these core values are intrinsically part of our system, prioritizing these key values, and focusing on them as a means of driving our nation forward is the key to synthesizing a stronger, future-focused based country. Instead of a future focused on fear-mongering, or structural discrimination.
Is there a morality gap? Bridging a structural misunderstanding.
There may not be a morality gap. Unless you are openly racist, or openly hate other human beings who have not infringed on you or others, then the morality gap is a structural misunderstanding. If you hate someone like Hitler or Mao ZeDong for killing millions of people, then that’s fine, but if you hate all Germans ever because of the Nazis, then that might be a morality gap. Because the older generation more readily supports refusing refugee status and entry into the US for Muslims does not necessarily mean that those people are racist, evil, or religious bigots. It might mean that they are scared of people that they don’t know, and are products of years watching fear-mongering television programs. If you took out all the extras and simply said people needed aid to escape a mass genocide, then it would humanize the population of refugees seeking entry. It is more of a difference of policy and less of morals.
People are People
People are people. While it may seem super unnecessary to reach across to an estranged group of hyper-sensitive angry people, it may be the only hope. The people who refuse entry to refugees escaping mass genocide might seem cold or heartless or racist, but really they are scared. They are scared that their country is being taken from them and what they have will be taken away. Reaching out to them is a thousand times better than isolating them further, besides, they vote, and you don’t.
Trump might make you mad, but he’s playing on all the fears and thoughts that middle America holds dear. These are the thoughts that huge groups of people think are true, and it’s not just some faceless mob. It’s your mom, your aunt, cousin, that one uncle, and all of your grandma’s bridge club. This group feels alone, isolated, and harassed. These thoughts might not reflect reality, but part of the pie is disappearing and it’s how they feel.
For example, many people feel like they are punished for being affluent white males when attempting to get scholarships, yet caucasian students are forty percent more likely to win private scholarships than a minority student. This means that while caucasian students still have a leg up on minority candidates, it’s not as big of a leg up as they previously had. I’m not saying you should placate the extreme right, but reach out to them. It will help them feel better about the future ahead, and help them open their eyes to the reality of the world around them.
The Boogie Man Does Not Exist
There is not a morality gap. The Boogie-Man only exists as a shadow, as a something that might happen at any moment all the time. The San Bernardino shootings scared everyone, but there was another mass shooting earlier that day, and another three the week before. There were more mass shootings than days in the year at that point. The Boogie man doesn’t exist as a Muslim, he doesn’t exist as a refugee, or a transgendered woman, he exists as social inequality and mental illness. Solving those problems requires help from those around you, and that includes the guy wearing a Reagan trucker hat who just figured out how to play Angry Birds.
Reach across to the Trump supporters, to the Westboro followers, to the protesters screaming at a girl getting an STD check at the Planned Parenthood. Be kind, be courteous, they probably believe people are people, and just want to help whomever they are screaming at. Reaching out to that section of voters is the best way to join the rift that separates young and old voters.
Or don’t reach out. Convince young people to vote. Or wait for the baby boomers to die. It’ll only be like forty years.
Mary Grace landed in beautiful Boise, Idaho after a year living in the forest. She adores hiking, skiing, and fighting for the rights of the proletariat. Tweet her @marmygrace, or email her directly at email@example.com if you have any questions or concerns.