Media and Millennials – I Their Support and Criticisms of Hillary Clinton
It is too easy to generalize about millennials. What I write here is certainly not true across the board. But trends and proportions are important and require explanation. And it is difficult to write about an age group without introducing generalizations that are clearly false if one attempts to apply them to some of that population. With that important caveat, let me now begin to skate on very thin ice.
Tina Nguyen in Vanity Fair wrote that Hillary Clinton could lose the election because millennials don’t like her. (19 September 2016) Too many of them, it seems, have drifted from being Bernie supporters into the Gary Johnson and Jill Stein camps. A recent September Quinnipiac poll indicated that 29% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 would vote for Gary Johnston, the Libertarian candidate, and 15% said they would vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. That is 44% of the millennial population. Clinton only has the support of 32% of that age group, only slightly more than Donald Trump with 26% support. Given the margin of error in polling, the two major contenders are almost neck-and-neck in millennial support. That is amazing! When millennials generally find Trump to be a phony and a liar, a misogynist and a racist, an anti-environmentalist when, for most of them, doing something about climate change may be their highest priority, why won’t enough of them shift their vote to ensure Trump is defeated?
Hillary Clinton is a woman; Millennials overwhelmingly believe in gender equality. Hillary Clinton has appropriated many of Bernie’s social planks and seems to have toned down her previously relatively hawkish views in foreign policy. She is indisputably and has always been genuinely committed to women’s issues. Why is one of my sons, my youngest, who was a strong Bernie supporter, now grudgingly in the Clinton camp? Why is this bright, talented, terrific kid – not much of a kid anymore – who dances rings around me in analyzing movies, so put off by Hillary? If he was an American, he would vote for Hillary, but not because he believes that she would make a good president. He sees her as in the pay of Wall Street given the high priced fees she was paid for her speeches by Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Trump’s charges of “crooked Hillary” may not precisely resonate with him and a large number of other millennials, but he, for one, remains highly suspicious of her willingness to compromise and be beholden to interest groups that do not have the best values of society at heart.
Hillary is also seen as insincere and an individual who flip-flops when it is politically expedient to do so. She flip-flopped on her support for the Iraq War which Bernie always opposed. She claims now to be an environmentalist, but she is on record as supporting the Keystone Pipeline. Only when Bernie seemed to be beating her badly among millennials did she switch over and support reduction of tuition fees for students and a $15 minimum wage. My son’s biggest bone of contention was with Hillary’s shift in position on gay marriage. So let me concentrate on analyzing the justice of the charge of a flip-flop on this issue.
When her husband was president, Hillary announced that she opposed Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prevalent in the American military. In 1996, when her husband as president signed the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, she supported the bill, but insisted that “same-sex unions should be recognized and given the same legal status as a marriage between a man and a woman with all the same legal rights.” Thus, the only flip-flop was over whether the word “marriage” should be reserved for heterosexual couples. She has adamantly opposed making same-sex unions illegal and proposed legislation to that effect. When senator from New York, she defended the right of the state of New York to include same-sex couples under the category of “marriage,” though as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008 she joined Barack Obama and all other candidates in opposing the application of the term “marriage” to same sex couples in federal legislation that would force states to comply. She had already called for repeal of the provision in the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples. By then she was already using the word “marriage” rather than “couple.”
As she prepared her run for the Democratic Party nomination in 2013, she explicitly endorsed legalizing same-sex marriages even before the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. To call Hillary Clinton a flip-flopper on the gay marriage issue is a gross misuse of the term flip-flop when she clearly simply evolved in her use of language, not even policy. By 2013, well before she was battling Bernie, she had declared that, “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. I support it personally, and as a matter of policy and law.”
Another of the issues that infuriates my son perhaps as much is the perception that the Democratic hierarchy tried to rig the primary system against Bernie. As the cliché goes, I could argue myself blue in the face that these efforts, as misjudged as they were, were made after it was very clear that Bernie would not win the primary and were initiated out of a conviction that Bernie was undermining the Democratic ticket with his continuing attacks on Hillary when she was clearly going to be the candidate of the Democratic Party. But Bernie would not drop out.
We all know the polls that indicate that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most disliked presidential candidates in recent history, though Trump trumps Hillary in this category, but only by a few percentage points. Personally, my son sees Hillary as an automaton, a trained spokesperson for establishment Democratic Party interests, the very same political point that Donald Trump repeatedly makes though my son abhors Trump’s language use to relay his insults. Though he would vote for Hillary because Donald Trump is a lying demagogue, he joins the vast majority of millennials who are convinced that Hillary is inauthentic, that she does not say what she believes but only what is necessary to win the election. So even if a third of them will vote for Hillary largely to keep Trump out, even they are generally voting against Donald Trump and not for Hillary.
That is the puzzle. Why?
With the help of Alex Zisman