Millennials are not voting for Hillary because their moms said to

Tonight I spent some time with my teenaged, once-Bernie-supporting son, trying to figure out why younger people do not support Hillary now. He said insightful things that made me begin to think this generation has been raised to always support disruption in a system over continuing what works, no matter what. Also, he said most of his friends didn’t know what Aleppo is either, so that was not disqualifying for Johnson. It gave me a lot to process.

But then, an hour later, he grabbed an apple from the grocery bag and I got a whole new view of what is going on. I said, “Hey, wash that.” and he looked at me with a sly face and said, “No.” and took a bite. He really enjoyed that bite. I said, “That probably has E. coli on it from the farm” (I’m a scientist). And he said, “I’m fighting the establishment.”

That’s when I got the real story about why young people are not voting for Hillary at expected rates, given the evidence we have about the available choices: because their parents are. Because their mom said to vote for Hillary. Because everything in young person DNA that evolved for millions of years knows the only way to beat the Alpha Chimp at the top of the tree is to deny the reality that said Alpha created, make their own rules, and disrupt the old order.

It’s not a stupid plan, evolutionarily speaking. If you climb the same ladder as the established leaders, you start at the bottom. But the famous sociological Whitehall Studies of the British civil service show that all-cause illness is highest for the primates who perceive themselves to be at the bottom rungs of their ladder. Specifically, civil servants who go along with a bureaucratic chain of command at which they perceive themselves to be underlings have colds, cancer, and heart attacks more often than those who perceive themselves to be at the top of the ladder. The effect is also present in the wild. In chimp family observations, Alpha Chimps live longer and suffer less illness than beta chimps. Ladder jumping is biologically rewarding. Hence, Millennials. We have a generation who have mastered the fine art of not following the path of perceived achievement, and who do not want to vote for the candidate that we all think would advance our country.

Previous years separated voting blocks as not voting and voting, with the hard line at age 30. But get-out-the-vote movements have succeeded so that we now really care about how young people vote. At the same time, we have a generation of humans voting in the same cultural and socioeconomic block as their parents with what — by all logical conditions considered — be the same logical conclusions, and yet making their choices in opposing directions — at one end, to advance the perceived success of the past, and at the other, to ladder jump and pick an upending candidate to the establishment, Gary Johnson or Donald Trump.

Anyone but Hillary equals ladder jumping for these whippersnappers. Their choice in the booth may be worse for the country as a whole, but uniquely evolutionary forces make these voters feel like it is better for them as a block since it’s the only hope their DNA feels they have for toppling the old regime. The problem is that toppling regimes is a) never easy, and b) always painful.

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