Why Millennial Hillary Voters are Questioning Their Existence
In the wake of America’s decision on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 to elect Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence to the positions of President and Vice President, I, along with many other millennials who voted for Hillary might appear a bit dramatic. My Facebook is a string of statuses of sadness, disbelief, and disappointment. We are shocked, horrified, and unstable. We are posting, tweeting, sharing articles to apologize to each other and the world for this decision and what it implies. I’ve heard it from relatives, friends overseas, and older generations that we need to calm down. So, why are we freaking out so badly?
1. We are realizing we live in a bubble.
Together, we survived this campaign. We mocked Trump, (thought) we overcame the Bernie vs. Hillary divide, discussed Trump’s crazy comments, and reinforced each other’s confidence that the American values we held would triumph. Electoral college maps always appear more red than blue. Yet, we underestimated the sheer numbers and anger of people who responded to Trump’s message in the states and counties beyond our bubble of friends. This vote is truly awakening us to the fact that there is a large enough population of people that thinks, works, and lives in a way that brought them to vote for a man who voices opinions so starkly contrasting to our own. We are asking ourselves, how did this happen? Let’s start traveling more within our own country to learn, share, and come together.
2. Social policies or bust.
I am registered as an Independent, come from a Public Policy educational background, and spent a good portion of the last year watching every Republican and Democratic primary debate to educate myself about what each candidate stood for. While my family and I have historically voted for Democrats, I would like to think that by educating myself and being open-minded, I could vote Republican, given a particular candidate’s policies. Yet, what are impossible to compromise for many millennials are social policies. Given the partisan divide on social policies, this election was not only important, but also personal. From abortion to LGBTQ and minority rights, we are wounded and afraid that Trump’s campaign words will become policies that reverse current laws and negatively affect us, our friends, and families.
3. We come from diverse communities.
Social policies are personal because many of us come from urban communities with a varied demographic breakdown. If we are not people of color or LGBTQ or immigrants ourselves, we likely know someone who identifies in this way. Therefore, Trump’s campaign words have tangible and visible effects. We can see families that would be ripped apart, or whose legal status could be questioned, or whose life might just become much more difficult. We are also afraid of Trump’s words legitimizing racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia that we will feel in our homes or when we travel around our own country. It is unimaginable to see the progress we have made to create an inclusive society move backwards.
4. We grew up to believe that America is good.
During the 1990s, when most of us grew up, the United States and Europe were experiencing a time of relative peace and prosperity. The Cold War was over and American democracy had won and was a beacon of hope. We grew up learning that the American values of equality, respect, tolerance, free speech, free religion, liberty, and justice were exceptional. We learned that to be American was to be an example of these things. We learned that diverse ideas, competition, debate, and critical thinking drive innovation and our competitive edge. We learned that everyone has the opportunity to succeed with hard work, dedication and determination. Trump’s words and actions call into question many of these principles. Hillary’s loss after her long career and list of qualifications does the same.
5. We aren’t quite sure what America stands for anymore.
As a result, our country’s decision to elect Trump is causing us to question our identity as Americans. What does it mean when we don’t recognize our own country? What are the values that America represents? Through traveling around the world, I am proudest of our diversity and unity as Americans. In a world of many homogeneous populations, this is something that is exceptional and is the origin of our reputation as a “melting pot” and “nation of immigrants.” It is great that we live side by side with people of so many different backgrounds. It is great that we as individuals come from many different places and traditions. It is great that our education system, businesses, and communities celebrate this. However, now we face a divided nation and a president-elect who campaigned on hate and some previous greatness in a backlash against exactly this diversity. Now, we wonder if our nation still represents the same values as yesterday. Now, we are awakened to the fact that we were privileged and lucky to live in a place, with a government that reflected our values. Today, we learned we must be vigilant and fight for our government to continue to represent many of us.
6. We see ourselves from a global perspective.
Supporting a campaign of inclusiveness meant that we considered the election from both internal and external points of view. The United States is far from existing in isolation. We watched Brexit with horror and both realized that the same influence could sway our election and that the rest of the world would shake their heads in sadness. We are embarrassed to admit that the tide of our nation is insular and ignorant of the global consequences of our actions. Yes, we have a lot of domestic issues to fix and our president-elect should reflect the policies we support to take care of these issues. However, we cannot forget that part of America being “great” has meant that the world is constantly watching us and our actions guide other societies. We are ashamed that we cannot claim to be a better example to others of tolerance and respect. We are afraid that our vote for Trump and nationalism will make it OK for other countries to do the same. As a consequence, the era of globalization, alliances, and trust that we have all grown up in may be just one of the many things that changes.
7. We are caught between the young and the old.
We are just young enough to still be optimists and to remember what it was like to be a child and innocent. Now, we are afraid of the message Trump will send to the next generation of children. It has been a hellish campaign, but the best hope is that Trump will toss out the theatrics and focus on policies. If not, we fear that today’s children and our future children will grow up with a role model who has committed sexual assault, bullied others, encouraged violence, and goaded us to give into our most fearful and hateful thoughts. On the other hand, we are not old enough to truly remember another political upset that hit this hard. We cannot qualify our fear with reassuring thoughts that we’ve survived something like this before. Sure, in our “short” lifetimes we’ve battled terrorists and instability across the world, but yesterday we elected a leader who has encouraged us to battle against each other from within. This is uncharted territory for us and we’re not sure how to go forward.
Despite a lot of the hate that we get from our elders, I am proud to be a millennial. We have grown up in a unique time and no matter how much that changes or how institutionalized some of the worst parts of Trump’s campaign become, we have the ability and awareness to treasure the America we know and love today in our minds. We have the power to pass the values of this America on to the next generation and preserve the best in us. We also now have the fire to engage, organize, and act. This race may be over, but the lessons we have learned and passion we have felt to be stronger together remains. In the graceful words of Hillary, “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” With a red Congress and White House, we have to protect and stand up for one another. Let’s get to work.