America’s Youth Despises You, Donald Trump (And the GOP Too)Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Politics Features Millennials
Last week, I wrote about how a new Pew poll revealed that millennial women are abandoning the Republican Party in droves, and this week’s AP-NORC/MTV Poll extends that trend into millennials as a whole. FiveThirtyEight pegs Donald Trump’s overall approval rating at 40.3% as of this writing. This AP poll found that just 33% of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 approve of Trump’s job performance—nine points lower than they found for all adults. As bad as that figure may be for the Republican Party, the reasons why this number is so low may be worse. Per the AP:
The new poll finds that 60 percent describe Trump as “mentally unfit,” 62 percent call him “generally dishonest,” and 63 percent say he “is a racist.” In a mid-February AP-NORC poll, 57 percent of all adults in the U.S. said they believe Trump is racist.
In fact, the figures for Trump may be better than those for the Republican Party. Just 22% of millennials favor the massive tax cuts the GOP just passed for the rich. Simply put, there is no real Republican constituency in the largest generation ever. This is a massive problem for the GOP. If millennials vote at the same rate as older generations, we would occupy the largest share of the electorate. The problem is, young people typically don’t vote at rates like older folks—not even remotely close. Here we are compared to a cohort who consistently turns out to vote better than any other age group. Per figures that I pulled from census.gov:
— On average, 49% of eligible 18 to 34 year olds voted in presidential elections from 2000 to 2016.
— On average, 73% of eligible 65 to 74 year olds voted in presidential elections from 2000 to 2016.
— On average, 26% of eligible 18 to 34 year olds voted in midterm elections from 2002 to 2014.
— On average, 63% of eligible 65 to 74 year olds voted in midterm elections from 2002 to 2014.
That said, the Age of Trump has seemingly inspired a new wave of activism—and as the Parkland kids are demonstrating, some of the most forceful and inspiring voices to emerge since that fateful night in November of 2016 are millennials and our younger cohorts. If the excesses of the GOP really did inspire a new generation of political activism, then this iteration of that party has no future in America.
“But Jacob, People Get More Conservative as They Get Older”
There is some truth to this in that older people tend to be more conservative than young folks, but the reasons why are tricky to ascertain, as this great explainer in Vox by Brian Resnick details:
The trouble with answering this question is that it’s hard to separate the generational effects of being born into a particular era of history from the effects of aging. There’s just no longitudinal study tracking political preferences for five decades.
Firstly, when we’re born has a great deal to do with our political views, which doesn’t really help the GOP’s case given that their brand is presently defined by a racist meat-filled bottle of spray tanner with a Twitter problem. This is why there is such a stark divide on social issues across generations. People born during Jim Crow are more likely to be sympathetic to the experiences of their youth, just like kids born in an era where active shooter drills are a normal thing are shaped by that experience. Even though people overall do tend to get more conservative as they age, society as a whole is undoubtedly getting more liberal. Per Vox:
A 2007 paper in the American Sociological Review compared data from 25 different surveys on social attitudes conducted between 1972 and 2004. What they found was that on social tolerance questions and statements — like should women “take care of running their homes and leave running the country up to men?” and “White people have a right to keep Africans Americans out of their neighborhoods if they want to, and African Americans should respect that right” — older generations grew more tolerant compared with their responses in an earlier era.
A psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia discovered that “A lot of research shows that older adults suffer losses in their ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts. We have found that older adults who try to prevent stereotypes from influencing their judgment typically find that they rely on them more and more as they age.”
Translation: racism may be a side effect of brain degeneration.
Which means that the Republican Party is literally preying on the disabled. They sow fear and confusion using a billion-dollar media infrastructure specifically designed to tell you to distrust reality, then nominate politicians who inflame this racially tinged fear and anger—all in the name of passing hyper-corporatist policies that would never pass on their own merits. It’s quite an impressive grift, but like all scams, modern conservatism is running out of places to hide.
Evolution has driven us to a moment in history where ethnic diversity isn’t just a general platitude, but a guiding principle. Because America is still very much a caste society, ethnic diversity largely equals diversity of lived experiences. We tell ourselves a lot of lies about this nation’s history, and our segregated past made it easy to hide from uncomfortable truths, but no more. Millennials are the largest and the most diverse generation in history, and the emerging “we call BS” generation is even more varied. The guiding principle of the Republican Party led them to Donald Trump, and their ethos has been wholly rejected by a gigantic generation next in line to assume the mantle of leadership in America. The GOP is a dead man walking, it’s just up to us whether we want to show up to the ballot box and finish the job.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.