It comes as a surprise to no one, except for perhaps Hillary Clinton herself, that the former Secretary of State has a big problem among millennials.
It’s the same problem she faced eight years ago when she lost to a first term senator from Illinois. And it’s the same problem she faced when she eked out a primary victory over a backbench senator who only recently came to identify as a Democrat. Simply put, she’s the typification of the old guard politician, one whose policy positions are either bought with donations or guided by polls and rooted in status quo interests rather than innovative thinking.
Nothing Clinton has done on the campaign trail has suggested that she’s changed. If anything she’s become more secretive, more compromised by special interests and less transformational. Her small ball, incrementalist ideas are easily drowned out by a cacophony of scandal tinged news stories. So it’s not exactly a shock that two new polls show Clinton dramatically underperforming among young voters. Russel Berman writes for The Atlantic:
In the last day, two major polls have found that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.
A defection by millennials of that size could be devastating for Clinton; in 2012, President Obama won 60 percent of voters under the age of 30, and the bloc provided a crucial advantage in his four-point victory over Mitt Romney. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Clinton earned support from just 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race.
Notably, Donald Trump is at 26 percent among the demographic in that poll.
Similarly, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 38 percent of voters under 30 support Clinton, while 22 percent favor trump.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats are reacting with shock and disdain. Mother Jones’ Clara Jeffery seemed to sum up the sentiment, tweeting: “i have never hated millennials more” before linking to the New York Times poll showing huge numbers of young adults opting for third party candidates.
Jeffery’s anger is of course misplaced. Young adults are not the problem. Nor are third parties. Bad candidates are. After all, young adults are, if nothing else, disruptors who care little for status quo interests. They wanted songs, not CDs, and transformed the music industry in the process. They wanted more personalized services and created an entirely new app-based “gig economy” to fill the need, laying waste to staid cartels like taxi services. And they tossed newspapers into history’s scrapheap because they demanded information sooner.
Next on the list, apparently, is the traditional politician, a historical anachronism that young adults simply don’t have time for.
“All the fear mongering over Trump, the cries of false equivalency, and the attempts by millennial “influencers” like vox.com to frame the Clinton campaign as something transformative millennials ought to get behind, won’t bring millennials to heel in the way major parties were able to in days gone by,” writes Ed Krayewski for Reason.
Of course, don’t expect Hillary Clinton to understand these forces anytime soon. As longtime friend Colin Powell wrote in a leaked email, “Everything HRC touches she kinds of screws up with hubris.”
This campaign is no different. She has no idea why neither her stage managed style nor her uber scripted substance resonate with young voters. She’s come up with myriad youth engagement plans, she’s hired dozens of consults to target the youth vote, heck, she’s even promised free college. None of it works. And her latest gambit — to simply outsource her youth engagement efforts to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — isn’t likely to work either.
Young voters want to like, trust and believe the candidate they’re voting for. Clinton inspires none of those feelings.