It was telling that Hillary Clinton’s first sustained applause line in her speech targeted at millennial voters came when she mentioned the true object of their affection.
“I worked with Bernie Sanders on a plan—“ Clinton began before her voice was overwhelmed with cheers from the small crowd of students gathered at Temple University.
It was a moment reminiscent of a Michelle Obama speech last week in which the crowd yelled “No!” when she discussed her last months in the White House. The college-aged crowd then followed up with chants of “FOUR MORE YEARS.”
The fact is, young voters still don’t like or trust Hillary Clinton. Not with something as big as the presidency, and not after so thoroughly abusing her time as Secretary of State. That general lack of enthusiasm, rooted in a distrust of her character, shone through at Clinton’s speech to Temple students, an event that was supposed to mark a reset in her relationship with young voters. Politico’s Michael Grunwald reports:
Polls suggest that most millennials prefer Clinton to Trump, but especially among college-aged voters who tend to lean left, her margin isn’t nearly as wide as President Obama’s over Mitt Romney. And you could sense why at her speech on Monday. The carefully curated crowd was clearly on her side—there were only about 200 attendees, many of them members of Democratic campus groups who got tickets from her campaign—but the enthusiasm was not exactly overwhelming
In interviews at the event, many of her millennial supporters, especially the former Sanders revolutionaries, talked about her in the could-be-worse tone they might use to describe a boring but socially appropriate romantic partner. They used words like “capable,” “well-informed,” “responsible,” and “qualified.” They dutifully praised her positions on issues like abortion, student debt, mass incarceration, and climate change, while emphasizing the importance of stopping Trump and his inflammatory rhetoric. But most of them did not sound particularly inspired.
Grunwald goes on to suggest that millennials’ are “swayed more by passion and emotion than substance,” an odd critique that seems to have taken hold among Clinton apologists.
“I understand we’re a young country, we are a restless country. We always like the new shiny thing,” Obama said at a Clinton rally. “I benefited from that when I was a candidate, and we take for granted sometimes what is steady and true.” (Notably, Obama previously compared Bernie Sanders to a “bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before.”)
Or, as New York Times’ Charles Blow demanded, “I know you’re young, but grow up!”
Clinton has been even more direct in her denigration of young adults’ political tendencies.
“I feel sorry sometimes for the young people who, you know, believe this,” Clinton said of millennial voters who favored Sanders’ policy platform. “They don’t do their own research. And I’m glad that we can now point to reliable independent analysis to say no, it’s just not true.”
Despite Obama’s apparent belief that young adults are incapable of identifying what’s truly important, and in spite of Clinton’s assertion that young adults don’t care about facts, the simple truth is that they don’t trust her.
A Quinnipiac national poll released last week found that just 32 percent of likely voters said Clinton was honest. And yet only 21 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds – the age group who is most likely to be ideologically aligned with Clinton – said the same. An incredible 77 percent of that age group said she was not honest. The troubling thing is that Clinton’s general poll numbers still outperform her honesty scores, which suggests that many young voters are opting for a presidential candidate that they fundamentally do not trust.
Will those voters feel the same way when it matters? Will young people knowingly step into the voting booth and pull the lever for someone they distrust? Or will they look for an alternative choice, even if it means staying home. The answers to those questions, even if they only impact the margins, matters a great deal.
“This could very easily be the difference between winning the election or not,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who is regularly polling Millennials during this campaign. “If she ends up with them at 50 percent [of the vote] or 55 percent or 60 percent, those are hugely different scenarios.”
Clinton, who has spent decades insulating herself from the truth, doesn’t even deserve those numbers. This election is completely up for grabs, but it’s up to Republicans to seize the opportunity.