Hillary Clinton knows the millennial vote is critical to her 2016 presidential objective. She must have their support to win.
Who are they? Millennials are Americans born from 1982 to 2000. They number about 80 million men and women and account for a quarter of the population of the United States. There are more millennials than there are British or French or Spanish people.
Most millennials are old enough to vote, but Clinton is having a difficult time getting them to come onboard her campaign bandwagon. Of particular concern is the number of millennial women who have flocked in droves to Bernie Sanders. Clinton expected this group would support her simply because she could become the first female president. This was a major part of her campaign strategy.
That strategy isn’t working and here’s why. The feminist movement has been so successful that millennial women see Clinton as a candidate, not an historic moment. Millennial women are Army Rangers, stay-at-home moms, primary breadwinners, and tech entrepreneurs. They are living the feminist movement’s goals; they have choices. As a result, the new millennial feminists are gravitating to candidates who represent their issues: jobs, security, education and its cost.
There are other problems Clinton has in her attempt to connect to millennials. She is the consummate insider, considered by some to be President Obama’s third term. And, millennials are not sure they trust her. In an ABC/Washington Post survey (Langer Research Associates, Jan. 2016), Clinton’s greatest vulnerability was that voters didn’t see her as honest. The millennial generation values honesty and trustworthiness to an extreme.
There are other disconnects. A big one is authenticity. Sanders has it, Clinton does not. One of the reasons Sanders is so popular with millennials is that he is authentic to them – he was, is, and always will be a socialist, and he tells them upfront what he stands for. It has been said that Clinton’s only authenticity is being inauthentic.
There’s more. Clinton has alienated millennial parents. Today, about two million children are home-schooled and three million are in public charter schools. Parents fear Clinton will over-regulate home schooling, making it difficult for this movement to flourish. Parents also fear that Clinton will support unionizing charter schools, making them too similar to the unsatisfactory public schools their children left. These positions are supported by the teachers’ union which has endorsed Clinton, and after the election, it will be payback time.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump relate better to millennials’ problems. Sanders promises freebies at a time when millennials are being crushed by student debt. Trump promises jobs and communicates in their style — through tweets.
The media likes to report on which candidates can beat Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. If Clinton cannot find a way to communicate and to connect authentically to this powerful generation of American voters, then it will be Clinton herself who becomes the candidate most likely to cause her defeat.