One of the things that keeps me sane during the Trump Regime is imagining America’s political landscape in the 2020s. Think about it. Millennials, defined by most demographers as those born between the early 1980s and the mid to late-’90s, are now the single-largest generation in the United States, a generation whose influence is overshadowing America’s second-largest generation, the Baby Boomers (born between the mid-1940s and the early ’60s).
The 2020 Election will most likely be the first in U.S. history where mostly liberal Millennial voters outnumber mostly conservative Boomer voters (as well as the remaining members of the Silent and Greatest Generations). The razor-thin margins of President Trump’s win in a number of states, largely on demographic lines, help support this idea. In 2022, 2024, 2026, and 2028, Millennials will continue to reshape both government and culture.
In other words: Trumpism may have won the battle, but we’re – Millennials – going to win the political war. Here’s why…
First, Millennials have remained consistently liberal over time. Since 2004, the percentage of self-identified Republicans and those who lean Republican has never risen above 38 percent. In fact, Millennials have become more liberal since the 2000s. In 2016, Democrats/Democratic leaners outnumbered Republicans/Republican leaners 57 to 36 percent. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all members of both parties voted for their respective candidates, but it does show the outsized impact of the Democratic Party on my generation. Interestingly, even Gen X is trending bluer, which goes against the idea that voters become more conservative as they age.
Second, Trump and the GOP are extremely unpopular among Millennials. A recent survey from NBC News and GenForward revealed that 64 percent of Millennials disapprove of Trump. While white Millennials tended to view him more favorably than other groups, a clear majority (53 percent) disapprove. The second and third largest groups of Millennials, Latinos and African-Americans, had the highest disapproval rates: 77 and 79 percent respectively. Respondents to this survey also disapproved of the Republican Party by nearly 60 percent (only 23 percent approved). Roughly equal numbers approved and disapproved of the Democratic Party (43 and 42 percent), which supports another Millennial trend: political independence.
Lastly, the historic backlash to this presidency and its agenda is only growing stronger as we near 2018. For one, it’s a rarely broken rule that the president’s party loses ground in Congress during his first midterm. When you add a president whose approval has hovered around the mid-30s throughout his first year in office – a historic first – the odds of a blue tidal wave only grow.
Democratic turnout in special elections across the country has surged this year, from Oklahoma to Georgia. The most recent and notable example: Old Dominion. Millennials helped make purple Virginia a deeper shade of blue, re-electing Democrats to the state’s top offices and the country’s first openly transgender state legislator to the House of Delegates (which was nearly flipped; The deeply red, gerrymandered House may yet turn blue as recounts of select races continue).
Obviously, the biggest challenge is driving Millennials to turn out in both presidential and midterm elections. We turned out in record numbers to elect Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. While we gave Hillary Clinton a significant majority of our votes last year, turnout dropped, something that may have swung the election to Trump. But if our enthusiasm for resistance is any indication, I’d say 2018 and 2020 should be good years for Democrats…and the country.
The United States is in the midst of massive demographic and cultural changes. While these changes, from the cultural to the technological, have mostly been beneficial, they’ve also resulted in rising levels of anxiety and xenophobia. Hate crimes and nationalism are on the rise. The threat of nuclear war hasn’t been this high since the early ’80s. Unless we invest in new approaches to education and training, several million Americans will lose their jobs to automation.
There are always good or compelling reasons to be cynical and pessimistic. Throughout history, the United States has been forced to endure periods of regression and darkness: wars, including one that literally tore the country apart; epidemics like AIDS, polio, the Spanish flu, and more; depressions and recessions that hurled millions into poverty; and, as is happening now, corrupt or inept presidencies.
But rather than surrender to hopelessness, I feel as if I’m channeling a spirit larger and older than myself. In every dark period, young activists and average Americans rose to the challenge and forced the moral arc to bend toward justice. With their backs against the wall, they knew they had no other option.
That’s why my belief in social change has only grown. Millions of people who may otherwise have chosen to ignore politics are suddenly feeling engaged. I guess that’s the silver lining of the Trump presidency: engagement. A lot can happen in a year or three. In a decade: transformation.