Millennials get a bad rap.
They need basketball hoops at the office. They don’t buy homes. They are emotionally fragile, seeking rewards for “participation.”
They, however, are also remarkably tolerant (be it on race, gay marriage or women in the workforce), educated (with 34 percent having at least a bachelor’s degree), optimistic and well-read. And even better (not merely from a self-interested standpoint), they prefer reading their news to watching TV.
Pew Research finds that, “When asked whether one prefers to read, watch or listen to their news, younger adults are far more likely than older ones to opt for text, and most of that reading takes place on the Web.”
This is the flip side of the Fox News problem: With an average age of 67, its audience is dying out.
Hillary Clinton, it has been widely reported, is struggling with millennial voters. She has a few big advantages, the data would suggest, as she comes down the stretch. Her message — “Stronger Together” — is much closer to the millennial ethos than is Donald Trump’s backward-looking plea (“Make America Great Again”). In many ways, he is everything the millennial generation is not — racist, sexist and pessimistic.
Millennials have grown up with technology, clothing and a host of other products made overseas. They are children of the age of globalism. Telling them that everything they’ve known is bad and inviting them to go back to an era 30-plus years before they were born is hardly attractive.
So, yes, Clinton is trying to offer millennials obvious goodies such as debt-free college, but to win them over she has to play to their sense of fairness, their embrace of technology and their optimism.
Flattery is always useful. (You know we live in an interconnected world.) But so is tough love. (No one is going to solve problems for you. You have to be more educated than your parents.)
Appealing both to their skepticism of politicians and facility with media, Clinton is smart to unleash a barrage of Web ads focusing on Trump’s falsehoods and Trump’s flim-flammery (be it Trump University, his taxes or his foundation). Often with an ironic tone, she can portray Trump as a bumbling buffoon and play on millennials’ low “social trust” (another defining feature).
Millennials may abhor Trump, but getting them out to vote for Clinton is another matter.
Save the country from Trump? Show everyone you’re not suckers? Break the stereotype of the lazy, disengaged millennial? However she phrases it and by whatever means (guilt, flattery, idealism), she has the chance to put the Democratic stamp on a new generation of voters.
Republicans had every opportunity to do so — but instead they nominated Trump.
Jennifer Rubin writes The Right Turn blog for The Washington Post.