SAN JOSE, Calif. -- “I poured my heart and soul into Bernie Sanders’s campaign,” a 24-year-old student told me. “Now I really don’t care. Clinton and Trump both repulse me.”
Millennials, between the ages of 18-35 and numbering about 76 million, are a powerful voting bloc. But many are still trying to come to grips with the trauma of a Sanders-less presidential election and are thinking of wasting their vote as a protest of some sort. That would be a colossal mistake, for they can play a critical role in propelling Hillary Clinton to victory over Donald Trump in this most consequential of elections.
Why should millennials vote for Clinton? It comes down to the intersection of their passion with Clinton’s policies in three E’s: Education, Economy and Ecology. They should carefully consider where the two candidates stand on these issues, reject false equivalences, and vote accordingly.
Education: The most contentious issue here is the staggering 1.4 trillion dollar student-loan Americans currently carry, a number growing by about $3K every second. Neither candidate has promised to forgive the trillion-dollar debt but during the primaries, Clinton countered Sanders’s assertion to make college free for everyone by saying that his numbers just didn’t add up. However, Clinton has made college affordability – directly tied to student debt - central to her policy. She would give families making up to $125,000 free tuition at in-state public colleges and universities to help middle and working-class families.
If Clinton’s plan does not thrill millennials, they should be even less thrilled by Trump’s because he has offered no details about lowering college costs and reining in student debt. One can still get an idea of Trump’s educational philosophy from his for-profit real-estate training college that defrauded more than 5,000 consumers out of millions of dollars. Even the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney said, “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”
Economy: What concerns millennials most is how the candidates will address the needs of over 45 million poverty-stricken Americans.
Clinton will invest in creating well-paying jobs in “infrastructure and manufacturing, technology and innovation, small business and clean energy,” and combine that with affordable housing and greater access to preschool and high-quality child care. She has asserted that by expanding Low Income Housing Tax Credits, her policy will help over 11 million American households currently spending more than half their income on rent.
Clinton has not convincingly articulated where the money will come from and what sacrifices Americans will have to make to turn her policy into reality, other than that the rich will face greater taxation. She must offer more details, for nothing turns off millennials more than vague promises and empty rhetoric.
A major reason for Trump’s rise is that he has tapped into the economic angst of a significant number of white, working-class Americans who feel deprived of a decent life because of, as they see it, the flood of immigrants and the vanishing of traditional jobs. But if Clinton is short on details, Trump is even more so, except where, in contrast to Hillary, he has promised to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Leading economists have taken apart his argument that ripping up international trade agreements will help struggling American workers become magically prosperous. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, has pointed out how a trade war with China, for instance, would destroy more jobs than it creates.
Ecology: The dictionary defines ecology as ‘relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.’ What threatens to undo this relation and balance is climate change, manifested most starkly in global warming.
Clinton accepts the scientific consensus on global warming and supports the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions, just as she supports the Affordable Care Act and has even proposed to extend it to include an additional 10 million Americans. She has promised to put in place industrial practices that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025 and put America on a path to cut emissions more than 80 percent by 2050.
In contrast, Trump has vowed to cancel the Paris pact if elected president, just as he has threatened to repeal the Affordable Care Act that will cause 20 million Americans to lose medical insurance. He has called global warming a hoax. His exact words: “It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a moneymaking industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.” He also said that action to limit carbon emissions ‘is done for the benefit of China.’
So there you have it, millennials. Trump is flamboyant and monopolizes mainstream media because he can titillate, provoke and outrage. Hillary, on the other hand, is perceived as cold, harsh and angry. But don’t be fooled by appearances. Ask yourself, who is better qualified to get the job done? A demagogue who lies and cheats and is clueless about national and international affairs, or someone who is flawed but who began her life as a young attorney at the Children’s Defense Fund and made the welfare of children and families the guiding light of her life, who is patient, intelligent, and has a proven track record as befits a president? Know this too, that if Hillary Clinton doesn’t light your fire, it may mean that your fire is already lit. The question is: who will keep it alive?
The answer should be obvious: Hillary Clinton will and Donald Trump won’t.