The 2016 presidential elections will be fierce. With no eligible incumbent, the nation is braced for the political season that has already begun – its starting gun signified by the media peeping at prospective nominees viable to survive what promises to be an attritional war of primaries and the always fierce and final push toward the general election. Like any show dog or pageant contestant trying to win over the hearts of an American electorate, the political parties are grooming and prodding their candidates to form an ideal appeal.
Damning the words “as the 2016 presidential election approaches” yet using them all the same, it can’t be helped but to look at the curve balls that will hit both party platforms, and pay tribute to the millennial constituents that, more than ever, have begun to change politics in America. Since the last election, which annoyingly still stands clear in our memories as being just two years ago, there has been an apparent liberal political shift, most of which has been pushed forward by not just a leftist or conservative agenda, but one of the millennials – perhaps the most eclectic and surprisingly politically active groups to ever cast an American opinion.
Outrightly, millennials do not have as consistent a presence at the voting booths as the baby boomers. But the political process in America is beginning to place less stress on winning the actual vote as much as they are about winning the conversation. More than the voting booths, since the millennials have taken to social media, it has been a long time since America has stood for conservative ideals. Instead, the last two years have seen the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington – with many states aching to follow suit, the continuous vocal, legislative and judicial support for gay marriage, the rise of feminism, the humiliation of “nonbelievers” of climate change, direct address to persisting racism, police brutality, food production and labeling initiatives, income gaps, etc. The list goes on, pointing to the interesting fire that will fuel the 2016 elections and the shift of an ideal appeal.
Millennials are more likely to talk about their strong beliefs than cast a vote for them. Many tout this with the term “slacktivism,” and hold it in negative regard. Alas, it is a form of activism and it has certainly done its part to change the political attitude in America. In 2016, any successful politician is going to need to heed the slacktivist millennials and the powerful conversations they drum up for their power is in their voice and their voice in recent years is evidently strong enough to influence the vote. But millennials, too, silence the left and the right, the democrat and the republican. What the millennials want is the wildcard that the nation needs.
Clearly it is a progressive agenda that will appeal to the millennial cohort, but the platform does not necessarily hold an overpowering liberal taste. The millennials hold a strong distaste for tired past political debate – having long since formed their stance on the issue. They won’t change their mind on the social topics, but they may be influence to cast their vote one way or another depending on how a politician approaches their side of the issue.
On previously heavy-hitting social political topics, a millennial outlook will appear as: yes, abortion and contraceptives should be legal and accessible – it should be women’s choice always as to what happens to her body. Yes, women deserve equal pay and the same goes for all races and sexualities. Yes, gay marriage should be legal. Yes, marijuana should be legal. No, climate change is not a theory and, yes, we need to confront it. Yes, healthcare should be affordable and offered to everyone. Immigration policy cannot have even the slightest hint of discrimination. Yes, natural resources are the future. Yes, wage gaps have become a problem. Yes, we have a guns problem. Yes, we need to balance the budget. Yes, we need to take care of our schools. Embracing this stance and looking toward new issues will stir the interest of the millennial group in 2016. Education reform, prison reform, food production reform, student debt, etc. are important issues to this generation.
But millennials are confused when it comes to government and economics, and herein lays the opportunity for a more conservative approach to politics. Many millennials have strong social beliefs but have a difficult with anything fiscal. For instance, in a Pew research study, 42% of millennials support a socialist system to the 52% that support a capitalist system. However, 32% believe that a government managed economy is best, while 64% believe a free market economy is best, thus demonstrating that many millennials don’t understand their own socialist or free market beliefs. If asked whether a big government or a small government is best, you might extract two different answers from the same person depending on which way the question is phrased.
That said, the millennials, by and large, are young, smart, and poor. For this reason, they support higher taxes, just not on them. Millennials will vote for a tax increase on the rich to achieve, say, a balanced budget or more affordable healthcare. But millennials themselves are frugal and will shy away from giving away any more of their own money.
Finally, millennials are the harshest critics of political behavior. While being a “flip flopper” was once a political travesty, the behavioral tight rope walked by 2016 candidates will be razor thin. A single discriminatory slip, flash of ignorance or in season change of stance will fry candidates.
Politicians take note – on all accounts, the millennials will be watching, they will be talking, and they will be influencing the vote in 2016.
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