Hillary Clinton & Millennials' Relationship Status: It's Complicated

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters after delivering a speech at Temple University on September 19, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If this election is ever adapted into a musical, I'd put good money on there being a number sung at Clinton Headquarters in Brooklyn titled "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Millennials?" It's no secret that Hillary Clinton is struggling to charm millennial voters. Moreover, analysts love speculating as to why millennials aren't absolutely in love with the first female presidential candidate to represent a major party.

Part of me feels like I should have some insight into this question. By most definitions, being born in 1983 places me neatly into most millennial age brackets. But in trying to reason out why Clinton's lead over Donald Trump amongst the under-35 set went from 24 points in August to just 5 points last week, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, I just end up feeling like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Or maybe more like (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻. (Am I speaking your [our?] language yet???)

Diagnoses of the millennial problem abound, but they all basically boil down to one of two arguments: Clinton is inauthentic and millennials are spoiled.

Both of these arguments have truth to them. As for as the first one, nobody I know — even the most fervent Clinton supporters — would make the argument that watching Clinton speak is anywhere near as emotionally rewarding as watching Barack Obama. Moreover, many of her efforts to make herself seem "cool" have come across as trying too hard, which is essentially millennial kryptonite.

And as much as I love millennials — some of my best friends are millennials — listening to them roast Clinton for supporting the Iraq War and opposing gay marriage made me want to scoff parentally and ask, "What world do you think you're living in?"

Obviously, these arguments are simultaneously reductive and valid. Clinton does have a media presentation problem, one that isn't helped by her "penchant for privacy," as former Obama advisor David Axelrod described it.

And while "spoiled" might be too strong a term, many millennials don't really remember well the crushing hairsbreadth loss of 2000's Bush vs. Gore. Thus, the appeal of the third-party candidates call like the siren song.

Perhaps strangest of all to think about is how Obama's progressive victories (few but not insubstantial) have cannibalized support for the Democratic party.

Because of one of the earliest provisions of Obamacare, which allowed children to stay on their parent's health insurance plans until age 26, many millennials never had to deal with some of the more horrible aspects of the pre-Obamacare health insurance system. In fact, about half of voting-age millennials are still under 26, and I'd imagine a decent percentage of them are still getting their health care from mom and dad.

In the end, I believe Clinton and millennials are going to meet each other halfway. I'm hopeful that young liberal voters in swing states are not so divorced from history that the lessons of 2000 are lost. And I'm encouraged by Clinton's latest push to speak to these voters like adults with respect but also frankness.

Ultimately, though, I think it's up to the young voters to try and take a more full view of the American electorate and realize that as much as we want all the progressive things now, that we share this country and that whomever we elect in November will be the president for all, not just us.

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