Depending on where you fall on the millennial spectrum, this may be the first election that you can vote in — or it may be your fourth. Either way, there have been a lot of moments that millennial will remember from the 2016 election, for better or for worse. It's been a historic election in so many ways, some of them well worth celebrating, and some that should immediately be swept under the carpet of history.
No matter what happens on Election Day, there's no doubt that the country is witnessing a pivotal moment in its history. It has the chance to jump forward, to choose progress, to break the glass ceiling — or to cave in to its worst instincts and fall backwards, giving way to racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Millennials, the youngest voting generation, will always see these as the formative years.
In 30 years, when our children are looking back on an election that we witnessed and they didn't, what will we tell them about what we saw? So many things stand out right now, but there are certain moments and trends that are more likely to end up in the history books — and here are 11 of them.
1. The Rise Of Bernie Sanders
Back before the election had even started, when Hillary Clinton had already all but been crowned as the next Democratic nominee, it didn't seem at all likely that Bernie Sanders would make any waves with his democratic socialist message in our very much anti-socialist system. But as Galadriel reminds us, even the smallest person can change the course of the future — and the senator from Vermont's message apparently had a lot more staying power than expected. Not only did the millennial generation see that change can come from unlikely places, but it also saw that it had a voice, and a loud one at that.
2. The Rise Of Donald Trump
Much of the media got it wrong about Trump, saying all along that he wouldn't win the nomination, that the Republican Party would find a way to stop him, that his message had a ceiling. The country is now stewing in the consequences of all of our failure to heed the danger of Trump enough, and that's definitely something that the millennial generation will have to sit with.
3. The Democrats' Shift Left
Sanders may not have gotten the nomination, but the force of the movement behind him was strong enough that the Democratic Party actually changed its platform to accommodate some of his policies. As the party and its representatives now work to put those ideas into action, the millennials who supported Sanders will hopefully begin to see a country whose policies more accurately reflect their views.
4. The Formal Nomination Of Hillary Clinton As The Democratic Nominee
Overshadowed as it may have been by the monster that the Republican Party chose (figuratively) and a ton of massive balloons (literally), seeing the first woman nominated as the presidential candidate for a major party is an important first. Millennials have grown up in a world where it's normal for women to vote and to work outside the home and everything, but being able to vote for Hillary Clinton for president is both amazing in that she's blazing a very important trail and proof that there is a long, long way to go until true equality between the sexes.
5. Trump's Racist And Sexist Slurs Of Literally Historic Proportions
Wanting to ban all Muslims from the country? Definite throwback to WWII and Japanese internment camps. Trump's overt sexism? Reminds me of the time before women were in the workplace. Anti-Semitic undertones in Trump political ads? Are we really still witnessing this?
6. The Circus That Was The Presidential Debates
Between Trump's insults, Clinton's zingers, and the SNL parodies of all three debates, you won't soon forget any of it — especially with all of the "Bad Hombre" and "Nasty Woman" merchandise you and your friends bought.
7. When Bragging About Sexual Assault Didn't Disqualify Trump
The Republican presidential nominee literally bragged about sexually assaulting women on tape, and when the country saw the tape, his polls may have taken a nosedive, but he was not forced to leave the race. Hopefully this will become as absurd to the generations that follow the millennials as the fact that this country used to have actual segregationist candidates is now.
8. The World Questioning America's Fitness
This is hardly the first time that the rest of the world has had, let's say, questions about some of America's choices, but this time it's different. World leaders have been denouncing Trump in droves, and it's an unprecedented and frightening situation for anyone watching.
9. The FBI Getting Involved In The Election
It's unlikely that FBI Director James Comey's motives in announcing the latest non-scandal in the Hillary Clinton email saga in such a public fashion will ever be completely clear. However, it is clear that the FBI got more involved in this election than it possibly ever has before — and that's not a path that the country wants to go down.
10. The GOP Facing Crisis
The Republican Party has had a tough time this election. Very few of the highest ranking Republicans actually like Trump, and they've been tying themselves in knots trying to figure out a way to say that they're not supporting for him but they are voting for him, or various other nonsensical positions. Trump has found support for his message among the people, though, and the GOP is going to need to confront that. Will the party just continue splitting into different wings, as happened with the Tea Party? Or is this actually the beginning of the GOP's breakup? Only time will tell.
11. The Result
On Nov. 9, America will almost certainly wake up with the knowledge of who will become the new president in January. Will the highest glass ceiling finally have been shattered? That's a moment to remember. Will a man representing the absolute worst of America be the next president? That would also, unfortunately, be a moment burned into everyone's memories. Wherever you watch the election, just know — you're probably going to remember the moment they call it for the rest of your life.
No matter who wins, the whole election won't just have been a bad dream. The result will say a lot about where the country is, but the election also brought up questions that the country and its leaders are going to need to address. When millennials look back, will they remember feeling relief? Or horror? Whichever it is, it's going to be a very strong feeling.