With the 2016 presidential primaries well underway, it is becoming increasingly clear that Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGary Johnson wins Libertarian nomination Clinton emails dominate Sunday shows Superdelegate sees sexism in criticism of Clinton MORE (D) and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWATCH LIVE: Trump speaks at Rolling Thunder Snowden mocks Trump for refusing to debate Sanders Sessions: Ryan 'needs to' endorse Trump soon MORE (R) will win their parties' nominations. As Clinton currently leads Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSnowden mocks Trump for refusing to debate Sanders Clinton emails dominate Sunday shows Sanders supporters up in arms over Puerto Rico polling locations MORE (Vt.) by 268 pledged delegates and over 400 superdelegates, it looks as though she has established a clear path to the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Trump continues to win big in states such as Florida and Michigan, leading Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzMeet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Party chairs see reversal of fortune McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ MORE (Texas) by over 250 delegates.
What is less clear about these candidates' futures is what they will do to win the admiration and respect of our nation's young voters.
The consequences of this reality are obvious. In a recent USA Today/Rock the Vote survey of both Democratic and Republican millennials, the top issue by far for young voters was the economy. While both Clinton and Trump have promised economic growth under their respective administrations, it is only the 74-year-old Sanders who has been the true champion of universal economic equality. The Vermont senator's ambitious messages — attacking Wall Street, advocating for tuition-free college education, fighting the corruption of campaign donations, for example — have resonated with millennials, as he has captured far more youth votes than any other candidate.
The bottom line is that millennials are fed up with the same empty promises and broken policies administered by the baby-boomer politicians. For the first time in American history, an entire generation of citizens is more indebted, less employed and poorer than preceding generations. But what does this mean for Clinton and Trump?
For Clinton to appeal to the Democratic youth, she must begin to defy the limitations of her party's establishment and encompass a more politically revolutionary message like that of Sanders. Sanders's success in garnishing the youth's admiration is a product of his unorthodox stances and their appeal to the aspirations of millennials.
As for Trump, the solution is not as simple. With the Rock the Vote survey showing a partisan split between participants — 41 percent Democrat and only 28 percent Republican — it is clear that the Republican Party's stance social issues may be undermining its appeal to youth voters. Now is the time for the Republican establishment to accept the reality: The majority of America's young people, both Democratic and Republican, are moving toward a more progressive ideology when it comes to issues such as racial equality and same-sex marriage. This is yet another example of millennial defiance of the baby boomer mindset, and is especially problematic for Trump, whose rhetoric has been historically racist and culturally discriminatory.
As millennials become increasingly more influential in political elections, parties and candidates will need to change their political brands in order to satisfy this growing majority. While the 2016 primaries are well underway, there is still time for the front-runners make a last-minute push to capture the support of the nation's youth.
Fowler is the host of the nationally syndicated radio program "The Richard Fowler Show," which can also be viewed on YouTube as an affiliate of The Young Turks network. He appears regularly on Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN. He is also a senior fellow for the New Leaders Council. Follow him on Twitter @RichardAFowler.