Presidential Campaign

Hillary Clinton’s millennial problem runs deep

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If this country had a maximum voting age of 35, Hillary Clinton would now be in danger of losing the election to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.

Last month, support for the Democratic nominee among millennials who are likely voters fell to within 2 percent of their support for Johnson, according to a Quinnipiac poll. If you add in the substantial millennial support for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the pair of third-party nominees outpolled Clinton 44 percent to 31 percent.

How can this be? 

{mosads}After seeing under-35 voters go overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders during the primary season, Clinton has continued to lose ground with them. The core problem is that Clinton was being candid 13 months ago when she told a Women for Hillary audience in Ohio: “You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty.”

Most millennials don’t want a president who is “kind of moderate and center” — nor are they drawn to belated progressive rhetoric without a record to back it up.

The Sanders campaign gained enthusiastic support because the candidate’s consistent record of progressive substance matched his oratory. Clinton strains to seem like an authentic progressive because she isn’t.

In recent months, the former secretary of State has made mostly formulaic efforts to reach out to the left-leaning young, many of whom are inclined to vote third-party or not vote at all in November. Relying on conventional party wisdom, she hasn’t seemed to grasp the power of idealism among young voters — who are now having a hard time shifting from feeling the Bern to holding their nose, which is what it would take for a lot of them to vote for Clinton.

Today the independent Bernie Delegates Network is releasing the results of a survey that we conducted in recent days among Sanders delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Four hundred and sixty-one of those delegates participated in the straw poll. Results from the survey reflect the reality that Clinton has not made the sale to many of the often-young supporters of Sanders’s presidential campaign:

  • 37 percent of Sanders delegates said they plan to vote for Clinton. (Those delegates were not more inclined to vote for her if they live in a swing state where the race is close.)
  • 33 percent said they plan to vote for Stein.
  • 17 percent said they were undecided on how to cast their presidential ballot.

Among the polled Sanders delegates, less than 1 percent said they would vote for Johnson, and the same was true for GOP nominee Donald Trump. 

Thanks to Trump’s erratic and dangerous candidacy, Clinton will probably win the election — but her chances would be better if she could build bridges with the vast majority of millennials who don’t like Trump.

For her prospective presidency, Clinton has made only one irrevocable big decision this year: selecting Tim Kaine for the VP slot. While hailed by Washington’s punditocracy, the choice was a dismissive message to Bernie’s base.

A strong defender of Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” law as governor, Kaine went on to take positions in the Senate that are anathema to progressives. In 2011 he criticized fellow Democrats for advocating a higher tax rate for millionaires. Last year, Kaine was one of just a dozen Democratic senators to vote for fast-tracking the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. (In early summer, a straw poll of Sanders delegates found that stopping the TPP was their top priority.)

Selection of Kaine was just the start of assembling a decidedly pro-corporate and anti-progressive squad for the future. The Clinton transition team, chaired by corporate champion Ken Salazar, has been stocked with strong advocates for the TPP and numerous other major policy positions favored by Wall Street.

Clinton’s long career of sounding progressive yet proceeding otherwise hardly inspires confidence in her recent embraces of forward-looking proposals, such as free tuition at public colleges for families with annual incomes of $125,000 or less. 

In short, after rallying behind Bernie Sanders’s genuine economic populism, many young people don’t trust the pseudo-populism of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She has earned a millennial problem that could prevent her from becoming president.

Norman Solomon, the coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, was a Sanders delegate from California to the Democratic National Convention. He is co-founder of the online activist group, which has 730,000 members.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 2016 presidential election Bernie Sanders Democratic Party Donald Trump Gary Johnson Hillary Clinton Libertarian Party Millennials progressives Republican Party Tim Kaine United States

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