With all the lamenting about how entitled or lost Millennials (adults ages 18-35) are in the world, this generation is now ranked the “largest living generation” in the United States, matching numbers of the Baby Boomer generation (people born between 1946 and 1964), according to a study done by the Pew Research Center.
And as the old adage goes, “There’s strength in numbers,” it is this generation that holds today’s political clout, especially over its generational predecessor, in this upcoming election.
Last week, Widener University hosted a university-wide debate watch party where hundreds of students (Millennials) watched Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton debate topics such as cyber security, race relations, environmental preservation and economic growth.
After the debate, students were divided into groups to discuss which candidate would be best to lead as president.
The university cafeteria was a microcosm of the Millennial demography at large, with many students coming from all walks of life and reactions of the student-viewers were lively and felt through the drags and jabs each candidate hurled at each other.
There were cheers from supporters when their favorite candidate had his or her comeuppance, but an eerie silence had befallen the room of predominately-white students when the topics turned to race relations and officer-involved shootings against Black Americans.
If interviewing members of this sample showed anything at all, is that the rise of the Millennial electorate is scary, depending on the candidate a person supports.
Clinton’s supporters recognized her flaws, particularly the dubious deletion of more than 30,000 e-mails from a private server when she was secretary of state, but it was clear that her supporters were better able to explain why they support her.
“Clinton admitted she messed up, that’s great leadership; if you make a mistake, own up to it,” said Elizabeth Cohen, a senior majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Relations and president of the Widener University Political Awareness Club.
Having a more critical approach, Torrey Burroughs said, “There was a lot of the same rhetoric from both sides,” to which Cohen agreed.
Burroughs, also a senior with the same course of study and vice-president of the Widener political club who is Black, said she was hoping to see a more in-depth dialogue about race relations. “It’s the big elephant in the room, so I don’t know why that wasn’t discussed.”
“Clinton definitely brought up points such as more training for police departments and building better relationships with minority communities, especially,” Burroughs said.
In terms of economic growth, a topic affecting Millennials everywhere is the skyrocketing cost of higher education. It plagues many recent graduates with a collective $1 trillion debt in student loans. A remedy, Clinton said, is to make state and public universities and colleges free.
“It doesn’t affect me because Widener University is private, but Clinton’s plan for reducing the debt may be bearable,” Cohen said. “I like the plan, but as a political science major I have to ask if it’s plausible?”
Burroughs and Cohen both support efforts for America to move to clean, sustainable energy, another issue Clinton has raised and adamantly supports.
Trump supporters, on the other hand, are what make the influence of the Millennial voting block a shuddering thought.
Many are simply enamored by the billionaire mogul’s controversial rhetoric and his anti-politician approach. They look smug when faced with the shocked reactions of anti-Trump supporters, but to get the average Millennial Trump supporter to properly articulate why they support him is an interesting challenge.
Two Trump supporters, based on their audible and clearly visible support of Trump, especially during his snarky remarks, were asked why they felt Trump would be a fitting president. The two young men initially dodged the question.
“Everything Trump says hasn’t been brought up before,” said Alex Schnell, a sophomore majoring in Computer Information Systems. “I haven’t agreed with politicians from over the past few years as far back as the 20th century.”
Quentin Sowers, a junior majoring in Finance, agreed with his friend’s historical analysis, “Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush were the only ones who helped our economy.”
Schnell and Sowers critiqued Clinton’s plan for eliminating college debt, saying that private universities and colleges will be impervious to her plan, but it wouldn’t be plausible for state and public colleges and universities either, only for community colleges.
“By making community colleges and public schools free, private schools will go out of business,” Sowers later responded.
When a reporter explained that most community colleges only offer an associate’s degree or a two-year degree, which basically holds the same weight as a high school diploma in the current job market, the boys scrambled to their phones to research what an associate’s degree was.
Schnell and Sowers both said they were initially Bernie Sanders supporters, Schnell adding, “Sanders and Trump had differing plans but led to the same result.”