Co-authored by Carrie Lukas
Hillary Clinton has finally secured the Democratic nomination. But rather than the expected cake walk, she had to slog through a bruising Democratic primary season and has failed to generate much enthusiasm—particularly among younger voters.
Alarmingly for Democrats, a recent poll found that young Democrats don’t just prefer the more liberal Senator Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Hillary has also been hemorrhaging Millennials’ support to Donald Trump. Back in March, Clinton enjoyed a nearly 40 percent margin of support among voters ages 18-29 in a head-to-head matchup with Trump. Yet by May, just 45 percent of registered millennial voters said they’d vote for Hillary, compared to 42 percent who supported Trump.
Hillary’s problems with young voters aren’t just her age and association with a past presidency that occurred when many of these voters were still in diapers. Hillary’s messaging tends to be out-of-tune with the aspirations of young voters. Take this Clinton campaign email attempting to raise money in anticipation of the general election. After some obligatory insults against her opponent, the campaign reassures their supporters:
But we’re going to challenge Donald Trump and his campaign. He’s not going to build a grassroots organizing program to reach voters at their doors — but that’s exactly how this campaign is spending its time. He doesn’t think that data is important (which is literally a thing he says in interviews). We, uhm, disagree — and ground every decision that we make in the best science we can find. And most importantly, we’re going to rebut every ugly, divisive argument he makes every time he opens his dumb mouth.
In other words, Hillary’s own campaign is arguing that it’s not her message, political vision or experience that’s going to defeat Donald Trump. Her political machine can do The Donald in. Clinton is advertising to her donors that their money will be used for more polling, paid door knocking and high priced politicos to craft the most rigorously message-tested talking points… all those elements of politics that voters – particularly young voters – abhor.
Clinton might assume that Millennials, the most tech-savvy generation, will embrace anything related to “data.” Yet Millennials’ love of technology stems from how it empowers them, as individuals, not that it can reduce them to mere data points and create opportunities for manipulation.
Almost as off-putting as when Hillary showcases herself as a hardened political tactician is when she attempts to refashion herself as an outsider dedicated to taking on the establishment. Here’s another revealing campaign email:
I want to make sure you saw the news about Sheldon Adelson. This guy is an infamous conservative casino magnate, and this week, he pledged to raise ungodly amounts of money for Donald Trump — maybe more than $100 million, according to The New York Times.
$100 million! And right now, we’re assuming that a big chunk of that money is going STRAIGHT to funding vicious ads against Hillary in places like Ohio and Florida.
While Trump takes mammoth checks from billionaires who’d get mammoth tax cuts if he became president, we’re building our campaign a different way: …we need everyone to step up to take on Trump and his army of billionaires. Can you help right now (and claim your free Team Hillary sticker!)?
Even the most low-information voter knows that Mrs. Clinton is hardly shocked by money in politics. In fact, the former First Lady is renowned for raking in hundred-thousand-dollar checks from big banks and foreign governments. Bernie Sanders knew this and consistently highlighted Mrs. Clinton’s cozy corporatism, understanding that young, idealistic voters crave a different kind of politics, which prioritizes regular people’s interests over the politically-connected.
Yet Clinton expects her voters to have convenient amnesia when it comes to her long history of corporatism and corruption. Perhaps much of the mainstream media will oblige, but young voters see this kind of inauthenticity as poisonous. Mrs. Clinton’s vacillations between pretending she’s a helpless grandmother confused by modern technologies like blackberries and iPhones and the most sophisticated, intelligent, modern woman on the planet is as embarrassingly transparent as her donning different accents for her campaign speeches depending on the region or her campaigns occasional tossing of a swear word into her emails as a way to seem hip.
Young voters want to be inspired and believe that they themselves are a positive force for change, rather than just another voting cohort that needs to be courted as a part of politics-as-usual. That sense of history attracted them to President Obama and Bernie Sanders. And it’s why Mrs. Clinton is losing them. The Donald may not speak to their higher aspirations, either, but at least his personae – the hair and rough accent – stays consistent. Democrats joke about “Donald being Donald,” but his unscripted character is a big part of his appeal to many voters frustrated with politics.
As long as Mrs. Clinton appears as contrived and nakedly crafted by campaign consultants as she does today, she’s going to struggle to earn the support – much less the enthusiasm – of young Americans.
Heather R. Higgins is President and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice; Carrie Lukas is the vice president for policy at the Independent Women’s Voice.