“If you’re under 30 and you’re a Republican, you have no heart. If you’re over 30 and you’re a Democrat, you have no brains,” a patronizing phrase my high school history teacher used to politically indoctrinate his impressionable students. It was meant to affirm millennial values as noble, but stupid. At the time, it gave me somewhat of a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that my stupidity was rooted in goodwill, and eventually when I learned more about life, I’d outgrow my naivety. I’d likely evolve into a mature conservative who embraces Social-Darwinism; the idea that life is only what you make it, and the self-imposed destruction of a few would be necessary to ensure my happiness.
Researchers define millennials as those of us born between 1982 and the year 2004. A recent study found that that only 1 out of 5 millennials favor conservative politics. This study proved to be true in the recent election, a mere 1.5 out of 5 millennials voted for the conservative option. Despite their inability to garner substantive support from young adults, conservatives have not concerned themselves with the growing millennial voting bloc. They continue to patronize millennials as being immature and too inexperienced, while simultaneiously excluding their meaningful contributions to a complex political dialogue.
Conservatives have made little effort to accommodate millennial concerns, many of which for youthful Americans are non-negotiable. The few millennial voices championing conservative values, with the intent to build a bridge over the ideological chasm that separates most millennials and conservatives, include the likes of former Blaze Network Host, Tomi Lahren and former Breitbart contributor, Milo Yiannopoulos. Lahren’s rise to prominence includes a long list of fiery video monologues. Her incendiary rhetoric includes likening Black Lives Matter supporters to the KKK and diminishing modern feminism as unnecessary. Milo Yiannopoulos a gay conservative whose fame began as a controversial orator traveling from college to college lecturing young audiences on a speaking expedition he titled the “Dangerous Faggot Tour.” His popularity persisted after being banned on Twitter for inciting the targeted abuse of SNL actress Leslie Jones. Conservative spokeswomen/men like these offer very little relatability to the majority of millennials who value social inclusion. In addition to propagating a message opposite of millennial values, conservatives have launched a concerted effort that debilitates millennials and their ability to actively thrive in many ways.
1.) Healthcare Policies
A major component of the Affordable Care Act allows adults under the age of 27 to remain on their parents’ insurance. The benefit of this allowance is paramount. It affords students the ability to focus on paying for college-related essentials. It eases the burden of parents who can afford to add their children on to their plan without the increased cost of paying for an entirely separate plan. Republicans have begun the process of repealing the ACA without the guarantee of keeping measures that directly benefit millennials.
Another component relates to those diagnosed with pre-existing conditions. These are often thought to be heavy hitting diseases like cancer or aids, but they also include more common conditions like diabetes and asthma. If you were diagnosed with a qualifying pre-existing condition, you may be denied insurance without ACA protections. Conservatives have suggested “high-risk pools” for individuals with these conditions that could potentially not include the necessary funding for comprehensive treatment and would likely come with the same maximum payout caps that were allowed before the ACA.
Often, millennials begin their careers ambitiously pursuing their dreams of starting their own business. The ACA helps support these dreams by subsidizing the healthcare cost for small businesses with less than 25 $50k/yr salaried employees. Small business owners are given the flexibility to hire talented employees, many of which will desire employer health insurance and have competing offers from larger corporations that can afford to pay for it. This expense may be unaffordable for a small business owner struggling to balance overhead while investing in growth. One should consider the creativity and innovation that a small business is able to cultivate. Healthcare subsidies are an investment in the economic impact these small businesses have on the economy.
Whether a young millennial wants to travel the world expanding their worldview, pursue a college degree, or chase their dreams building a startup in silicon valley, the importance of their healthcare is indispensable.
2.) The Electoral College
The electoral college may singlehandedly be the most conspicuous disenfranchising of millennials. As millennials come of age, they often feel compelled to migrate to inner cities. Whether going to college, starting a career, launching a business, or pursuing a dream, opportunity has typically been most prevalent in larger cities. The electoral college however ensures that a vote in a highly populated county is severely undervalued in comparison to rural counties. Let’s look at some basic math.
California has a population of 37.3 mil people and 55 electoral votes.
Wyoming has a population of 563k people and 3 electoral votes.
While it may seem as though CA is getting the better end of the deal, a single electoral vote in CA makes up 678k CA residents. A single electoral vote in WY makes up 188k WY residents. It takes much less of a public consensus to move the electoral needle, giving WY residents of 3.5 times more voting power than a CA resident.
It has been said that a winner takes all popular vote does not make sense for the country; however, the vast majority of our states are winner take all. Many believe the founders established the electoral college as they feared that direct democracy was too vulnerable to mob rule. The truth is, they sought to appease the concerns of southern states whose smaller populations consisted of disgruntled slave owners. These slave owners were angered that the industrial revolution was growing the population in northern states, and that their representatives were voting against the interests of southern inhabitants. The electoral college was meant to work with a provision that counted each slave as 3/5ths of a vote. The intention was to provide a disproportionate amount of political clout to these smaller southern populations. The electoral college helped redistribute the popular vote by giving slaves 3/5ths the value of a white male voter. This served to sedate the fear of a potential secession of the soon to be confederacy who worried that they were not being represented in congress in a manner proportionate with the value of their agricultural trade contributions (vis-à-vis slavery).
It seems a bit insulting to millennials that our electoral college relies on a system once used to appease slave owners. Conservatives rely on the electoral college to ensure that millennials who are much more progressive than the previous generation are not given an opportunity to outweigh rural states. Interestingly, Donald Trump spent most of his political career criticizing the electoral college until he realized he needed it to win. Then, suddenly, an institution he once described as “a disaster for democracy” was immediately repurposed as “brilliant.” Donald Trump was absolutely correct. If you are under the age of 34 by 2020, Republicans would have only won the popular vote in a presidential vote once in your lifetime. It is a rather brilliant strategy for Republicans to usurp the will of American voters by implementing a system that says a national winner takes all election cannot be trusted. All the while allowing a winner takes all election in 48/50 individual states in which the “take all” component includes an unevenly divided number of electoral votes. Gerrymandering is used similarly to maintain control over local, state, and federal legislatures.
In a manner that could only be considered offensive, Donald Trump has bragged that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for California and New York votes. Additionally, and without any proof, he has suggested that millions in these states, voted illegally. He invalidates the thing that makes these states amazing, their vast populations, and explains them away as insignificant. This is highly troubling. CA and NY make up nearly 1/4th of America’s Global Domestic Product (GDP), and actually pay more in federal taxes to the government than they receive back in the form of benefits. CA and NY are 1/5th of this country’s population, and are economic epicenters for industries that include baking/investments, entertainment, and technology. For Trump to imply that the already under-proportioned 1/7th of the electoral vote CA and NY receive is too much, is insulting to the millennials who work and live in these states.
3.) Student Loan Reform
The amount of student loans indebted by Americans has surpassed that of $1.2 trillion. Student loan legislation that advocates for more regulation on interest, reimbursement, consolidation, cancellation, forgiveness, deferment, etc. is often proposed by liberals. Hillary Clinton ran her presidential campaign on a proposal that would provide small business owners with increased deferment periods, exchange up to $30k in tax free loan payments for community service, and allow for the consolidation of higher interest loans into lower interest buyouts. Conservative platforms on these issues tend to take the guise of personal responsibility policies that explain that good jobs and hard work are the answer. It is certainly difficult to argue with such a responsible ideal, because the presentation is quite gilded.
Truthfully the conservative view is that American millennials are not worth this country’s investment. This is why Trump’s administration, including the Department of Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, reversed Obama era regulations on student loans. Banks are no longer as limited on the interest and fees they place on in-debted college graduates. Working your way through college is not a viable solution for every American, all of whom deserve the right to a higher education if they so choose. Many credible economists believe that investment in higher education is one of highest grades of fuel for our economic engine. Unfortunately, because the return on investment can take up to 20 years to see, many governments abandon the idea of free college to chase less impactful quick wins. Students that are able to matriculate through academic programs at the collegiate level without the burden of student debt are given an opportunity to begin their career journeys as inventors, creators, and risk-takers. Instead of chasing a high paying job, their passion driven contributions are given the type of investment that leads to creative technologies and innovative designs.
Furthermore, job performance does not tend to do as well under Republican leadership. So not only are conservatives against free college education, they also diminish the country’s employment opportunities which in turn make the academic investment they refuse, even more necessary for millennials looking to be competitive in the work force. While liberals have accepted the need to make college more affordable and even free for students in need, Republicans are taking a Darwinist approach to learning. In their world, only the rich and privileged deserve an opportunity at a debt free education. They will argue that everyone has the opportunity to work for it without acknowledging that every student is starting from a different level of advantage. In their world, the daughter of a minimum wage factory worker with an 8th grade education is expected to perform at the same rate as the son of a middleclass Senator who has many times more resources to succeed.
What Conservatives steadily fail to realize is that while it should not be the government’s role to provide or remove opportunity from its citizens, it should ensure that no one’s lack of or access to resources make them unfairly capable/incapable. Student debt and college expenses are a stifling burden for millennials, and conservatives have ignored them on this matter.
4.) Minimum Wage
I discussed in great detail many of the arguments for minimum wage and responded to the major arguments against it in a previous article. As it relates to millennials, I’d like to hone in on the argument for minimum wage in a more specified manner that explains the impact minimum wage has on this major segment. Economists worry for the future of millennials, who will likely be the first generation in modern times to age without embarking on fundamental milestones like home ownership and significant retirement savings. 36% of millennials between the ages of 18 and 35 are still living at home with their parents. While some assess this as indicative of a generational decline in work ethic, a more likely rationale is that wages have not been held accountable to inflation and production.
Consider the prior generation of 1975 who not so long ago with two household members could afford a middle class home worth $39,300 if both worked full-time minimum wage jobs earning a mere $2.10 an hour. As seen below, the economics of buying home are not working as well for the minimum wage worker. In 40 years, the number of annual household incomes it takes to equal the median cost of a home, has increased by 2.2.
Many argue that minimum wage jobs are not meant to sustain a person’s livelihood, and that those wanting to afford basic amenities like food and housing should get educated. Ironically, these are likely the same people who think those wanting an education should pay for it themselves. Those embarking on the exorbitantly priced journey of earning a higher education, are those most in need of good paying jobs. These students, if successful will more than repay the investment by contributing to a thriving workforce and paying their taxes. A lower minimum wage only increases the amount of time they’ll have to work, making their odds for success, even slimmer. It will also increase their dependence on student debt which will constrain their future capital from energizing the economy.
There is a notion that manipulating minimum wage, interferes with the markets ability to normalize organically. However in our current system, the minimum threshold for pay set by the government provides an unfair advantage to businesses who do not pay their employees a fair wage. Companies who fairly compensate their employees with with good wages and benefits are not able to remain competitive in their industry when similar companies are able to pass greater savings to their consumers because of their low wages. Instead of the market adjusting to the needs of its members, the members of that market are forced to accommodate an outdated economic system even if it means they must forgo necessary amenities (i.e. home, education, healthcare) and increasingly rely on debt. If the government is unwilling to require a reasonable minimum wage, the burden millennials place on entitlement programs during retirement will exacerbate our social security and general welfare funds. The importance of investing in a generation that will be needed to strengthen America’s economic infrastructure is vital.
5.) Home Ownership
The prospect of home ownership has only grown bleaker for millennials. They bear the bulk of the load of $1.2 trillion in education loans. They live in a society where basic commodities are not easily accessible. Institutions that were once known for their contributions to societal advancement, now use the dependence we have developed as an opportunity to exploit the common man. Healthcare companies would rather terminate the coverage of a terminally ill patient, rather than restructure their economics to insure public health for all. Academic institutions would rather maximize their endowments and sentence their students to a lifetime of debt, rather than to develop programs that offers the hope of academic advancement for every student. These burdens only increase the difficulty of home ownership. As the population of cities rich with opportunity swell, the property values skyrocket and millennials have to work even harder to purchase a property.
Conservatives have been rather lackadaisical in addressing issues that have led to the housing crisis. Their anti-regulation ideologies eliminated accountability and allowed banks to make risky loans meant only to turn a quick profit. During the 2008 housing collapse, many homeowners were crushed under unaffordable interest rates and loans that were disproportionate with their expendable income. Foreclosures swept across the nation and the value of properties plummeted. Of course, those to benefit from this disaster were wealthy investors who could now afford to buy up value-reduced properties that overextended middle-class Americans were forced to foreclose on.
Purchasing a home is an important milestone for an adult because it comes with the hopeful guarantee of financial security in retirement. The cost of a monthly lease is typically the largest expenditure for an adult. While this is manageable during full-time employment, it can become overwhelming for a retiree living on a reduced pension or social-security benefit. Owning a home reduces the economic strain on older adults who may not be able to maintain their full-time regiment. Millennials may be the first generation who literally work themselves to death because the average incomes in America have not kept up with the cost of existing. Additionally, working past retirement may not be an option for those in blue collar roles. A construction worker for example, will have a much more difficult time continuing their work over the years than a high school English teacher.
Despite the impending housing crisis millennials are headed toward, conservatives continue to support polices that only accelerate a calamity we should be attempting to reverse. On his first day in office, President Trump signed an executive order suspending a rate cut initiated by the Department of Housing and Urban development. This rate cut lowered the monthly payments of FHA mortgages. FHA loans extend imperative opportunities for first time home buyers, many of which are millennials. Many home loans require homebuyers to pay 20% of the cost of a home to qualify. The only people who have 20% of a home’s value in cash are those who are wealthy or those who already own a home with enough equity that can be used toward a new home purchase after selling. Many millennials turn to FHA loans as they only require a 3.5% downpayment. Trump ended a rate cut that will directly and disproportionately affect millennial first-time home buyers. These home buyers are already balancing various (previously discussed) economic barriers. With decisions like this, conservatives continue to affirm, they do not consider millennials to be valuable constituents.
6.) Social Issues
Conservatives continue to miss the mark on social issues that matter greatly to millennials. I go into great detail on several of these issues in a prior post; however, I’d like to more concisely communicate a few of them here.
A woman’s reproductive right to choose, for instance, is a highly contested issue between liberals and conservatives. While conservatives take a stance against abortion, they also promote policies that reduce healthcare for women and defund pregnancy planning clinics that contribute to a reduction in unintended pregnancies; this in turn spikes an even greater number of abortions.
Conservatives tout the importance of reducing the scope of government involvement, while also blurring the lines of church and state. They legislate their interpretation of biblical morality to prevent same-sex marriage. The only impact this has on society is the elimination of hundreds of legal protections that come with marriage. Straight divorce, which certainly violates biblical morality does not seem to hold the same weighted value. This hypocrisy does not go unnoticed by millennials.
Conservatives maintain their Darwinist views that the right to higher education and healthcare exist only for the wealthy and elite, instead of making good on the promise that opportunity in America exists for all regardless of their inherited status.
Conservatives reject the notion that women are victims to pay inequality and vote against legislation that is meant to ensure that everyone is given equal pay for equal work.
Conservatives reject the blatant inequities in America’s injustice system as it relates to disproportionate police brutality, enforcement of drug laws, and imprisonment.
Conservatives have at the very most incited and at the very least tolerated Islamophobic sentiments, empowering the same niche extremists they are fighting against.
Conservatives have embraced a nationalist view that reject the same immigrants their constituents have enjoyed exploiting for profit.
Conservatives and liberals alike, advocated for and funded war crimes in the Middle East, destabilizing whole regions. They incited a cataclysmic refugee crisis while simultaneously creating a legacy of ongoing war. Conservatives, however have chosen to close our borders to the helpless victims of our war-mongering.
Conservatives respond to a disproportionate homicide in America with a solution that includes more guns and less regulation of these instruments of terror.
Despite and against the conclusion of 97% of climate scientists, conservatives remain skeptical of the impact human’s have on climate change and the effects it will have on a world they are leaving with us.
Millennials who find themselves aligning with conservative values on single issues or principals, must begin to ask holistically, if their party has their best interest in mind. If not, the onus is those millennials to hold their party accountable and demand compromise. Millennials are the “next-in-line” beneficiaries of an America that is being shaped by a generation of disengaged conservatives who are impervious to compromise. They refuse to die as they are kept alive by medicine and healthcare they refuse to share. If they are unwilling to pass the baton, we must take it from them, forcefully. It is time for millennials to claim their share of America.