Democrats nationwide are still scrambling to cobble their party together. The moderate message of Hillary Clinton won the approval of the party, but not the American people. For certain, there is evidence that suggests that it was not purely Clinton’s positions that lost her the Presidency. However, what must not be ignored is that 43 percent of eligible voters did not cast a vote, and that even in counties where Clinton won a supermajority of votes, voter turnout was down by a small margin. In contrast, in counties where Donald Trump won a supermajority, voter turnout was up. The Democrats need to adjust their rhetoric and platform in order to attract the votes that they lost to Trump, but what adjustments are most appropriate are not immediately clear. Democrats have a choice – to hold the line or to imitate Trump’s “America first” appeals. In either case, the Democrats must entice millennials and minority populations to vote, in addition to pulling the white working class back into their fold. Millennials must play a central role in this necessary change.
People all over the country have felt as if the government has not done enough for them over the past eight years under a Democratic administration, especially African Americans and millennials, who are traditionally Democratic bulwarks. And because of this fact, potential Democratic voters did not flock to the polls the same way that they did when Barack Obama’s promises were new and inspiring to them. Many felt as if the Democrats had not done anything in particular for them, and they had little reason to believe that a Clinton presidency would change that. So they didn’t vote.
Democrats cannot challenge the Republicans hold on the federal government during midterm elections if this does not change. The Democratic Party’s platform was largely written to accommodate the followers of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Even this, however, did not persuade enough millennials to cast their vote for the Democrats to gain any substantial power: Democrats barely managed to gain six representatives in the House.
The Democrats need to persuade young and disillusioned voters that they are their party – that their voices are heard and their needs will be met. Millennials occupy a unique place in American politics: they now outnumber even baby boomers, and that statistic will only become more relevant as scores of young people come of age. Millennials are a diverse group by any metric, but the majority lean left. Democratic millennials also tend to have views that are divergent from the Democratic old guard, tending to land further left on the political spectrum than the mainline of the party. The strength of Bernie Sanders’s candidacy among young people is evidence of this trend.
Young Democrats can influence the party’s position by involving themselves more in politics, in becoming more active in political student groups and by participating in campaigns. Millennials are the future of America, and whatever their consensus is will inevitably influence American politics.
The fact of the matter is this: The Democratic Party needs to change. If it wants to attract more millennial votes, and this election shows that it needs to, it needs to pay closer attention to their desires and reconcile them as best as it can with the needs of its other major constituencies. Core millennial concerns, like job availability, are not purely millennial. Sanders and Trump shared at least one thing in common, and that was concern for discontent and disillusioned Americans who never really came out of the recession. Their economic message was clear – hard-working Americans come first.
Millennials can work inside of both parties to make this the primary message rather than an outlier. Whichever party manages to adjust to millennial priorities will be the one that wins their votes, and Democrats sorely need those votes in coming elections.