The media had a field day last week covering a Republican National Convention executed with classic Donald Trump pomp. Replete with plagiarism, showmanship and just enough racism to keep us on the edge of our seats, the RNC dominated the airwaves.
This week the now-official Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a unique opportunity at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to unite the country and deliver a resounding blow to the Trump campaign. Clinton needs to capitalize on this inflection point in the presidential campaign.
We argue that Clinton should embrace a message of hope and optimism — and some of the youthful exuberance of her elder challenger, Bernie Sanders — rather than highlight her “experience” and Trump’s lack thereof.
Clinton needs to recognize that 78 million millennial voters — a third of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center — offer her a clear and straightforward path to victory. During the primaries, a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll showed Clinton leading Trump by a 3-to-1 ratio among young voters and 1 in 4 young conservatives intending to cast their ballot for Clinton.
But millennial voters may not turn out to vote if Clinton fails to inspire them. The central argument behind the Clinton campaign is that she is qualified for office. The problem is that millennials want a candidate to inspire them, not win by default. Millennials won’t just vote for Clinton because Trump is a bad candidate — she needs to convince them that voting for her will make them better off.
Clinton’s failure to do this — and her lack of a central message during the primary season — has already led to strong rebuke. Millennials gave Clinton less than 30 percent of their votes in key primaries and nearly precipitated her defeat.
Millennials will be watching the Democrats’ convention in earnest. For Sanders supporters and independent voters alike, the DNC is Clinton’s opportunity to rise above her weaknesses — such as the fact that just 19 percent of voters trust her, according to an April NBC/Wall Street Journal poll — and emerge with a positive, can-do attitude, embracing young voters, their issues and their values.
Young people want to support Clinton — if only she would do her part, championing their issues and speaking their language. Here are the things young people will be listening for from Philadelphia:
A debt-free college plan: Millennials are really upset about the cost of college education. Student debt consistently ranks as one of the top two issues millennials consider at the voting booth. “College has become harder to afford,” said 76 percent of millennials polled in 2011 by Demos, the Institute for College Access and Success and Young Invincibles. And 62 percent of voters overall, according to a YouGov poll conducted last summer, believe the government should support a debt-free college plan. This was a big selling point for Sanders during the primaries. Clinton needs to make this plan her own and become a champion for young voters.
A central message: Clinton needs to turn this election into an issue-based referendum. Whereas young people tend to be the least partisan voters in America, they are the most issue-focused. Clinton has much to choose from; on a pure policy basis, millennials agree with her about immigration reform, climate change, social issues and even foreign policy. Clinton cannot make this election about Donald Trump. As much as young people dislike Trump, their values — optimism, authenticity and tolerance for diversity — make them unlikely to vote for a candidate they see as a lesser of two evils. For millennials to actually show up at the voting booths, Clinton must make this election about specific issues that matter to young people. If Clinton can authentically speak to the importance of just one crucial issue, she can win this election.
A strong back bench: Democrats have had a really weak back bench in recent years. The Democratic Party could barely muster a handful of candidates in its primaries, compared with 17 for the Republicans. This makes Clinton’s job of unifying the party that much harder — and even more important. Clinton needs to show that she has the backing of millennial heroes such as Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Sanders, as well as popular governors, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Jerry Brown. It’s not enough to have these people show up for Clinton — they need to go the extra mile to show the depth of their support for her.
This election is anyone’s game. If Clinton hits a home run at the DNC and consolidates millennial support, she will become the next president of the United States.
(via: Chicago Tribune)