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Wed May 22, 2019, 01:19 PM

Millennials could push American politics to the left -- or totally upend them [View all]


Trend-spotters love to blame millennials for simultaneously killing everything from porn, sex and divorce to beer, mayonnaise and the home-cooked meal. But in politics, at least, party leaders think they have the rising generation of voters born between 1981 and 1996 figured out.

Democrats believe these young voters will eventually turn out to the polls at higher rates, replace the baby boomers and the Silent Generation, and give the blue team an unending string of victories. Republicans alternate between reassuring themselves that younger voters will age into conservatism once they start having kids and panicking that young voters will never age out of liberalism — or never have those grandkids the older voters who dominate GOP have been waiting for.

Both these Democratic hopes and Republican fears have a basis in reality. Democrats have won millennials and other young voters by wide margins in recent elections, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll drift right as they age. But many young voters are skeptical of the Democratic establishment, and this wouldn’t be the first prediction of a demographically guaranteed permanent Democratic majority that hasn’t come to pass.

With an extraordinarily high-stakes presidential election looming, it’s natural to wonder how millennials — or any other potentially critical demographic group — might vote. But taking the long view, it’s much less interesting to theorize about how millennials might evolve to slot into our current political alignment, and much more important to explore how they might upend that alignment altogether. Whether young Hispanic and Latino voters become more conservative; whether the shifting religious views of youthful Americans breaks up the evangelical Christian bloc of the Republican party; or a millennial boom in the South ends up shaking up the political map, this rising generation could confound all expectations.

In the short term, make no mistake: The current top-line political numbers on millennials are genuinely great for Democrats.

People of any age should probably understand that insulting an entire generation of people isn't the best way to gain their votes, even if it feels satisfying. As an elder millennial (I'm about Mayor Pete's age), I can confirm it's fun to kill stuff.

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