Apathy is the enemy of democracy.
Donald Trump’s presidency -- for better or worse -- has engaged and activated our citizenry, especially young people.
The president’s crass behavior, shallow character, and unfettered need for attention and his transparently self-serving policies (positioning himself and his progeny for deals with Big Oil, Wall Street, Russia, etc.) are hard to ignore.
Trump has jolted young people’s BS meters into high alert. While his hate-mongering tactics against women, black people, Hispanics, foreigners, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, poor people, and sexual assault victims were designed to fire up his supporters into a rabid frenzy, they’ve also spawned outrage and activism among the next generation of citizens. Young Americans are calling him out, engaging with the issues, and registering to vote.
According to a recent biannual survey by The Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, 40% of 18- to 29-year-old Americans are likely to vote in today’s midterm elections.
The only midterm elections where young Americans’ turnout surpassed 20% were in 1986 (21%) and 1994 (21%).
Sixty-five percent of young Americans are “more fearful than hopeful” about the future of the U.S. on its current course. As to the 2020 presidential election, just 11% say they are "sure to" vote to reelect President Trump, while 59% say they "will never" vote for him.
The Women’s March, The March for Science, Defend Dreamers, and Never Again movements have been crucial referenda for youth to speak directly to the Trump presidency. Now, the 2018 midterms offer a significant opportunity for younger voices to be heard and participate in democracy -- by electing candidates that reflect their principles. Their vote may even swing party control of the House, unlocking the paralysis of a Republican-led Congress that’s afraid of Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP. Youth voters will be heard this week as they begin to take back their country.
In the long run, this White House will catalyze a huge backlash effect within the United States, advancing the very opposite ideals that it purports to espouse.
First, young people clearly see Trump’s inauthenticity. He will become this century’s seminal case study in bad branding. They know he doesn’t truly care about many of the “issues” or the people at his election-like rallies.
Young Americans know that Trump’s true end game is using the presidency to boost his standing on the Forbes 100 list and garnering the respect of New York’s financial and media elite. The presidency will help him with the first; it won’t help him with the second. Because of Trump, the youngest generations now know how to recognize or become a devoted and authentic public servant.
Second, young Americans know Trump’s words, principles, and policies must be stopped. The Trump presidency will become this century’s seminal case study of counterattack marketing.
Because of Trump, young people are clear about their mission to reestablish and reinterpret core American principles. As young Americans assume political leadership of this country over the next few decades, they’ll purposefully eradicate the last vestiges of a crumbling legacy that Trump’s supporters are desperately trying to preserve — an America that assumes a singularly nationalistic, Christian, white, male superiority.
If Trump had been subtler, he would have been much more dangerous. Young people might not have noticed or become incensed and drawn into the democratic process at this stage of their lives. This White House is ensuring the next generation won’t be apathetic about valuing sound ideals, sharpening their skills to discern the truth, and assuming civic responsibility to forge their own destiny.
So, let’s extend a hearty thanks to Donald Trump. This week we will reap some rewards from the vital lessons he has delivered about democracy and The Constitution and from the engagement and rebellious action he’s generated among young Americans.
We’ll need to wait a few more years to reap the larger rewards, but in spite of the Trump presidency, America definitely will become greater.