When political outsider Donald Trump secured the Republican Party’s nomination, some celebrated his victory over the GOP establishment, excited for the chance to shake up the "Washington machine." And whether you like him or not, there's something to be admired in the way he has broken the presidential candidate mold. He’s demonstrated that anyone can run for office, and he offers the party a different kind of candidate than the establishment picks of 2012 and 2008.
“Some of his supporters see him as a new kind of Republican reformer, one whose lack of loyalty to the party frees him to adopt more popular positions that can attract nontraditional GOP voters,” suggested Molly Ball for the Atlantic.
The problem is that his “make America great again” message resonates most with the angriest people in America — middle-class, middle-aged white people. In other words, he’s favorable among a group that already makes up an integral part of the Republican Party, but he's failing to attract those who could be the party’s future.
Monday’s USA Today/Rock the Vote poll shows Hillary Clinton beating Trump 56 percent to 20 percent among voters under 35. Though young voters don’t show up to vote as frequently as their older counterparts, they’re still a demographic that can and do make an impact on election outcomes. Plus, they’re quickly starting to outnumber Baby Boomers as the largest voting-age generation. In the long run, there’s a good chance that large numbers of millennials will become older voters who side with Democrats because they were turned off from the GOP at a young age.
Trump’s youth problem does not stem from Hillary’s being an inspiring change-maker, as she’s had her own issues with winning over millennials. It’s also not due to Trump’s being too conservative; his positions on free trade and freedom of the press, among others, prove otherwise.
“I would venture that Trump’s failure among the young has something to do with his assault on the idea of tolerance, particularly racial and religious tolerance,” said Michael Gerson in an article for The Washington Post. “While Clinton has an ethics problem, Trump has a humanity problem.”
During his campaign, Trump has branded Mexicans as rapists and murders, called for a ban against Muslim immigrants, blamed Megyn Kelly’s tough debate questions on menstruation, said a judge’s ethnicity makes him incapable of doing his job, made fun of a disabled reporter, and criticized the family of a deceased Gold Star veteran. As a result, many high school and college students across the country think “Trump 2016” signs and posters are racist, sexist, and anti-immigrant.
While some may find political correctness to be tiresome and burdensome — in some cases the quest to be politically correct all the time does go a little too far — younger voters view inclusive language in a positive light. And while millennials also frequently tend to get too caught up in social issues, ignoring the fact that they care about all forms of inequality and discrimination could possibly cost the Republican Party a generation of voters.
“Young people understand the logo of the Republican nominee — the very name of the Republican presidential candidate — as conveying a message of exclusion,” Gerson concluded. “It is the way to lose a generation.”