Remember when I said this Minding the Generation Gap conversation was going to take some grace? Well, there’s really no better impetus to push us to grace than an election season, am I right? And this one has been particularly polarizing and vitriolic, to say the least. We don’t need another thing to push the canyon apart.
First, let me briefly address the issue of making assumptions. It’s dangerous to assume that a person voted a certain way simply because of his or her demographic. I understand demographics do play a role in voting preferences across the board. And when speaking of statistics or people in general, it can be helpful. But, when you’re speaking directly to a member of a demographic, it is ill-advised to make assumptions based solely on age.
Pro-Tip: In short—the old adage that goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is helpful when speaking to a Millennial (or anyone, actually) about the election (or anything, actually).
Okay, So Maybe Millennials Did Vote Differently Than You
For many of us*, this was our first time being able to vote—so let’s acknowledge that it’s awesome that so many 18-22 year olds are aware enough to know that voting is a thing. And that they actually went out and voted! That’s one major thing that many (most) countries around the world do not have. So I want to stand for just a moment and clap for the first-time-voting Millennials who paid attention in fifth grade social studies and actually went to the polls. Let’s encourage awareness and civil involvement for all generations.
But yes, many Millennials probably voted differently than you, and that might bother you a little bit. It can be hard to understand how someone would see these issues any other way. So let me explain three reasons Millennials voted the way we did, and maybe it will help you see our perspective. And maybe that will help us all have grace for each other.
*I’m using we and us throughout this post because I fall into the Millennial age bracket.
The Young And The Idealistic
Think back to when you graduated from high school or entered your twenties. Didn’t everything seem so possible? Every turn seemed to say “Life could be awesome!” You probably gained independence, went through the hard work of education, and even landed a job that promised a bright future. People were congratulating you and telling you to work hard and make the world a better place. At least that’s what happened to me.
That, my friends, is called idealism. And, let’s be honest: fresh college graduates are all filled with it—they’ve soaked up four years of knowledge and they’re ready to conquer the world. Muahah! 😉
We Millennials are in our twenties: when everything seems like it could be perfect. The idealism gained from years of education and teachers and mentors encouraging us to change the world seems so attainable right now. And the fast-track to changing the world, it occurs to us, is using our voice and our vote in the system. So we do.
Millennials voted for things that look and sound great in an ideal world because, honestly, we haven’t lived enough life to understand some things that sound great in theory don’t always work out. And, not to mention, the language that is often used in political campaigns is so utterly confusing that it’s hard to distinguish what words actually mean. Political lingo is so nuanced that what sounds good in a campaign speech isn’t always what’s really meant—that goes for both sides of any issue.
Pro-Tip: Affirm the idealism in our young adults; we need idealists because it’s often what drives many positive changes in society. (And know that idealism will probably diminish as life experience is gained.)
The Young And The Inexperienced
Not only are Millennials young enough to not have this kind of philosophical knowledge, we also haven’t had to deal with some things practically yet. Exhibit A: healthcare.
One of the things the last eight years changed was how long a person is able to stay on their parents’ healthcare. Many Millennials haven’t reached that threshold yet; they haven’t had to select plans and endure the headache of paperwork and fine print, write checks to pay insurance bills or see the numbers change on statements. Millennials haven’t had the experience of seeing how political processes affects their personal lives, simply because they haven’t lived long enough.
Pro-Tip: In the same way we have grace for our children when they touch the stove for the first time or climb a tree higher than they should have, let’s have some grace for Millennials who, for many, just haven’t personally felt the effects of an idea.
The Young And The Passionate
One of the things I love about this generation is how passionate we are. Social justice is definitely on the Millennial radar. Our hearts bleed for all sorts of causes, and I think that’s a really cool thing. Whether or not you agree with our passions, I think it’s worth mentioning and affirming Millennials’ passion in our convictions.
I think more than anything, Millennials voted because of the causes and values we are most passionate about, including, but not limited to, racial and gender equality, minority rights, and women’s rights. We saw a candidate that promised to champion the rights of many different people, and we saw a candidate that promised to champion economic growth. Which one sounds more apt to stir up the passion of young people?
Honestly, many of the social justice causes Millennials voted for are valid concerns that are still on the table, and I think we would do well to acknowledge those concerns, though they are extensively nuanced. Because they are held by our friends, our neighbors, our community and church members, regardless of age or how they voted.
We should applaud and encourage each other to be passionate and stand for our beliefs, but if we do so, we cannot turn around and shame each other for voting for those same beliefs. But, that’s not to say those viewpoints cannot be lovingly challenged—keyword: lovingly—and that can go both ways.
Pro-Tip: Graciously listen to their concerns. (Listening goes a long way in relationship-building.) Kindly ask a series of thoughtful questions instead of shaming us for voting for beliefs. (Note: this is prudent, polite rhetoric for any person, any age.)
Please Help Us!
Yes, this political season has been polarizing, to say the least. We as a society have not done well conversing with each other. And for that, I think we should both collectively and individually be ashamed.
But here’s where you can make your post-election difference. Will you please help us? Show Millennials what it means to be kind and to have grace for each other. Teach us with your words and actions how to best engage in conversation regardless of our differing ideological, philosophical, and political beliefs. Speak to and about Millennials with kindness and respect, and set the example for us to follow.
Because Millennials aren’t just the future of our nation. We are the today of our nation, too. And when we all make a better today, we make a better tomorrow, too.