Viewpoint: Change on the horizon for political parties
By Erica Learned
While many Americans have focused on the controversies surrounding the presidential candidates over the past twelve months, an overlooked political revolution has begun. Millennials, who as of 2015 have become the second largest voter group in America, feel abandoned in the moderate middle as the two major political parties venture further and further in polar directions.
Compounding the party issue, Millennials are increasingly untrusting of the federal government’s judgment. The result is inevitable – the political party structure cannot remain in its current state. Millennials (ages 18-35) have become more vocal about their distrust of government institutions by way of third party support. The result of this will be an irrevocable change, meaning a return of more moderate values for the average voter or even death to the two current political parties.
According to a 2016 poll conducted by Harvard University; eighty-two percent of millennials say they can “never” or “sometimes” trust Congress. Three in four millennials (74%) feel they also “never” or “sometimes” trust the Federal Government to do “the right thing”, while two in three (63%) express similar feeling towards the President of the United States.
The most prominent example of this distrust is the GOP electing Donald Trump, a Washington outsider as their presidential nominee.
Generally, Trump’s supporters feel voiceless in government affairs. According to a 2016 RAND survey the easiest way to identify a Trump supporter is their level of agreement with the phrase “People like me don’t have any say about what government does”.
In this time of change, the Democratic party has not been immune. In the 2016 Democratic primaries the Clinton campaign was met in opposition by Senator Bernie Sanders. His ‘progressive’ views swayed millennial voters, while those old enough to remember a Bill Clinton presidency favored Secretary Clinton. This created an instant gap between Clinton supporters and the young voters who are discontent with Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee.
The result has forced many young Liberals to turn to an alternative candidate, in either Gary Johnson with the Libertarian party, or Jill Stein with the Green Party. A write in campaign for Bernie Sanders on the presidential ballot has also gained traction in the past month, giving liberal millennials yet another choice amidst the chaos.
According to a Poll conducted by Real Clear Politics, nearly 18 percent of the American population are projected to vote ‘neither or other’ in the Nov. 8 election. The majority of which (12%) are young democrats who are unsatisfied with Clinton as a candidate.
Though the Democratic party has rallied in time for the 2016 presidential election, the basis for these internal divisions will likely continue after the polls close.
It is difficult to detect the exact moment a party shifts, but evidence reflects America may be on the cusp of its latest one.
The Democrat and Republican parties have switched platforms many times in the past, typically spurred by change in legislation or major historical events (i.e. the Civil War, The Great Depression).
This magnitude of government mistrust by young voters rivals that of public opinion following President Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. The result of which changed the political landscape forever.
The fact that young voters are untrusting of their government may not be a novel idea, but is certainly contributing to a modern shift in traditional political parties. Fragmentation amongst both the GOP and Democratic party have used the change that millennials are now spearheading to fill in the gaps. Major changes are on the horizon for the structure of political parties, but we will only begin to experience the full impact of these alteration once the polls close.