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Friday, October 28, 2016

The recent economic crisis hit the American middle class hard. But for the youngest adults trying to gain a foothold in the good life, it’s been devastating.

So why did so few millennials, the huge cohort of 18- to 29-year-olds, vote last November? Only 21 percent bothered.

Let’s dispense with the excuse that they don’t feel their elected government cares about them. You don’t get served till you enter the restaurant.

The result of this passivity may soon be apparent. President Obama has issued proposals to restart the middle-class escalator in ways that would be especially helpful to millennials. They include free tuition to community college, expanded tax credits for child care and a tax break for middle-income working couples.

Because these things would be paid for with higher taxes on the very rich, many will be a tough sell to the expanded Republican majority. As we know, the conservative electoral gains were a gift from older voters, who turned out in relatively high numbers.

Many of these folks spend their leisure hours marinating in the glow of Fox News Channel, where they are told what exemplary Americans they are and how younger people without jobs or savings are basically bums. The median age of the Fox News viewer is almost 69. For Bill O’Reilly’s show, it is 72.

Give these older conservatives credit. Their sense that government doesn’t care about them is precisely a reason they vote. They vote whether they like or dislike the president. They vote if it’s raining. In sum, they are doing what they’re supposed to do. Vote.

Much blame for the voting age gap belongs with the various spokesmen purporting to represent the young, generally progressive electorate. They often sympathize with the group’s reasons for not voting rather than telling them to toughen up and dive in.

I wish the TV comics dishing out news kibbles amid the bleeped-out F-words would stop telling the kids not to trust anyone, above all the traditional media. The traditional news media, for all their warts, remain a last holdout for grownup coverage. Actually, serious government reporting, once you start following it, can be fascinating. Toilet jokes not needed.

This trashing of the more reliable sources drowns news consumers in the chaos of social media, where well-written lies and propaganda swirl among the honest reporting. Ironically, the older folks still read the newspaper, even as they often curse its viewpoints.

A poll of millennials conducted last spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics blamed decisions not to vote on a “decrease in trust” in government institutions and a rise in cynicism. Really? Few distrust government more than the older Tea Party folks, who correctly see the voting booth as the remedy for their discontent. They understand that you end up voting for the preferable of two choices, not perfection.

The younger voters, the Harvard pollster went on, “need to feel like they’re making a difference.”

The most obvious way to make a difference would be to vote, would it not? And by the way, it’s truly cracked logic to say that once good leaders magically get themselves elected, we’ll start voting for them.

There are two coherent ways to deal with unworthy politicians. One is to throw them out of office — or keep them out — through one’s vote. The other is to submit to them and not vote.

Too many young Americans choose the submission route. Should the conservative Congress shoot down proposals to help them advance economically, they’ll see the price of going limp.

The politically powerful know they need only one reason to vote: It’s Election Day.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Penn State news via Flickr

  • Theodora30

    My daughter chewed out her friends for complaining when our state banned gay marriage in a mid term election because she knew most of them hadn’t bothered to vote. They shut up after that.
    It is time we stop blaming the government and start putting the responsibility on “We the People” for not voting or for voting without bothering to find out about candidates and issues. People have died for us to have the right to vote so not voting should be shameful, not excused.
    Our schools could do a much better job of preparing kids for responsible citizenship but they are being forced to focus on education for job prep instead. We obsess about science and math test scores but only one state, Az, even has a required citizenship test and that just happened. Kids in that state will haven to pass a 100 question exam, the same exam immigrants have to pass to become citizens. Why isn’t that required in all states? Guess corporate America doesn’t care – or want – people to understand our system of government.

    • mike

      You are correct on many of your points. Corporate America has little to do with our education needs. it is the attitude or lack of, that is permeating this country. The will, will power, that is so lacking by the masses.
      What you left out is the family unit.
      Family is the original department of Health, Education, Welfare, and as it falls apart, everything is going to Hell.

  • Yet another writer who is clueless about federal financing. Froma says, “Because these (benefits) would be paid for with higher taxes on the very rich . . . ”
    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    The federal government is Monetarily Sovereign. It creates its own sovereign currency. It never, never can run short of dollars. Even if all federal tax collections fell to $0, the federal government could pay for anything, forever.

    Federal taxes do NOT pay for federal spending.

    Obama could offer all those benefits without any tax increases. One day, a media writer actually will know what he/she is talking about. Apparently, not yet.

  • FireBaron

    The problem is the Millenials are so used to having everything provided for them, they do not yet realize that their input (i.e. voting) is important to the success of our country.
    They are used to the convenience of logging on to a website, conducting their business (unconcerned with the security of the system), logging off, and going about their business.
    They have developed a 140 character attention span, and cannot understand why people still read things like “War and Peace” or “Remembrance of Things Past”.
    They are convinced that TMZ is as legitimate of a news source as “The Gray Lady” (and not the Ghost character from Harry Potter).
    They are more concerned with what Kim Kardashian isn’t wearing than with what Michelle Obama or Jill Biden are saying.
    So, until they collectively get their needed rectocraniotomy, Boomers like me are going to continue to complain about their lack of participation in our system. Oh, and for the record, I have not missed a primary or election since 1972.

    • joe schmo


      “A growing number of millennials are rethinking their Democratic viewpoints.

      And this shift happens once they start families. In fact, similar to a
      sitcom plot, today’s millennials are transforming from having more in
      common with the hippie anarchist from Occupy Wall Street to now relating more with the pragmatic business executive.

      Moreover, this means in the coming years, there’s going to be millions of young conservative viewpoints seeking representation.”


    • Steve

      “The problem is the Millennials are so used to having everything provided for them”

      Victim blaming. Considering the hoops a millenial has to jump through to secure work and a home compared to generations prior is more than evidence enough that millenials aren’t just entitled moaners. Saying they are smacks more of the avoidant accusations of the haves.

  • Gary Miles

    Utter nonsense. Voting accomplishes nothing other than to legitimize the corrupt system. NOT one candidate that will run for their clan’s nomination are going to change a thing, that’s not what they are there for. They are in the position to ensure nothing changes. Most here are part of the D clan, and I say the some on other sites that are full of the R clan. Stop listening to these lying politicians and let their actions speak. Let the Patriot Act be part of the discussion, did it get repealed when the D clan had control? Despite all the rhetoric, it simply got renewed by new clan in charge. Obamacare isn’t going anywhere, it’s here to stay. The most the R clan will do is change some language and give it a new name, claiming they repealed and replaced, but it will do the same thing.

    Go back in history at some of the major political decisions on some hot topics, reread the rhetoric and then look forward at what happened. NOTHING happened. Remember the opposition to the Civil Rights Act? Do we still have it as law? Remember the opposition to Executive overreach of Bush2? It just got worse, not better. The next President will not change a thing. History is the best Speaker of the House. Both sides talk a different tune, but their actions are the same.

    • TZToronto

      The problem with repealing the Patriot Act is the name. If anyone knows anything about the Patriot Act, he knows that it’s a name right out of Orwell’s 1984 (Ministry or Truth, Ministry of Love), so repealing it sounds unpatriotic. Voters (if they had even heard of it) would wonder why the rights outlined in the Patriot Act [sic] were being trashed. So who wants to repeal something called the Patriot Act? Now, if it were called the Un-American Rights Removal Act, everyone would want to repeal it, and those responsible for its repeal would be praised for saving the country.

      • Gary Miles

        LMAO! I hope you’re not serious. The bottom line is in the actions not the BS. The D clan pissed and moaned about the Patriot Act and how they were so against it (I agreed), then when it came time to back up their words, they renewed the Act. The R clan have pissed and moaned about the ACA, it won’t go anywhere. They’re all on the same team, claiming otherwise to brainwash the masses into believing there is a difference. There action show there is no difference. What can’t people seem to understand?

        • TZToronto

          Hey, Gary! I’m agreeing with you. Why are you arguing? I’m just saying that the name of the act makes it difficult to repeal it. Who wants to be associated with shooting down something that’s called the Patriot Act? Yes, both sides voted for it in a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11, and both sides did so without reading it, apparently. I’m ashamed of the “Ds” for voting to renew it.

          • Gary Miles

            Not arguing, just hoping others read and get the big picture. I did laugh at you post and saw the humor!

        • joe schmo

          We need to scrap the whole thing and start over:)

      • Steve

        A big problem with patriotism is that any country that over-values it can simply wrap up a bad idea in it and make it next to unassailable. self-criticism for a country without emotive rhetoric being a requirement is vital form the health of a fully functional democracy.

        Democracy is about saying “this doesn’t work, let’s fix this”. Passionate emotion regarding the nation is more a hallmark of nationalism.

  • ps0rjl

    An excellent article. Until the millennial show up to vote, nobody will care what they think.

    • joe schmo

      When they don’t vote for Liberals, you will certainly care……

      • ps0rjl

        Since I don’t have your crystal ball or dislike of liberals I will just have to wait to see.

  • joe schmo

    News flash for you Libs. Many Milennial’s have found out how bad your party is. They are beginning to turn Republican. After college these kids graduate to the real world, they come to realize that their Liberal education has fed them nothing but lies…..:) Another I told you so moment……

  • Steve

    You’re suggesting that the only way for young voters to change things is to vote, but the American model of democracy is creaking under it’s inefficiencies and failings, so assuming a young voter’s ballot actually lands somewhere useful, it’ll have one of two very uninspiring and backwards choices which ultimately serve their own ends. Red or blue.
    Very exciting, we’re sure to change the world for the better with such amazing and honourable leadership ready to serve the people with intelligence, civil responsibility and duty, and passion.

    The Red v Blue two-party problem is alive and well across many democracies. A choice of two sides of the same coin is arguably no real choice at all.

    So please excuse us young people (be you American or Brit like me or any other young voter anywhere) for having to take the brunt of the economic crisis we didn’t create, and then disappointing you with our recognition of a thoroughly broken system of democracy that props up the political class at the expense of the rest of us.

    It’s even arguable any ‘millennial’ voting today is effectively endorsing and committing self-harm.