The best part of the Republican National Convention, which was mostly a study in gilded, scripted, failure theater, was Donald Trump’s children speaking. They all nailed their parts, painting a picture of a caring man, a loving father, and a hard-nosed businessman. Obviously the hagiography was on purpose, but equally obvious is that Trump’s kids love and adore him.
He should listen to them more.
Eric, Ivanka, Tiffany, and Donald, Jr. are all under 40. They represent the youthful–albeit rich and famous–wing of America, whose optimism stands in stark contrast to their dad’s #MAGA doom and gloom.
Trump can’t buy the Millennial vote. (Source: Morning Consult, Jul 21)
The message Trump has does well with older white Americans, working-class who saw their parents having gone through World War II, Korea, and even the Great Depression. These people have a direct connection with the deprivation, work ethic, quiet stoicism, and patriotic duty in the face of evil that younger generations lack.
Trump’s generation of baby boomers saw the self-centered, “me” life crushed by foreign competition, closed factories, loss of stable retirement, and disappearance of all the wealth their parents had accumulated for them to succeed. Now their children are socked with ever-increasing student loans, mandatory skyrocketing health insurance, and an out of control national debt.
#MAGA is just as much about guilt as it is about some white-bread America nostalgia. The consumption of the prior three decades could go away if we could just (win the lottery, negotiate better deals, fix the trade imbalance, stop giving away so much to our allies) have someone who can fix our problems for us.
Millennials don’t suffer this guilt. While they have their own issues of self-awareness, inequality, and pampered indulgence, they don’t see things as darkly as their parents. They see opportunity and even optimism.
These young people are liberal in the classical sense of the word. They’re not frightened by terms like “socialism,” they’re not put off by political correctness because that’s all they’ve ever known. Bernie Sanders remains popular because his message is one of curing inequality, not restoring some past greatness.
In February, focus-group maven Frank Luntz conducted a poll showing young Americans are upbeat, liberal, and not attached to Trump’s message.
Luntz’s poll found that young Americans are optimistic about both the country’s future and their own: 61 percent say the best days of the United States are still ahead of us rather than behind us, and 88 percent are somewhat, very, or extremely optimistic about their economic prospects. But they have concerns, too. Their biggest, in order, are “corruption,” “greed,” and “inequality.”
Trump might gain a small amount of ground by hitting Clinton with corruption, but his core message doesn’t resonate enough to capture their attention.
The ironic thing is that when Trump speaks to young people from the heart, about doing what you love, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and applying themselves to whatever it is they put their effort to, he’s very genuine. It’s like a parent giving sage advice to his kids. Trump’s kids have turned out rather well, which is remarkable given their dad’s predilection for cheating and dissembling.
Instead of rally after rally in too-small hotel ballrooms overflowing (so they don’t look empty) with star-struck supporters, perhaps Trump should speak to more college campuses. Or even high schools.
Maybe he should take a step back and let Eric, or Donald Jr., or Ivanka, take the front position for a bit. They’re more reserved, serious, and–well, presidential–than he is.
There’s a reason Hillary has built a wall around herself, and it’s because the more she’s seen, the less people like her. Like the kitchen at a small-town Chinese buffet run by a white man named Butch, where none of the diners are locals, some things are better hidden.
As a Greek tragedy, Trump’s campaign suffers from his Achilles’ heel. His self-worship and need for the media spotlight prevent him from doing the things he could do to help himself, and his party, from losing an entire generation.