I don’t need political polls to tell me Hillary Clinton has a black millennial voter problem.
I can just ask the one I raised.
My 22-year-old college-student daughter, founder of a campus group for womanists (African American feminists), expresses no desire to help Clinton become America’s first woman president.
Because she, like many other black millennials, has marched to protest police violence against African Americans. (School commitments kept her from joining the protests after the Keith Scott shooting). Clinton, she says, is no friend of the Black Lives Matter movement. Plus there’s that business of Bill Clinton’s 1990s war on drugs, which intensified mass incarceration and decimated black families.
She’s certainly not voting for Trump, either. She sees him as a racist, sexist pig. But she simply doesn’t trust Hillary, despite the Democratic nominee’s promises to attack implicit bias and to pursue criminal justice reforms. She’s not even moved by Clinton’s support from the Mothers of the Movement – women like Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.
I’ve stressed that President Trump would be more hostile to her causes than a President Clinton. But as she sees it, both are unacceptable, just corrupt cogs in the machinery of anti-black oppression.
Many other black millennials share that assessment, much to the puzzlement of their parents and older relatives.
A recent GenForward survey from the University of Chicago found that Clinton is on pace to win the same percentage of young voters as Obama did in 2012 (60 percent), but her coalition of young voters is whiter. About three-fourths of blacks ages 18-30 say they will vote for Clinton, down from the 91 percent who supported Obama in 2012. In an evenly divided state like North Carolina, that matters. A lot.
I don’t begrudge her generation its skepticism. I was just out of college in 1992, when Bill Clinton went before Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition group and criticized African American rapper Sister Souljah.
It won him praise from political insiders, who saw courage and political independence. I saw a cynical politician making a calculated play for “Reagan Democrat” votes.
Jesse Jackson got my write-in vote for president.
So no, don’t let your vote be taken for granted. But on the flip side, don’t get so puritanical about your lofty ideals that you disdain voting, lobbying and coalition-building – the grunt-work of social change.
While you’re raging at the machine, harness that rage and point it at specific goals. If street protesting doesn’t give birth to new laws and policy, it’s just exercise.
In our conversations, my daughter eventually goes quiet. As outspoken as she is, I know she’s just respectfully hearing me out while I Dad-drone on. She fully intends to follow her own mind – even if that means not casting a vote to stop Trump, a dangerously impulsive man whose authoritarian leanings place American democracy itself at risk.
I comfort myself with the knowledge that this, too, is freedom – the license to make your own political choices, even the ones that drive your dad up the wall.
I suppose this is progress, millennial style. She finally did vote late last week, after much prodding from me.
She didn’t tell me how she voted. And I didn’t ask. We raised her to think for herself. That’s just what she did.
Eric: 704-358-5145; firstname.lastname@example.org.