For many millennials, American politics is akin to an impure science. To those born in an era of access to nearly limitless information, millennials value truth and honesty a great deal given their aptitude in separating fact from fiction. From such a point of view, they believe politicians embellish accomplishments, propose unrealistic policies, further private interests and occasionally distort the truth outright.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email controversy is a prime example of how millennials’ distrust of a candidate can impact an election. Top Clinton aides have stressed the candidate’s need to win the support of millennials in order to deliver a resounding blow to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign. Millennials form a critical one-third of the electorate, and Clinton has done well by racking up endorsements from politicians popular among millennials from former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D).
Yet her distrust among millennial voters, stemming from her highly publicized dealings with prosecutors over her email server during her tenure as secretary of state, remains a core issue. In interviews and the testimony she gave the FBI she could “not recall” receiving any form of training that disallowed her from using a personal email account for classified information. She also could not recall when she got a security clearance, or when she received training for managing the U.S. government’s Special Access Programs, or the nation’s most closely held secrets. During a 3½ hour hearing, Clinton said she “could not recall,” “did not recall” and “did not remember” 38 times.
Newly released documents over the summer further cloud Clinton’s compliance with the Federal Records Act, which requires federal officials to preserve their work records and submit them to the National Archives when they leave their federal office. According to the FBI, shortly after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Clinton contacted former Secretary of State Colin Powell to ask about his use of a BlackBerry during his term. Powell warned Clinton that by using her BlackBerry, her emails could become public records and subject to the Freedom of Information Act. He reportedly also said, “I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
In an age where falsities and misinformation can be parsed using a Google search, many voters are unimpressed by Clinton’s lack of attention to detail. Arguing she did not know that the letter “C” stood for “Confidential” and could only speculate its meaning is laughable for a seasoned litigator and veteran witness in numerous federal investigations. Over many years, Clinton has been subpoenaed before a grand jury and questioned under oath on several issues, from her Rose Law Firm billing records to her Whitewater real estate investment.
Millennials are puzzled by Clinton’s false statements and the reasoning behind her actions. According to data from SurveyMonkey, Clinton is winning under-25 voters by half as much as Obama did in 2012. In fact, many of these voters voted Democrat in the past, yet their hesitation to back Clinton can possibly stem from her haunting falsities.
As this election has displayed, the millennial generation is not easy to win over. It is a generation that will not hesitate to reject outright partisanship on both sides of the aisle. Millennials gave Clinton less than 30 percent of their votes in key primaries. Clinton cannot make this election about Trump any longer. As much as young people dislike Trump, they still need a push to show up at the voting booths, and it cannot be for the reason of voting for the lesser of two evils.
Clinton’s purported memory troubles have come at a bad time. Millennials value authenticity, and Clinton’s inability to recall and failure to create an issue-centered debate will not win her the support of the younger generation — and this election.
Martha Petrocheilos is a member of the Law Center. The Millennial’s Corner appears every other Tuesday.
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