Here’s a shock no one expected. Millennials are evenly split between Trump and Hillary.
Which means the reason that Trump has closed with Hillary is due almost entirely to a massive swing by Millennials to Trump if Bernie Sanders is not the nominee. In March Millennials preferred Hillary to Trump 64-25. In May it is 45-42. No other age group shows differences of more than low single digits. Bernie’s fierce attacks on Hillary these past two months have not changed many voters’ minds except among those under thirty years old, nearly half of whom now detest Hillary and the Democratic party so much they see Donald Trump as the better alternative. It’s not Bernie or Bust for those kids, it’s Bernie or Trump. Racist Trump, misogynist Trump, bullying Trump, some even say fascist Trump, he has now become the choice of half of the under thirty vote. Keep in mind that only 20% of Bernie’s supporters still believe he can be nominated. So most of those who are prepared to switch their allegiance to Trump after the primaries are done have already made up their minds, and somehow they are able to transition from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump like it was nothing. How I have no idea. Bernie and Trump have nothing in common except a mutual antipathy for Hillary Clinton. But apparently that is enough.
I just read a long, beautifully written and scary piece by Josh Zeitz in Politico (“Why Bernie’s Bros Might Go for Trump“) that showed that in 1968 18% of the young white supporters of Eugene McCarthy voted for George Wallace that November, rather than voting for the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey, a quintessentially New Deal Democrat with an excellent record on civil rights, was seen as the enemy who had stolen the nomination. McCarthy’s voters switched to Wallace in huge numbers, though many came back, reluctantly, to Humphrey after Wallace selected super hawk Curtis LeMay as his running mate. Still, that 18% who voted for Wallace in the end was more than enough to give the election to Nixon.
And in 1980, when Ted Kennedy’s challenge to Jimmy Carter failed after a strong finish, twenty-seven per cent of Kennedy’s primary voters voted for Ronald Reagan rather than vote for Carter. But it gets worse:
A New YorkTimes/CBS exit poll revealed that 38 percent of Reagan voters cast their lot with the former California governor because they believed it was “time for a change.” Only 11 percent voted for him because “he’s a real conservative.” “It’s the first time I ever voted Republican,” said a Michigan resident. “But I’m sick and tired of the mess that’s going on in this country.” (Zeitz, Politico)
That is, over three times as many people voted for Reagan in 1980 because “it was time for a change” than voted for him because he was a conservative. They wanted change for the sake of change. That is Trump all over, who seems to be running for the sheer fuck of it. How many voters will vote for him for the sheer fuck of it? Apparently half of Millennials, who would not benefit one iota from a Trump presidency. Just two months ago, in March, Millennials were overwhelmingly opposed to Trump. He was the butt of their jokes. But that was before the Bernie Sanders campaign began its scorched earth campaign, driving his voters into a frenzy of anti-Hillary and anti Democratic Party hatred. And a lot of them do hate Hillary now, and it’s a mean and angry hatred–remember that scene in Nevada? And as Trump is mean and apparently angry–if his is genuine anger instead of crude political theater–he is a natural draw as Bernie’s campaign comes to a bitter end. Thus the stunning result of half of voters 18-29 years old becoming Trump voters. Just as the Bernie campaign swelled to huge crowds out of nowhere, this transition was stunningly fast. If Trump wins this November, it could well be white Millennials that put him over. Bernie’s voters. He had nearly 9 out of 10 millennials at the beginning of the year, but that didn’t mean they were socialists after all. Maybe half were. The others just like rallies and excitement and free college, apparently.
This is a kick in the stomach to Bernie Sanders. Perhaps he and his campaign manager are so caught up in their war to reform the Democratic Party they haven’t noticed. But early on, in New Hampshire, this was all about a huge wave of Millennials who would rise up as one and vote for democratic socialism. That was forgotten sometime in March and April, when the campaign got caught up in a series of ferociously contested caucuses. He won all of them, but in doing so the message changed from winning hearts and minds in primaries to the bitter intra-party trench fighting that is a caucus. Suddenly rules and parliamentary tricks and backroom chicanery takes precedence, and the two sides glare and shout at each other across crowded rooms. Democracy is not really important there, it’s all power games, and the other side becomes the enemy. Bernie’s campaign piled their fervent activists into these caucuses like they were at war to make up for their catastrophic losses in the South. By the time the race got to New York, Bernie’s revolution had degenerated into accusations of cheating and fraud and voter repression, and Hillary’s campaign and its supporters became blood enemies. It was an unrequited hatred, mostly, though I don’t think Hillary’s campaign and its supporters realized they were hated with such intensity until that explosion in Las Vegas.
So now nearly half of Bernie’s voters are Trump supporters. It’s a potential electoral disaster for Hillary, but its worse for Bernie’s legacy. His kids, the Millennials, the ones who cheer his every word and are the foot soldiers of the Bernie Revolution, well half of them aren’t revolutionaries at all. Indeed, they have abandoned his revolution in droves for its real arch nemesis, Donald Trump. Half of Bernie’s young army has deserted democratic socialism, his revolution is in tatters, and he may well have spawned a wave of very angry white men reactionary politics. Feel the burn.