Why are millennials progressively (pun intended) leaning more towards the left side of the political spectrum, rather than the right? Why did 55 percent of millennials vote for Hillary Clinton compared, to 37 percent for Donald Trump?
The numbers are roughly similar to the 2012 election, where 60 percent of millennials preferred Barack Obama to 37 percent for Mitt Romney. In fact, the 5 percent that Clinton lost compared to Obama actually benefited Bernie Sanders the most, exposing a pull even further to the left for young voters. In party affiliations, a similar story can be found: 57 percent of millennials lean Democrat vs. 36 percent leaning Republican, according to the Pew Research Center. So, what explains this inevitable drag of millennials farther left? And why the growing desertion of young adults from the Republican Party?
To understand a perceptual shift in the mindset of a certain segment of the population, it is helpful to look at their social circles where they may be influenced. When it comes to young people, look no further than our universities.
The growing phenomenon of political correctness has immensely affected colleges. That is easy to understand when you consider that liberal professors outnumber conservative ones by a 12 to 1 ratio, an unbelievably worrying statistic.
The university is where a lot of one’s self-esteem is formed, and where young impressionable minds first seek guidance outside of their immediate family. Such guidance is provided by professors and faculty who hold tremendous respect and credibility in the eyes of students. This is a dangerous equation, because students often look up to this infrastructure for mentorship. When it is professors inciting this behavior, there is no authority ensuring some crucial boundaries are not crossed.
The university is now a prime outlet of left-leaning influence on young people. It is not uncommon to see incredibly violent protests by college students in opposition to a conservative speaker, whose opinions are deemed “hateful and oppressive.” Mass vandalism and mob rule are deemed a fit responses to free speech. The University of Chicago, University of California, Berkeley, and even my very own NYU have been victims of such phenomena. Protesters often have the full support of their professors and faculty, who serve as either inspiration or motivators in these endeavors.
The appearances of conservative speakers Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos at colleges are routinely and frequently interrupted, or even canceled by university leadership. On the other hand, the appearances of ultra-left-wing speakers only seem to increase. Look no further than the rise of Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of January Women’s March, whose family ties to Hamas and Hamas-funding organizations have been well-documented. She was hastily invited to be the commencement speaker at the taxpayer-funded City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.
Even when university faculty are not directly forbidding conservative speakers from appearing, they often cancel the event for fear of an escalation of the violence by the protesters. Giving into "Heckler's Vetoes" sends students a message from university administrators: if you make enough of a mess, we will shut down events you don't agree with. Is that a good lesson to teach impressionable students?
Other instances of infringement of free speech include college administrations forbidding words such as “fireman” or “mankind” less the “gender neutral” or female population take offense to such un-specificity. Never has the offense to freedom been so great than when instituted by academic institutions, who see themselves fit to forbid words.
We have now seen where this ultra-left mentality promulgates, but what of the Right? Surely the blame must also lie in the deserted. And indeed, it does.
Over the past couple decades, the Republican Party has not formed an attractive platform for young people, and subsequently stuck to policies that repulsed the newer generation, who happen to have a much higher progressive standard than that of its predecessors.
One particular subject I believe to be primarily responsible for this is religion. According to Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, the rejection of religion within millennials is very real. Four surveys have been conducted between 1966 to 2014 involving 11.2 million American adolescents between the ages of 13 to 18. They found that millennials were less likely to attend religious services, less likely to say religion was important in their lives, and less approving of religious organizations than Boomers and Gen X’ers were at the same age. In fact, millennials are widely considered to be the least religious generation yet.
This movement away from theology can be explained by the historically-induced and inevitable shift of society away from religious influences and towards a more scientific approach to thought. Knowing this renders the unattractiveness of the Right more understandable, with Republican platforms to this day refusing to bend on religiously-related issues such as homosexual marriage and abortion, often providing no rational argument other than divine scripture.
With such policies, the Right has alienated a very susceptible progressive mass of young thinkers who very often believe themselves revolutionary. Youth have defined themselves by their opposition to the perceived “old school of thought” and brandish modernism as their flagship. A similar mentality was observable in May 1968 in France, where General De Gaulle was portrayed as the incarnation of the “old way of thought”, while young people prided themselves in their opposition to it.
Such generational shifts can be witnessed over multiple eras, but the latest one, currently affecting the majority of higher education, seems to be a particularly violent and intolerant one, not shamed by censoring free speech and difference of opinion to ensure its monopoly on public thought.
Perhaps the emergence of a more current, secular version of the Right, more progressive on social issues while remaining common-sensical and capitalist in regards to the free-market economy would bring back a lot of lost adherents and give reassurance to those of us still ardent believers in a secular ethical common sense.
To the phrase: “If you’re not a socialist before you’re 25, you have no heart; if you are a socialist after 25, you have no head.” The thinking man is due to reply, “Well, why not always have both?”
Louis Sarkozy is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a student in philosophy and religion at New York University. He is the youngest son of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
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