By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Throughout the course of the 2016 election cycle, Hillary Clinton has sought to hold together the coalition of voters who assured Barack H. Obama would capture the White House and become the first Black President in 2008 and again four years later. African-Americans, educated and young Whites, Hispanics, Gays and other minority groups are the major forces who make up that coalition she will need to turn out to the polls for her and Tim Kaine on Nov. 8.
But one group that has been slow to support Clinton in 2016 are young White and Black college-educated voters – millennials. Called the millennial, (18-34-years-old), they now outnumber the powerful Baby Boomers (51-69 years of age) as the largest demographic age group, and will define the nation’s political and economic future. Trump has turned off many in this millennial group because of stands on immigration, abortion and other issues the campaigns have been debating through the race.
But during this long election season, the Republicans’ message machine has sought to define Clinton as devious and untrustworthy, using the controversy of her use of a private e-mail server, her husband’s extramarital affairs and questions about the work of the Clinton Foundation to raise the negative view of voters about her personally. Unable to connect with millennials, Clinton has used surrogates such as Bernie Sanders and first lady Michelle Obama to connect with them and urge them to the polls.
Recently the New Journal and Guide talked to a number of millennials, most of whom are attending college locally. They are native to Hampton Roads and other states and many have been watching the election play out over the past year and half. Some are voting for the first time and most are supportive of Clinton. But some admitted flirting with support for Bernie Sanders or a Third Party candidate. None said they were backing Trump.
Dominique Conway is a junior Political Science major attending Hampton University and hails from Murrieta, California. She said police shootings of African-Americans, and the debt created by her college education are just two of the issues she is concerned about in this election. This is the first time she will be voting for president. When Senator Tim Kaine expressed his concern for the police shootings of unarmed Black men during the vice-presidential debate, and supported better police-community relations, that spurred her support for Clinton.
Conway said the mistrust many young voters have for Clinton was driven by their comparing her to Sanders, who seemed more transparent. But his stand on various issues including free tuition for college students was not achievable, after she did more research on the policy and economic feasibility of it. Johnson Littlejohn, Jr., 22, is from Virginia Beach and is a senior Political Science major attending Norfolk State University. He also will be attending law school after graduating. He worked on the 2013 campaign of current Governor Terry McAuliffe.
“So far as the tone of the campaign it has been disappointing because of the personal attacks the candidates have launched at each other,” said Littlejohn. “But I see it more so from Trump, who has been more personal than talking about policy. So I am supporting Clinton.” He said apart from finding ways to lower the cost of a college education, that state and federal lawmakers should devise a means of making it more affordable, or devise a system of tuition forgiveness for people who apply their skills in certain careers such as education or law in underserved and poor communities.
He said that regardless of who wins the upcoming election, he hopes there will be a push to simplify the nation’s tax code, so that middle class incomes can be more readily identifiable. Today it’s between $75,000 to $200,000. “We need a more efficient economic policy, which creates more jobs and training programs to prepare people for them,” Littlejohn said. “We have moved away from a manufacturing economy and most of the jobs are in the service sector and we need more technical and engineering jobs.”
Littlejohn said he and others he knew, showed some interest in U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during his primary run or in Independent Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who preaches a libertarian political stand. “He (Sanders) was consistent on the issues and open,” said Littlejohn, “but the idea of free college tuition and other policy positions he had were not plausible.”
Norfolk native, Quinell Johnson, 29, is a Radiology major at the Norfolk Campus of Tidewater Community College. He has two jobs: a chef at a local restaurant and a gig on the Naval base to make ends meet, until his career in healthcare begins. Johnson voted for Obama twice and at this point is leaning toward voting for Clinton. He was turned off by Trump’s anti-immigrant and “make American great again” sloganeering.
“Clinton has the experience and policy ideas,” said Johnson. “I am not worried about the email issue, because if they had found anything which threatened our national security or indicated she was not competent, they would have killed her candidacy a long time ago.” “I really do not trust Trump because I am worried about him getting us into another war and the idea of a wall between us and Mexico is ridiculous,” said Johnson. “Plus people overseas would think we were a joke. I am also worried about the racial tensions which have come forth with the police shootings. I worry for me as a Black male and my female friends and family because of it.”
Hampton University student and Los Angeles, California native Thiaa Rahmon, 26, is another Political Science major, who is considering law school after her undergraduate schooling.
She said the debates between the two candidates “got on my nerves, due to the bickering and (she) did not appreciate the smear campaign which was being waged by either of them.”
“I am concerned about the student debt, the Republicans blocking the President’s Supreme Court nominee, equality for women economically and socially and the military and how it would be used,” said Rahmon. “I looked at Johnson as a candidate. But he made me nervous with his policies and of course, Trump seemed too extreme, so I settled on Hillary.” “Despite all the negatives about her, she has the most experience so far as policy and she addresses issues I am concerned about,” she said.