American Millennial: what’s happening in America?

| October 14, 2016

The US presidential elections are around the corner, and the world is looking on with a mixture of fascination and bafflement. Alex Guzmán says she and her fellow American Millennials finally understand that political apathy won’t have any impact on the current state of the US. She is angry and ready for change.

What the hell is going on in America? How did Donald Trump get this far? These are the questions I’m asked almost daily as an American Millennial in Australia. The answer to both those questions are usually: I have absolutely no idea.

For those of you not following the 2016 presidential election in the United States, let’s talk about the candidates:

The only people that matter currently are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But before the primaries there was Bernie Sanders, a hopeful Democratic candidate who inspired the Millennial generation to care about politics and their futures.

You may be asking yourself “Why?” or “He’s an old man, how could he possibly be connecting to the youngest generation of voters?”. Here’s something about American politics you may not know: We don’t have compulsory voting like Australia does. Because of this, many Americans don’t vote. And it’s typically the youngest people eligible to vote that are least inclined to do so. The only way to reduce voter apathy is making us care about the issues at hand – and Bernie did just that.

Millennials don’t really care, do they? They are always on Twitter or Facebook, right? Let me tell you, underneath my sarcasm and love for selfies (it’s okay, we all do it) there’s anger about the current state of the US.

My anger is aimed towards many things – the generations before me for starting wars and a worldwide recession; how impossible it is to get a job without five+ years of experience; my growing college debt, etcetera, etcetera. I know that the system needs to change. But who is going to be the champion of that change?

Then seemingly out of nowhere, this old guy from Vermont says “It’s time to make college tuition free and debt free”. You’ve got my full attention, Bernie Sanders.

So what are some of the other issues American Millennials care about that Bernie Sanders addressed?

Minimum wage: Although it differs from state to state and city to city, the minimum wage is not great (the Federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour) and certainly not livable. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between the US and Australia is that here in Australia you don’t have to tip, because it’s expected that the wage your waitress or grocery store clerk is making is enough to survive. This is not the case in America. Most waiters and shop store clerks make their living off of tips, and even that isn’t always enough. Bernie Sanders is pro living wage and pro equal pay for women (If you haven’t heard, women only make 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s a 20% wage gap).

Climate Change: If you hadn’t noticed, the world is in a bit of a pickle. There is a virtually unanimous consensus among scientists that climate change is real and we’re verging on “Oops, it’s too late to do something, the world is screwed.” That’s all thanks to the generations before us who haven’t done much to stop it (note the sarcasm here). Well, now it’s my generation’s turn to do something, and we need someone in the highest office to support that. Bernie Sanders is for reclaiming democracy from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby and investing in clean sustainable energy.

That’s just a selection of the many, many, more topics of concern.

Since Bernie Sanders didn’t become the Democratic nominee, he then endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. This endorsement has deeply divided Millennials, with some calling Bernie a sellout for supporting a candidate who happily takes money from Wall Street and who voted in favour of the Iraq war (something Bernie voted against).

Some of those who now feel betrayed have decided against voting in the presidential election altogether, or they have decided to either write in Bernie Sander’s name or vote for the Libertarian or Green Party instead.

I think this response is wrong and only increases the likelihood that Donald Trump will be my country’s next President. Obviously Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, he would be crazy not to, and while I may disagree with several of her past choices, you can’t argue with the fact that she’s a million times better than Trump.

But more than ‘voting for the lesser of two evils’, which can be a harmful mentality in itself, Hillary is extremely qualified for the position, having actually held public office before (unlike Trump), serving as the Secretary of State.

While talking about Bernie Sander’s policies may seem irrelevant now, I’m here to tell you they’re not. Political apathy is dangerous. Bernie got the conversation going; he ignited a fire in the hearts of millions of Americans that are now inspired to vote in the 2016 presidential election and hopefully every election going forward.

Before this election I didn’t have a reason to care about politics; I couldn’t vote. I’m 20, and suddenly I’m seeing the world differently. I’ve realised that the next President of the United States will make a significant impact on my future. The next President of the United States will be electing a judge to the Supreme Court, the highest court in America, will be deciding how much I pay on taxes, what kind of health care I will be receiving and may very well be deciding how much money I’ll have when I retire.

This matters. This is my life and I want a say in it. Yes, it’s true, my one vote probably doesn’t have any impact on the world, but political apathy certainly doesn’t, and I’d like to be able to tell my children I did everything I could to make the world a better place for them; that I voted to make this country the place I want it to be.

We Millennials are waking up, and we’re ready for change.



  1. Max Thomas

    Max Thomas

    October 21, 2016 at 6:27 am

    My Generation

    It seems like only yesterday that being almost 70 would have been unimaginable to me, Alex. We railed against earlier generations too, for the wars, the depression, repression and "The Bomb". We were conscripted for military service before we could vote and women were forced to quit work when they married. People who knew about the 'greenhouse effect' did struggle to raise awareness of the potential consequences, even when the science was much less convincing than it is today. And the forces of reaction were so formidable as to make Trump look moderate. One of our heroes has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature. He too was reviled by some for 'selling out'; for going his way and not the way they chose for him. Most of us take a while to grow into our own skin before we dare to challenge the status-quo or, as Dylan put it: "Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." As we say, Alex, "good onya", go out and do your best. I sincerely hope it's way better than we were able to do but please remember, if we have a clearer view today it is because we stand on the shoulders of those who went before.