SAN DIEGO – Given the spiteful nature of the second presidential debate, you might be surprised to learn that there is one policy item on which Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton actually seem to agree.
They both are pandering to young voters by essentially promising to create dream jobs – that is, the kind of fulfilling and rewarding opportunities that many young people always envisioned they’d have right out of college.
Both candidates are wrong to do so. And no matter who wins, the country is likely to wind up on the losing end.
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Still, for those whose expectations are not being met, the struggle is real. I spend a fair amount of time speaking on university campuses, and many students tell me outright that the only reason they’re even going to college in the first place is because they expect to land a great-paying job with three weeks of vacation within hours of getting their diploma. If you mention a phrase like “the pursuit of knowledge,” they’ll either get angry or laugh in your face.
The new battleground in this election are disgruntled 20-something voters who – according to most polls – don’t support either Trump or Clinton. Instead of following other Americans in grudgingly choosing the lesser evil, many millennials seem to be debating between going to the polls at all or simply staying home on the couch.
Many of these young people had been enthusiastically supporting Bernie Sanders, and they were not all persuaded by the Clinton campaign’s lazy strategy for winning them over after the Vermont senator exited the race. In a nutshell: “Stand with Hillary. She’s not Trump.”
Any remaining chance that Clinton had to woo these young voters was likely torpedoed by the recent release of embarrassing emails by WikiLeaks that suggest the Democratic primary election was rigged all along in Clinton’s favor.
The latest leak reveals that interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile, while serving as a supposedly neutral vice chair in January, cozied up to the Clinton camp by forwarding to it an email from the Sanders team announcing a planned Twitter storm from Sanders’ African-American outreach effort. “Thank you for the heads up on this, Donna,” responded Clinton campaign spokesperson Adrienne Elrod.
An earlier release of documents showed that Clinton is quite comfortable with having both a public position and a private one. It also showed that Clinton promised Wall Street bankers that they would have a seat at the table and the chance to help draft regulations for the financial industry. After all, Clinton said, who knows the banking sector better than the people who run it?
None of this endears the former secretary of state to young voters, who are probably more cynical now than they were before this election.
No worries. If Clinton wins, she also promises to find work for what she calls the “children of the Great Recession” who are “living in their parents’ basement.”
Clinton seems to think she has the millennials all figured out.
“They feel they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves. And they don’t see much of a future,” the Democratic nominee said at a private fundraiser in McLean, Virginia.
Not to be outdone, Trump is also moving on young voters.
During a recent visit to Las Vegas, the Republican nominee referred to “college students who graduate loaded with debt only to discover they can’t find jobs or at least not the jobs they want or the jobs they trained for and worked so hard to get.” Because, as Trump put it, “those jobs have left.”
This is campaigning on the cheap and easy. The appeal is not honest; no matter what we envisioned in college, it takes many of us years or decades to find our dream jobs. This approach is not empowering; making people dependent on politicians only empowers the politicians. It’s not how life works; you get jobs, lose some jobs, leave other jobs, get new jobs, accept new opportunities or create your own. Most of all, it’s not the responsibility of government to coddle young adults and make sure that their employment opportunities leave them feeling happy and fulfilled, only that they have sufficient opportunity.
Politicians will say anything to get a vote. But, whatever is said during an election, young people should realize that they have to work hard, take risks and persevere to get ahead.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.