Demographics are unmistakable. Millennials (born after 1980) voted for Trump in far fewer numbers than did Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). More than 53% Boomers voted for Trump but more than 55% Millennials voted against Trump. And millions of Millennials are less than 18 years old, who could not vote in the 2016 general elections. There are 120 million Millennials under 34, an emerging voting population that would change the dynamics of electoral politics.
As diversity-supportive Millennials replace diversity-skeptic Boomers, it will be almost impossible for men who denigrate women, racial and religious minorities, immigrants, and praise “good ole days” to win public trust. Trump is the last President of Boomers’ America. Racial animus that has plagued America for centuries may eventually recede as Boomers, guarding the last citadel of old values, exit the scene and Millennials take over.
Of course, all Boomers cannot be labeled as backward-looking. (Broad generalizations are inherently inaccurate.) Millions of Boomers as teachers, government officials, religious leaders, journalists, judges, workers, in numerous ways have made significant contributions to fighting for civil rights and fighting against social and economic inequality. They have tried to build a more generous America.
However, millions of Boomers continue to hold on to a fantasized version of America in which a white male aristocracy is identified with superior intellect, organizational skills, and leadership qualities. Boomers have been willing to make some room for women and non-whites provided the aristocracy hold on to the higher levels of power where important decisions are made. This view of hierarchy has determined social and economic life, including government, sports, universities, and businesses.
Unfortunately, Boomers’ formative consciousness was traumatic. As children and teenagers, Boomers watched a racially-torn America. They experienced the great social conflicts They saw race riots while some parts of the country were under legal apartheid. They saw dogs and water hoses hounding black protesters.
They also witnessed revolutionary changes in America. In 1954, segregation was declared illegal, though it persisted for many years to come. In 1960s, immigration was opened to non-whites. In 1963, the Supreme Court recognized a “constitutional” right to attorney providing protection to defendants trapped in the criminal justice system. In 1966, Miranda warnings stemmed the powers of the law enforcement agencies. In 1967, the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws to be unconstitutional.
Boomers witnessed social forces pulling America out of darkness into the light of shared liberty. After achieving adulthood, millions of Boomers approved the changes but millions were resentful. The resentful millions, mostly living in rural America, got a new voice with Donald Trump (a Boomer). They wish to restore America to its “old grandeur.” Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions are the prime specimen of resentful Boomers.
History, much like a forceful river, cannot stay still. Millennials are replacing Boomers. The formative experiential basis of Millennials is a culturally diverse America. For them, the traditional white-black divide no longer captures the complexity of American social fabric. Vietnamese, Koreans, Somalis, North Africans, South Asians, and many other immigrant groups from all over the world have entered America. If Boomers saw a mostly white and black America, Millennials see a rainbow of races, ethnicities, and religions.
Thus, Millennials are the children of diversity. Their psychology is constructed differently. Millennials have no experience of race-based segregation in schools, buses, restaurants, and swimming pools. They are free to fall in love and marry across racial and gender boundaries. They see the world through the internet and Facebook, and not just local versions of America through local newspapers as did Boomers. There were hardly any mosques when Boomers were growing up in cities and small towns. For Millennials, Muslims and mosques are not exotic. For Boomers, the ownership of America lay exclusively in the hands of white aristocracy. Millennials see no one group has monopoly over key offices at the federal and state levels.
Millennials applauded when the Supreme Court overturned its prior ruling and declared the same-sex marriage as a constitutionally protected right. Millennials do not see Mexicans as intruders. They do not wish to rip off hijab from the face of Muslim women. Millennials cheered when the Supreme Court made it unlawful to discriminate against women wearing hijab. To protest against Trump’s Executive Order to ban Muslims, Millennials crowded the U.S. airports, offering solidarity, comfort, and legal assistance.
Of course, Millennials are not immune from race relations that continue to generate social conflicts. Dylan Roof, who perpetrated the Charleston church massacre, is a Millennial. Richard Spencer, the white supremacist, lives at the cusp of being a Millennial. There will always be diversity-skeptic folks in America, including Millennials. No society is ever healed fully from its chronic ills.
Boomers will leave behind a mixed record and a controversial presidency of Donald Trump. There are verifiable clues that Millennials will not follow the psychology or white nationalism that the Trump team is advocating. Diversity will flourish in the decades to come and the alarmist notions of national security will lose credibility. The wall, if built by Boomers, may well be dismantled by Millennials. Millennials see the Muslim faith as part of American plurality. Trump presidency is the last show of Boomer’s America, which the Millennials may or may not allow to be fully performed.