Attention fellow millennials! We as a generation have an epidemic on our hands. No, it is not Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or the threat of nuclear war. It’s the thunderous silence that has characterized our generation during this election cycle.
And it is not because we are not speaking up.
Think of the old riddle “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, the concept is the same. If a meme shared on Facebook bashes the humanity of conservatives or the intelligence of liberals, and no one takes it seriously because they feel attacked, has an argument been made? Statistically speaking, conservative ideologies have always been rooted in older generations whereas liberals tend to be younger. Politics aside, consider the “back in my day” bias that our parents and grandparents already have with regards to our intelligence. Now, add on your stereotypical college campus-idealist-liberal viewpoints. What you are left with is a rambling teenager sharing infographics from “Being Liberal” and “Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash” whose opinions are sure to be ignored if not blocked.
I am not saying that all millennials are emotional leftist liberals. This is simply painting the picture of our generation as the rest of our country sees us. We, as a collective, are screaming for change yet the most response we get is a roll of the eyes.
Facebook rhetoric that we all see on a daily basis is ruining our credibility. Phrases like “How can anyone…?” “I don’t understand how…?” “What moron would…?” while being dramatic and attention grabbing, only show to the other side that you are so disconnected from them that you can no longer fathom an America in which you work together.
Bipartisanship in Congress is not dead, nor is it at an all-time low. In this session of Congress alone, 189 joint resolutions and bills have been signed. Only the media wants us to think that Congress is as divided as we are. Bipartisanship on Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, is all but extinct.
So is millennial credibility so dilapidated that we are no longer capable of debating our Baby Boomer and Generation X counterparts? I would say not at all. We are a hotly political and opinionated generation with the potential to sway the vote in any election. All we need to do is adjust our approach.
This may sound profound, I know. But there IS a way for a liberal to talk to their gun-toting, confederate flag-flying uncle that still uses the term “colored people” and thinks birth control is murder. And young Republicans, there IS a way to talk to your Bernie Sanders-backing classmates who think that the government sets a low minimum wage because they want to starve out minorities and that taxing the rich would make the national debt disappear.
It all comes down to perspective. Be sure to consider cultural biases, local norms, level of education, and adjust accordingly. It is possible to understand an argument that you disagree with. In fact, that is the only way to argue back. When you assume that your counterpart believes what they do because they are a bad person, or that their morals are misplaced, you can no longer say anything to them that will affect their views.
Saying that someone promotes a certain policy because they are a bigot or unintelligent is not a political statement. It is nothing but rude and unproductive. That is not to say that our country is filled with purely the tolerant and educated, but in the context of political discussion, it does you no good. Instead of writing off everyone who disagrees with you as an idiot, try asking “why does this person feel this way? What information will they use to back it up? What is their logic rooted in? How can I present my logic in a neutral way that will appeal to them?”
Ad hominem arguments are like firing a gun with blank bullets. That is why as a generation, it is time to arm ourselves. Load your guns with facts and statistics, not anecdotes and accusations. Keep your tone calm and collected, not loud and emotional. Read the news! (Yes, even sources that lean away from your personal views.) If you clearly know what you are talking about, people will listen. Consider your audience. The arguments and logic that brought you to your views may not work on someone from the other party. Democrats, realize that you will never convince a Republican of something based on it being “politically correct.” Try economic reasoning. Republicans, never use business growth as a case against a Democrat. Always appeal to your opponent’s values, not force your own onto them.
Lastly, know when you are facing a lost cause. Not everyone who has an opinion is looking to be debated, and not every mind can be changed. All we can do is be undeniable in our preparation and understanding, and yes, that means sometimes being able to change your mind when presented with a strong counterargument, and maybe even settle on a compromise.
We are an incredibly passionate generation with the loudest voice on both sides of the aisle. Politics is not about convincing other people why their opinions are wrong, but rather a race towards the center in order to find common ground. The best we can do is advocate for our beliefs and get people on our side, but at the end of the day, something must come of it. Demonizing candidates and politicians is a useless practice that leaves you to be applauded only by those who already agree with you, drawing you closer to the poles of the political spectrum. We as the millennial generation may have the loudest voice, but it is time to get everyone to listen.