No matter what she does, Hillary Clinton just isn't gaining any ground with young voters.
It's no secret she's struggling in this arena, while her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, seemingly has an army of Millennials behind him.
For example, Sanders might've lost the Democratic Iowa caucus (by a hair), but he dominated in terms of the youth vote.
In Iowa, a whopping 84 percent of Democratic voters between the ages of 17 and 29 voted for Sanders while just 14 percent voted for Clinton.
84% of the Democratic #IowaCaucus participants under the age of 30 voted for Bernie Sanders. Obama got 57% in 2008. — Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) February 2, 2016
Millennials helped catapult Barack Obama to the White House twice. As the largest and most diverse generation in US history (and the largest voting bloc in the nation), they have the potential to make or break this election. This is precisely why Clinton should be so concerned.
So, why is she struggling so much to win over young voters?
It's simple: Clinton fails to instill this generation with hope.
That's the difference between her and Sanders. He succeeds in stirring the passions of young people, and she makes them feel like they're drinking flat soda.
There's a deep emotional aspect in Bernie's campaign, evident in his campaign ads. On the other hand, in spite of her experience and notoriety and the prospect of her becoming the first female president in US history (which would be a HUGE deal), Clinton has not been able to generate similar sentiments with a majority of young voters.
When it comes down to it, Millennials seem to connect with Sanders because they feel like he really cares, and even if they don't agree with all his viewpoints, it's clear they appreciate his unquestionable convictions.
While Clinton seems to run her campaign as if she's checking off a list, Sanders almost always feels like he's improvising. When Hillary suggests major changes are unrealistic, Bernie responds saying enough is enough.
He makes young people think the way things should be actually could be.
That's the power of hope -- it's the belief what was deemed impossible isn't so improbable after all.
Even if his policy proposals are completely unrealistic, as Clinton characterizes them, Sanders manages to convince young people he can help them build a better and brighter future.
Indeed, he succeeds in acting as the friend Millennials never knew they had, rather than the crazy drunk uncle at Thanksgiving Hillary's campaign seems determined to paint him as.
Millennials want a president who acts like a partner in progress, not a parental figure who sets limits. Hillary acts like the latter. She's like that parent who tries too hard to be cool and fails miserably in the process.
Even the celebrities Clinton brings forward to promote her cause -- from Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian West to Demi Lovato and Katy Perry -- aren't helping. It almost feels more like she's name-dropping and reminding people of her clout than receiving legitimate endorsements, and it reeks of desperation.
You can't convince this generation to vote for you with celebrity endorsements. In attempting to do so, Clinton implied she thinks Millennials are more style than substance, which is inherently insulting.
We might be addicted to our smartphones and definitely spend too much time on social media, but that doesn't mean we don't give a sh*t about the myriad problems standing before us. Taking a selfie with Kim Kardashian West is cute, but it's not going to make us vote for you.
#FeelTheBern #votetogether pic.twitter.com/3Qzd4r39pm — Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) February 8, 2016
But, all these individuals embody a certain edginess that's come to represent Sanders' campaign, not Clinton's. Their support for him feels genuine, not calculated.
Killer Mike, in particular, plays a very active role in Sanders' campaign.
#Squad #Freeguwap RT @ohyougatherer: #squadgoals: @BernieSanders & @KillerMike. pic.twitter.com/WrphRXTR77 — Killer Mike (@KillerMike) December 15, 2015
This is not to say the overwhelming Millennial preference for Sanders is simply based on his image as some try to suggest.
No, this isn't about image. It's about the candidate's respective messages and the ways they attempt to get these messages across to Millennials.
Bernie is very careful to present his campaign as one not about him but about the people -- especially, young people.
This is a people's campaign. pic.twitter.com/iy45wvALPX — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 9, 2016
But more than anything, it's apparent young people love the way his campaign represents what feels like a genuine "f*ck you" to the status quo.
He's anti-Wall Street, pro-marijuana decriminalization, pro-LGBTQ+ rights, anti-interventionism, pro-universal health care, anti-death penalty, pro-choice, pro-renewable energy (the antithesis of climate change denial), pro-criminal justice reform and pro-free college tuition.
While many continue to portray his policy proposals as radical, young people appear to view them as common sense (and it doesn't hurt they have a relatively favorable view of socialism).
Meanwhile, from the perspective of many young voters, Hillary offers a static approach to politics.
Her position on marijuana is a prime example.
A majority of Americans, especially Millennials, favor legalizing pot -- not just because they want to get stoned, but because they see it as a vital step toward ending the War on Drugs.
To her credit, Clinton contends it's ridiculous marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug (considered to be on the same level as heroin), and she wants to reclassify it. She's open to the idea medical marijuana could be helpful but wants to see more research in this regard.
She stops short of promoting the decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level and opposes the legalization of recreational use.
Shifting her position on this would not be an extreme move in the current political climate and could undoubtedly help her with young voters. Not to mention, it's arguably the correct thing to do for numerous reasons. But, she refuses to budge.
Marijuana legalization is hardly the most important issue we face as a country, nor is it the top priority of young voters (according to a recent USA TODAY/Rock the Vote poll, young voters say it's the economy).
Still, Hillary's position on weed is emblematic of why many young people view her as a representation of past failures, instead of the candidate who can bring about the changes they desire.
With that said, Hillary and Bernie actually have very similar positions on a number of major issues. However, Clinton fails in making that clear to young people, presenting herself as the reasonable alternative to his "radical" proposals.
To borrow from Charles M. Blow of The New York Times,
Sanders’s rhetoric plays well to young folks’ anxiety and offers a ray of hope. He wants to fix the system they see as broken, and he’s not new to those positions. He has held many of the same positions most of his life, but they have never had as much resonance as they do now… Clinton, on the other hand, represents much of what they distrust or even despise. There is an aura of ethical ambiguity — from the emails to the Wall Street paid speeches to the super PACs. There is the legacy of [Clinton's] military hawkishness, including her Iraq war vote. There is the articulation of her positions that are at odds with young folks’ aspirations and sensibilities, like saying… ‘I don’t believe in free college,’ and saying that she continues to support capital punishment. But possibly the most damaging of Clinton’s attributes is, ironically, her practicality. As one person commented to me on social media: Clinton is running an I-Have-Half-A-Dream campaign.
Clinton thinks she can win over voters by presenting herself as a pragmatic and realistic alternative to Sanders.
To be fair, many of her policy proposals are quite progressive and might very well be more reasonable than those of Sanders, particularly regarding health care and education. This is why she accumulated significant support among older Democrats.
But, she fails to recognize young people aren't looking for a practical candidate.
Young people want a candidate with bold ideas. They want one who will turn the country they view as an immense disappointment completely inside out. They want one who will, as Bernie puts it, bring about a "political revolution."
And should anyone be surprised?
This is the generation that came of age around 9/11, grew up through the War on Terror and the Great Recession and watched the country's economy and international reputation plummet.
While many Millennials would likely agree President Obama repaired much of the damage from the Bush years (and from some of the less beneficial policies of the Clinton years, for that matter), they still want more, and that's what Sanders represents to them.
Until Hillary is willing to offer more, she will not win over this generation.