Point of View Columns

A Message to Millennials

As the first presidential debate of 2016 approaches it is now a considered fact that the millennial of America are going to be a key determinant of who is the next President of the United States. To put it another way, millennials have a major say as to whether the previously incomprehensible thought that Donald J. Trump could be president could, in fact, become a reality.

What was previously thought to be a no-brainer is now a toss-up. That a serial foe of racial equality, gender respect and basic decency is the nominee of a national political party is a commentary on the Republican Party, the tone and content of socio-political discourse in this country as well as a damning commentary on each and every one of us.

Somehow, in the give and take of what passes for politics, too many of us have failed to teach the relevance of the past to the present and the future. As a result, too many of our millennial brothers and sisters have grown up insulated from the history of the struggle for civil rights, human rights and gender equity. And so, it is time for a Message to Millennials:

Dear Millennials:

For those of you who were born since 1985, I offer you a sincere apology on behalf of those of us who, in a sincere desire for you to embrace an unfettered future, neglected to provide you with the historical details that have brought you to the threshold of that future. By sanitizing and condensing that history, we have unintentionally diminished the true nature and viciousness and ferocity of the forces that have always opposed civil rights and human rights and gender rights that you have rightfully taken for granted.

So, as the 2016 presidential election approaches you should know some very real facts that have nothing to do with the grossness, obscenity and classless nature of Donald Trump. That you might consider it acceptable under any circumstances that such a man could be the successor to President Barack Obama tells me that you have little faith and respect in the governmental process that has brought you to the threshold of that unlimited future that you should rightfully take for granted, but cannot and should not.

So please think about this:

• The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not a constitutional amendment, it is a law. Laws can be repealed and redefined. The right wing of the right wing of the Republican Party, including the Teapublican wing that has been led by Mike Pence, is committed to diminishing the scope and impact of that historic legislation in the name of states’ rights and private property rights.

• The next President of the United States will appoint at least two Supreme Court justices over the next four years. If Donald Trump is president, those two justices will join the Roberts – Alito – Thomas cabal to establish a right wing majority for at least the next decade and you can kiss the rights afforded by the Civil Rights Act goodbye. – That would include the right to go to any restaurant or hotel regardless of race or sexual orientation…..and, there goes marriage equality.

• Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate and he is on the record as looking forward to “the day that Roe v. Wade is on the trash heap of history”. So all millennials, especially female millennials, should speak with your mothers and grandmothers and learn what life was like was like in this country when a woman’s right to choose was the subject of criminal prosecution.

• Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, there have been conservative activists who have dedicated their lives to eviscerating this law which simply protects the rights of black Americans to vote. These banal bigots achieved a huge victory in 2013 when the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted that Voting Rights Act. A Trump presidency will guarantee the end of voting rights equality as a unquestioned goal and we will literally see the slithering serpents of Jim Crow (I hope that you have heard of Jim Crow) come slithering out of their previously sealed tombs.

I am not trying to scare you, but if the truth is fearsome to you, so be it. Please understand that the franchise
that you own was won with the blood and lives of people who you will never know, people of whom you have never heard. Please understand that your vote is worth something more than making a statement.

Please know that the difference between Clinton and Trump is not like the difference between McCain and Obama or even Romney and Obama. This is more like Humphrey and Nixon in 1968.

And I can tell you that, as an 18 year old who thought that there was little difference between Nixon and Humphrey, I was terribly and horribly wrong. Nixon begat Ford who begat Reagan who begat Bush and Bush again.

It is now 2016 and I am asking you to please not make the mistake that was made in 1968. You can’t afford it. This nation cannot afford it.

With much love and respect.

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One thought on “A Message to Millennials

  1. Professor Ford,

    This is an excellent article and it needs to be shared nationally. Maybe as an op-ed piece in one the more widely read vehicles of Millennials. I’ll definitely make it requires reading for my students. I’ve has too many of my students tell me that they are not inspired nor motivated to vote; that their votes hold little significant or impact. On the contrary, as your article attests, they are the voting bloc that will determine the 2016 election.
    Thank you for writing this, sir.

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