Originally published on the Star Tribune Blog.
A CNN post popped up on my feed recently, stating that millennials are more conservative than we may think. As a member of the College Republicans, a very small group on campus, I was fairly shocked by the headline. But according to a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, millennials are more likely to call themselves a conservative than either of the two generations before us were. So this lead me to ask what seemed to be the obvious question: If millennials are more likely to identify as conservatives, why do they seem to so passionately dislike Trump? Granted, I go to a small, private liberal arts school in Minnesota. My experience with campus politics is no doubt very different from others. Nevertheless, I speak from my experience on why I think our college culture breeds anti-Trump activists.
1. The PC Way
College is all about political correctness. With PGPs and safe spaces abounding, students in college today are trained to be careful. From day one, every teacher includes a “Statement of Inclusion” on his or her syllabus. Students include their gender pronouns in the signature of their emails. Say you’re not a feminist and you immediately become a misogynist. The list goes on. It has been ingrained in the mind of every recent college student to use extreme caution when speaking, as to not offend someone.
Donald Trump is quite clearly the opposite of this. His unfiltered railing and ranting is like nails on a chalkboard to our college-trained ears. When he says he wants to “deport illegal immigrants,” college students hear racism. His sexist comments from the 90’s are enough to sway a young person’s vote. And when he talks about corporate and individual tax cuts, we can’t help but start to chant “we are the 99 percent.” College students are taught to be extremely caution about what they speak and write. Trump, with his unfiltered banter, is just too far from what we think is right.
2. We Are All Social Justice Warriors
Everyone must have a cause. College students are expected to campaign for and adamantly help and protect those we decide to be “disadvantaged.” And to show how charitable and selfless we are, we slap a sticker on our laptop or pin a button to our backpack. But even these small, small gestures of recognition of a cause instantly boost our egos. We tell others we’re involved with charities because we’re changing lives, but we all secretly know it’s just because it will look good on our grad school application. Nevertheless, we still see ourselves as social justice warriors; heroes to the disadvantaged everywhere.
Trump, with his focus on American values and the American economy, is a disgrace to our socially aware selves. Our laptop stickers cringe when we hear “lower taxes” and the buttons on our backpacks try to escape at the sound of anything vaguely capitalistic. Because anything that benefits America, we have been taught, causes terror and hardship for the rest of the world.
3. Patriotism is Frowned Upon
“Make America Great Again” is irrelevant to college students because we can’t believe that America has been or ever will be anything but selfish and greedy. I’m reading a book for class right now on how capitalism is causing climate change. Last year, we discussed how the Constitution set us up for failure. I’ve even heard students chastise one another for claiming that America is the greatest country in the world. Because what’s focused on in the college classroom is not the insanely cool experiment that is America, but the horrific greed of the western world. Claiming America is superior to any other country will immediately mark you as naive, and probably a racist, too.
I say all this tongue-in-cheek, of course. I love my school to death. But there is no doubt that my classes and professors consistently push a liberal agenda in their teaching. So even if students do think they align more with conservative values, they would never be able to vote for Trump. He’s the butt of teacher’s jokes and the epitome of everything we’ve been taught is wrong with the world. But we’ll see, come November. Maybe there are more Trumpers in hiding than I think.