There is a lot to be confused by at the new Web site, Millennials for Jeb. Millennials, who are officially* referred to as #Millennials, often shun the sort of aggregated group identity that's implied by a call for the entire generation to vote for the former Florida governor. And yet, here's a Web site encouraging all however-many-million of them to turn out and vote. For Jeb.
"Despite the potential to be a real political force, only 21% of Millennials cast a ballot in the 2014 election," the site reads. "We believe this shows that the current political system does not appeal to Millennials' more moderate nature." Okay. The solution? "Our grand ambition is not just to get Jeb elected president in 2016, but also to raise the level of civic engagement among the Millennial generation."
No one votes because the system is too bifurcated for our delicate moderate sensibilities, so let's all vote for this Republican. Or, to put it more succinctly, in the language of the site's pledge: "We the Millennials, in order to form a more perfect union, pledge to work towards a bipartisan future." That's signed, "Millennials for Jeb."
Last August, the Atlantic's Derek Thompson -- himself a #Millennial! -- summarized a poll from the Reason Foundation about the group's political attitudes thusly: "Millennials' Political Views Don't Make Any Sense." Contrasting #Millennial opinions on taxation (for reducing taxes across the board and for raising taxes on the wealthy), Thompson wrote, "Some of these positions suggest, rather than prove, utter incoherence. For example, you can technically support (a) reducing the overall tax burden and (b) raising taxes on the wealthy by raising the investment tax and absolving the bottom 50 percent of Social Security taxes. Somehow, I think what's happening is simpler than young people doing the long math of effective tax rates. I think they're just confused."
Millennials are right when they ask that we not lump all of them into one group. Any survey of the attitudes millions of people hold will likely include some internal contradictions. And so we should not read into this confused Web site intentionality on the part of that entire group, any more than we will assume that every #Millennial wants a "Jeb the Thinker" flask (only $35 dollars!). Although the site itself, of course, claims repeatedly to speak for all Millennials.
One of a few things is happening here. Either the #Millennials behind the site are trying to leverage their generational identity to their preferred political cause, Jeb Bush. (The creators claim to have "campaign experience gained from previous local, state, and federal elections," which suggests they might have some partisan skin in the game.) Or they are sincere in their assessment that millennials want/need a moderate system of governance and have latched on to Bush as apparently the only candidate who can deliver that ideal. (This is not what Bush's people would like to have as his identity at this moment, I think it's safe to assume.)
It is the case that, as the country itself shifts away from party identification, millennials have the lowest rates of alignment with either the Democratic or Republican party. If this group truly believes that Jeb Bush is the only presidential candidate who would be able to forge consensus between the two parties, fine -- though why the group is pressing for a third-party candidate is not clear.
Or maybe this is the 2016 version of Obama Girl, a sloppy attempt to back a candidate that sounds pretty good on paper.
Or maybe they're just confused.
* Officially by me, anyway.