By Chris Johnson
With polls showing a decline in support among Millennials, Hillary Clinton is underscoring LGBT rights to keep young voters from straying from the Democratic presidential ticket on Election Day.
Clinton referenced the importance of continuing the LGBT rights advancements seen under the Obama administration during a speech Monday intended to rally Millennials at Temple University.
Contrasting her views with Donald Trump’s demonization of minority groups, Clinton offered a vision of America eliminating the barriers they face. Along with black people who think their lives are disposable, immigrants who fear deportation and young men and women sexually assaulted on college campuses, Clinton said there are “too many young LGBT Americans bullied.”
“You aren’t and you shouldn’t be satisfied with the progress we’ve made,” Clinton said.
“You should keep wanting to right wrongs and fight for justice and dignity for all.”
Throughout her speech, Clinton articulated plans aimed at helping Millennials, including reforms allowing refinancing of student debt, making public college tuition free to those who can’t afford it and debt free for everyone and investing in climate change technology.
Clinton also discussed her history at length. At the time Trump’s real estate company was allegedly denying housing to black and Puerto Rican applicants, Clinton reminded the audience that as a young civil rights lawyer, she sought to make lives for minorities and children better as a law student, and then as a lawyer, under her mentor, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman.
“I learned that to drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws, so we gathered evidence, we built a coalition and our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities,” Clinton said. “And that experience turned me into a lifelong advocate for children and families.”
This work, Clinton said, made people “surprised, and even threatened” by the idea of an activist first lady when her husband was elected president, but she was undaunted and, after her unsuccessful attempt at passing universal health care, shepherded into law the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Later in her speech, Clinton made a veiled reference to LGBT people when she presented a vision for the future and said “there’s no doubt in my mind that young people have more at stake in this election than any other age group.”
“We will say we build a future where all our children have the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential no matter who they are, where they’re from, what they look like or who they love,” Clinton said.
The LGBT components of Clinton’s speech were similar to the reference to LGBT rights Tim Kaine made on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday when asked about the dwindling support for the Democratic presidential ticket among Millennials.
“Do you believe in immigration reform or don’t you?” Kaine said. “We do, Millennials do, Donald Trump doesn’t. Do you believe in LGBT equality or don’t you? We do, Millennials do, Donald Trump doesn’t. And finally, do you have a plan to deal with college affordability? We have one. Millennials need one.”
Clinton may need additional support from Millennials to pull off a win in the general election. Polls demonstrate many young voters are likely to support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. (Although that might change as a result of his continued gaffes, such as saying he was glad “nobody got hurt” during attacks in New York City that injured 25 people and stabbings in Minnesota that injured eight.)
As reported by NBC News, a national Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton has 31 percent support among voters 18-to-34 years old, giving her a slim 5-point lead in this age group over Trump. That’s down from the support of 48 percent of youth and the 24-point lead over Trump she enjoyed last month.
The dip in support among Millennials should make Clinton nervous as the presidential nominee for a party that relies on youth to win at the polls. Her numbers are far different from those of President Obama. In 2012, Obama won voters below the of age 30 by 23 points nationally.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of Tisch College’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning (CIRCLE), a non-partisan research center on youth engagement, said emphasis on LGBT rights is a good way for Clinton to shore up support among Millennials.
“Acknowledging that Millennials are diverse in many ways — and developing policies and practices that communicate a culture of care for youth with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations — could appeal to a large number of young people who may feel that issues important to them are being neglected,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said.
As Kawashima-Ginsberg pointed out, a Fusion poll last year found half of Millennials think of gender as a spectrum, not binary. Youths who are also white were most likely to support the idea of a non-binary gender system. Fifty-five percent of white Millennials said gender is on a spectrum, compared to 47 percent of Latinos and 32 percent of black youth.
Laura Epstein, press secretary for the People for the American Way, said the policies Clinton outlined during her Temple University speech demonstrate “why she’ll be a strong advocate for Millennials in the White House.”
“While Trump has promised Supreme Court justices who’d overturn abortion rights and reject LGBT rights, Hillary Clinton will appoint justices who will protect fundamental constitutional rights for all Americans, including protecting Americans’ right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections,” Epstein said. “The next president could nominate up to four Supreme Court justices, and that stark contrast between Clinton and Trump is a big reason why Millennials will reject Trump’s campaign of hate and turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton.”