Don’t Victim Blame Millennials

Appelbaum’s Youth Vote Shaming is Shameful

Binyamin Appelbaum — New York Times Editorial Board/bread price critic.

Millennials Vote at a Similar Rate to Other Generations

The evidence is pretty clear — Millennials vote about as much as every other generation when they were the same age. Young folks don’t vote much, and there are a lot of reasons for that. They may be busy with other things, don’t have the proper transportation, don’t understand the process of voting, can’t get the time off work, or just don’t feel like it! This has been consistently true across the developed world for as long we have data, so there is nothing special about the voting behavior of Millennials.


How Exactly Were Millennials Supposed to Stop the Financial Crisis?

I may not be an editor at a fancy publication like the New York Times, but I have a few simple talents. For example, I can calculate that in 2004 you needed to be born before 1987 in order to vote. I can also recall that the financial crash started in 2008. This means that the vast majority of Millennials never had an opportunity to vote in the elections that led up to the great recession.

It Is Not Millennials Fault That the Elections are Broken

Democracy in America is dysfunctional. Hillary Clinton won by millions of votes, but lost the electoral college. This is to say nothing of gerrymandering. Or the Supreme Court. Or the structure of the Senate. Or Citizens United. Even when the youth do vote, those votes don’t seem to matter. There is an entire system of injustice and broken institutions designed to disenfranchise. Perhaps it is worth pointing at these inequalities rather than asking Millennials to just “vote more”.

This is Victim Blaming

“Victim blaming” is the practice of pointing the finger at the individual(s) hurt by some abusive or unjust act, accusing them of bringing on their own mistreatment. There is no such thing as a perfect victim; everyone lives a multifaceted life. If you want to find an angle to blame someone, you usually can. By doing this, you absolve the wrongdoer, and shift blame to the victim that made the mistake of being vulnerable, gullible, or weak.

Have Some Self-Reflection

It is deeply ironic to receive blame from someone like Appelbaum for the crises that have rocked my generation. This is a man who is an editor at the New York Times. Instead of blaming the victims, maybe it is worth considering your own role? You have an incredible sway on the events in politics. I understand that Appelbaum was not an editor at the time of the 2016 election, but we should always remember what the Times did four years ago. Yes, it is true that increases in Millennial turnout in a few key states could have changed the course of history. But, perhaps, it is more useful to talk about the impact your paper has on the lives of real people? High visibility news organizations — and the people who staff them — need to take their role and responsibility seriously.

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