Confessions of a Trump-Era Teenager
The day after Trump’s election, people cried in my high school cafeteria. Cut to three years later and those same nerdy tenth-graders are rapidly gaining political influence. We are the Gen Z voters being wooed by presidential candidates in the lead-up to 2020. If these politicians are smart, they’ll realize they can’t treat us like baby boomers or any generation. We’ve grown up in the Trump era.
We’ve become adults in this new age of American democracy. The Billy Bush tape, three years of scandals, and now impeachment frame our adolescence. These are pivotal life events for us, with 64% of Gen Z adults saying their worldviews were shaped by the 2016 election.
More importantly, we’ve witnessed the responses to Trump’s election firsthand. During our teenage years, the number of hate crimes rose, xenophobia became a household word, and Trump material took over the world of late-night talk shows. Our parents assured us his campaign was a joke back in 2015, and since then we started paying attention.
Today, many of us are in college. A staggering 70% of us disapprove of Trump’s job performance. We’ve studied abroad and heard “So, you like Trump?” at every turn. And we’ve stepped up, becoming key players in the Women’s Marches, the Global Climate Strike, and other protests spurred on by Trump’s ideologies. The turbulence of this historical moment has given us these causes to fight for, but also made us skeptical. More than 75% of us believe there is a lot of corruption in America.
Now, we come to our next life event: impeachment. The outcome of these daily hearings may signal a new chapter for the country, as well as our political perspectives. Yet, at this point, the twists and turns of Trump’s political journey are less important than the self-possessed adults Gen Z has become. Growing up in this era has made us a generation of activists. Seeing the political tide shift so quickly has instilled in us a unique sense of urgency. We regularly hear from professors and parents, “but it’s on you to resolve this” and “if you don’t like it, do something about it.” Of course, every emerging generation likely hears these sayings. However, with the ticking time bomb of environmental degradation and issues like mass shootings more pressing than ever, no prior generation has faced more pressure to be the change they want to see.
So, what happens next to those teenagers who cried that November 9th? That’s as unpredictable as Trump’s next tweet, but I remain hopeful we’ll be able to defuse some of our time bombs. We’ve been actively involved in so many of this era’s positive changes. Our steadfast support for movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo is reflective of our character. Our faces at the protests, our advocacy, and our involvement in these issues from a young age (thanks, Greta Thunberg) should show politicians who we are: the most qualified generation yet to take on America’s problems.