Even before 2016 became a gladiatorial showdown between American openness and American xenophobia, this election was always destined to be a watershed moment, in a subtler way. November 8 marks the first time that Generation Y makes up the same share of presidential voters as the Baby Boomers. Generational description sometimes obfuscate more than they illuminate. But in this case, the transition is significant because young voters are clearly to the left of the rest of the country, and their emergence as a powerful voting bloc holds significant implications, not only for Tuesday’s election, but also for the future of American economics and social policy.
Millennials’ liberalism was blindingly obvious long before Bernie Sanders’ revolution. Polls repeatedly found that this under-35 group wants an especially activist government. They are more likely than any other age cohort to say that it's the government's responsibility to insure all Americans, according to a 2014 survey. Today, the federal government spends $7 on the elderly for every $1 on kids, but Millennials are by far the most likely to say that Washington should shift its spending toward young adults, perhaps for both substantive reasons (more investment in kids should improve social mobility) and self-interested reasons (more investment in young people would profit young people).