Voters misjudged Trump before. Gen Z can’t afford to this election

Yes, Gen Z is disappointed with President Biden. But I don’t see a way we’ll let Trump back in the White House.


We have to make a decision as Zoomers. Are we angry enough at Joe Biden to risk a second Donald Trump presidency? Or do we remember who Trump is and what another four years of his presidency would mean?

Now that the former president is a convicted felon, the idea of him winning in November is even scarier and our responsibility even greater.

We have already proven we have a strong generational moral compass. We’ve been protesting my entire adulthood – protesting the first Trump presidency, protesting sexual abuse, protesting for Black Lives Matter and now, protesting for Palestine. We know what we believe.

Now is the time to put those values into action. Polling has shown that Gen Z is dissatisfied with Biden. Personally, I’m unenthusiastic about him as a candidate. I do not think we are as progressive as we should be as a world leader, and I think we need someone younger in office.

I still plan on voting for him.

Still, if 2020 was the year of voter mobilization, 2024 is looking to be the year of voter apathy. This is especially true amongst my age cohort, the 18- to 27-year-olds who comprise Gen Z.

Trump is leading in polls, despite everything

Trump is currently outperforming Biden in the polls. Yes, Trump, the candidate who evoked Nazi Germany in a recent post about forming a “unified Reich.” The candidate who is in legal trouble. The candidate who we can’t seem to get away from and who motivated a group of people to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Now, we can add being a convicted felon to that list after Trump was found guilty last week of 34 counts of falsifying business records. While this has yet to be factored into polling data, there’s still a chance it doesn’t affect people’s views on the former president.

Much has been said about Gen Z’s hesitancy to vote for Biden. I have personally written a lot about this hesitancy. Thankfully, recent polls look more optimistic. Most recent polling from Harvard shows that Biden leads Trump by 19 percentage points among likely voters ages 18 to 29. 

Biden is not it: Why are Gen Z voters souring on Biden? I decided to ask them about that frustration.

This is the same age group that has created a reputation for voter turnout. We have shown up at the polls. More Zoomers voted in 2022 than any other recent generation during its first midterm, leading to the second-highest midterm voter turnout rate since 2000.

So, while I wish progressives gave us a better option than Biden, this is still our chance to decide the election. And it can’t be Trump.

The 2016 election was my wake-up call

After 2016, I realized that voting is not the only solution to our problems. In actuality, voting is one step in the long list of things we can do to shape the country we live in. No president can single-handedly fix everything wrong with the country, despite what we are led to believe as children. It’s a long-term fix.

I fear what another four years of Trump would look like and how it will set back any gains progressives have made in recent years. I fear returning to an environment where corruption is tolerated, and hateful ideologies are commonplace.

Many people underestimated Trump in 2016. We can’t repeat that mistake and should remember why we voted him out in 2020.

In 2016, I voted for Hillary Clinton in my first presidential election. I was living in North Carolina and wasn’t positive that the state would go for Trump. In the end, he overwhelmingly won my home county.

For four years, I felt horror cede into numbness as Trump’s antics became commonplace and we came to believe that his administration was normal. While every recent Republican president has objected to progress, Trump has come to represent a deep sickness in American culture. A large chunk of voters seem fine with ignoring racism, sexism and other prejudices so long as there was a celebrity businessman saying it.

MAGA still loves Trump: What do Trump supporters think about his conviction? I went to the courthouse to ask.

The last four years of Biden’s presidency have put some distance between our society and the policy decisions of the Trump administration. It has made it easy to forget some of the worst parts of his presidency: being impeached multiple times, separating families at the border, “both sidesing” the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville, COVID-19 response and countless lies told to the American public.

We can’t go back.

Trump is a present danger to what Gen Z cares about

I don’t enjoy having to make this decision every four years; I wish the Democratic Party considered me more than the stereotypes that exist about young people. I want them, in particular, to consider the world we are inheriting: all of the prejudice, the failures of government and the impending climate crisis.

I’m also going to vote. Even though I dislike Biden, I understand that my civic duty is to help America avoid another Trump presidency.

The atmosphere Trump creates poisons the nation. It feeds our worst instincts, guarantees its corruption, and sets us back.

The Republican Party, the supposed party of law and order, is going to surround a candidate who has enough legal problems to keep him busy for the rest of his life. It’s a level of hypocrisy that no longer shocks me but should keep my generation motivated. 

Unfortunately, there are limited options for fixing that and Biden is still the best option for progressives.

Democrats need to prove their commitment to us

Gen Z is at a crossroads. We could allow the country to fall into the hands of a corrupt man and increasingly extreme Republican Party, or we could vote for a man who is disappointingly moderate but still leans toward the goals we have as a generation. Progress is incremental, and having a Democrat in office means that progressives will have more inroads to meeting their goals for the next four years. It also means that younger progressives can become part of the Biden administration and make political progress toward influence.

I also think older generations need to remember the feeling of being 18, 19, 20 or even 27. 

For those of you demanding answers from Gen Z, consider if there are other people in your life, people in your own generation, who are not voting for president. They exist, and they deserve the same scrutiny being placed on Zoomers this year. We don’t know how Gen Z will show up to vote – but we could surprise all of you.

We need to turn out and vote, and I’m confident that enough of us will come to this conclusion in November. We can’t forget how bad Trump really was or lose sight of all the damage Republicans have continued to do after Trump lost.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Sara Pequeño on X, formerly Twitter, @sara__pequeno and Facebook

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