“Why?” seems to be the question leading most of the national headlines today.
“Why is our country 18 trillion dollars in debt?”
“Why is ISIS able to carry out acts of evil with such ease?”
“Why are millennials so different from generations past?”
With all of the “why’s” being asked, American corporations are seeking answers to their own questions. Companies are continuously seeking to understand the millennial generation. How do they think? Where do they shop? How do they communicate? With an economy that appears to be on its last leg and social issues spiraling out of control, my heaviest burden prompts me to ask “Why are millennials not voting?” After all, voting is about appointing leaders to lead and making our country great. This generation is our future, so it should concern Americans and American corporations that the polls seem to be lacking youth. I want to give my perspective on why young adults have quit showing up.
Something to be aware of is that this generation is invested in the welfare of society. In May of 2015, Pew research stated that millennials were officially the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. That number equates to an army of 53.5 million workers. You would assume that the group controlling the workforce of one of the largest economies in the world should also contribute to its political system. During the 2014 national mid-term elections, young adults broke a different type of record by sending its lowest level of participants. Only 19.9% showed up to mid-term polling stations. The question is “why?” The presidential election of 2008 had previous generations scratching their heads. A phenomenon took place that year with a record number of young adults showing up to vote. Pollsters were astonished that young Americans aged 18-29 sent 53% of its voting base to the polls. Why was the Presidential election of 2008 so different from past elections?
Obviously there is a reason why behind this contrast. I’ll propose three words.
If you spend five minutes with young adults, they will tell you that they have given up on our elected leaders. Millennials do care, despite being stereotyped as being apathetic and uninformed. The news shows us that Washington is deeply divided. Many would describe our two party system as “polarized.” We hear phrases from the media like “government shutdowns,” “liberal pinheads” and “conservative close-mindedness.” Our generation is repelled by the constant fighting and picking of sides. There is this aura of “us versus them” between Republicans and Democrats. I am sad to say that my Christian brothers and sisters have fallen victim to this same mindset. This irks my generation. If you throw in a few political scandals, then you have totally lost the trust of the young adult voters. We value trust, authenticity, and transparency, which few of our elected leaders are currently providing.
We are expected to compromise in today’s time. Young adults want to see results and that requires both Republicans and Democrats to work together. Many young adults seek reconciliation with race, the church, and even the country as a whole. There is a deep divide amongst Americans and that troubles this generation. Those elected to represent “We the People” should be the greatest example of this value. We must compromise lesser issues for the greater good. I like what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently said, “Compromise is not capitulation.” While we heard former U.S. Speaker of the house John Boehner once say, “Compromise is not an option.” Young adults value things like working together and the art of compromise. Young voters want to see both parties work to compromise and co-create some incredible legislation that is good for all Americans.
There is nothing worse than being labeled “irrelevant.” Young adults do not view politics as being something that is relative because those who lead seem far removed from our reality. Washington D.C. is viewed as something that is too complex for us to wrap our minds around. Young adults value things such as social justice, job opportunities that align with their passions, and innovation. We rally behind leaders with a clear vision and boldness to take risks. It’s rare to hear our political leaders discuss things that excite our generation. We, too, feel irrelevant because our voices seem unimportant to the masses. We do not feel heard or understood; therefore, we have stopped responding.
Generations that have gone before us are depending on this generation to take the reins and leading our nation forward. What is it going to take for our generation to put this train back on track? Is it too late? Perhaps I am merely a dreamer, but I long for the day where our generation fights for the values, freedoms, and beliefs that Americans before us spent their entire lives sacrificing for. The truth is, we can put this train back on track. Our generation has the opportunity to elect whomever we choose to lead our country. We need to participate by trusting the electoral system, not the cynicism. There are many things we can do as a generation, but it starts with participation and fulfilling our civic duty as citizens. This is a right that is not afforded to many throughout the world, but we have this freedom. It is ours for the taking.
So you may be asking the question “when do I vote?” There are thousands of resources to determine when an upcoming election is scheduled and where your specific polling station is located. MyTimeToVote.com is an excellent resource! If you live in the State of Texas, our Presidential primary is scheduled for March 1st, 2016. Once you determine where your polling station is, just show up with a valid ID and you can cast your ballot! Join me in taking these crucial first steps in participating in one of Americas greatest freedoms.
Annie Siepel (October 8, 2014). “Millennial voters are paying attention-so why don’t more vote?” NPR
Joseph P. Williams ( December 23, 2015). “Washington whisperers meet your match. Will smartphone apps get millennials to the polls?” U.S. News.