Of the 94 million eligible voters now aged 18-34, over 50% did not vote in 2016. Most are available now to engage on the issues they care about.
The millennial voter has been much maligned for having the lowest voting percentage of any generation in the 2016 election. “If only more had voted,” many an older Democrat has said.
Well, I’m a 76-year-old who has a different take on the millennial generation. I think millennials didn’t like either candidate or party and didn’t think their voices mattered. So, for many of them, their action was inaction. They saw hypocrisy and corruption, but didn’t understand the enormous consequences of not voting. They do now.
What do millennials care about?
They want a government that is honest; protects our air, water, food, and drugs; provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrants; provides opportunity and justice for all; embraces sensible gun policies; helps workers share in corporate success; improves the health care system for everyone; and treats people with respect, without discriminating on the basis of religion, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. All of these are long-held beliefs of most Americans, but are being smashed by the right wing of the Republican Party and enabled by the remainder of the party.
What do millennials see?
They see most of it. The lies, the constant stream of misinformation, the attacks on the media and on anyone who disagrees, the destruction of the agencies that protect us, and the cruelty to immigrants, the LBGTQ community, and other marginalized community.
They see old people (mostly men) deciding their future. The average age of a member of a House Representative is 57 and a senator 61, but the average age of the 16 Chairpersons (15 men, one woman) of the Standing Committees of the Senate is 72. Millennials don’t feel represented because they aren’t.
They may not understand everything in the new tax bill, but they know that the Republican Congress cares mostly about protecting the interests of wealthy donors. The priorities in the bill show the Republicans only have a superficial temporary interest in helping workers and their families.
Will enough of them vote?
Millennials are beginning to see the impact they can have on election outcomes. In the 2017 off-year governor’s race in Virginia, 34% of millennials voted vs. 26% in 2013 and 17% in 2009. And 69% of them voted for the Democrat vs. 45% voting for the Democrat in 2013. This is evidence that more millennials are voting and they are voting more Democratic.
A recent Harvard study says that millennials are now the largest voting block, and 2:1 vote Democratic. We also know from the 2016 election that millennials get it right when they do vote. Clinton would have won 504 electoral votes to 23 for Trump if only millennials had voted. That means in almost every state, most millennials voted against Trump. More would do so now.
We know from the energized resistance movement and the flood of women filing to run for office that more millennials are paying attention and will vote next year. The only question is whether there are enough of them to overcome the gerrymandering and voter suppression of the Republicans.
What can we do?
It’s our job as older voters to assure millennials that their voices count. Instead of wasting time arguing with Trump supporters, let’s engage progressive young people. Fifteen to twenty million are not yet registered to vote. Since the current Congress is not a check on this President, we must change Congress in 2018. Registering and encouraging millennials to vote is the answer.
How do we do it?
We promote high school senior registration drives. We attend rallies and protests and ask if everyone is registered, and send them to www.rockthevote.org if they aren’t. We engage young people we meet, one on one, on issues they care about. We ask them to engage their friends. We stress that since midterms have fewer voters, their vote is even more important in 2018.
It’s our democracy. Let’s connect to preserve it.