Millennials have been a major driving force in politics, especially in recent presidential elections. Since 2008, about half of voters under 30 went to the polls, making up nearly one-fifth of the total vote cast. Coincidentally, they heavily favored Obama, support that tipped several large battleground states in his favor. That may be about to change by the end of 2014.
In an interview with IVN, Britt Hysen, a social entrepreneur and editor-in-chief for Millennial Magazine, believes that Millennials will be able to change the face of politics starting with local governments and create better solutions that are currently missing in Washington, DC, primarily through greater civic engagement.
“I think Millennials right now are very disenfranchised by both political extremes. I think a lot of them are identifying as independents right now. Their vote is very up for grabs. Libertarians have an opportunity to get in there and really vie for the vote because the core principles of Libertarianism really resonate with this generation.”
It is a paradigm shift that calls for smaller, but more efficient government. Citizens can do more than vote; they can also create solutions themselves. Tech-savvy Millennials sprouted up during the economic downturn and realized the benefits of being fiscally conservative while maintaining their socially liberal tendencies. Unfortunately, issues such as the national debt, student loan debt, and health care will be prevalent in future debates.
The current solutions being debated between the Democrats and Republicans lack clear signs of passage and transparency, a major political tenet of the Millennial generation.
President Obama touted transparency while campaigning and made promises that have yet to come to fruition. The reasons why can be tossed around in debates, but there are several setbacks that severely hindered the president’s approach.
“They [voters] should trust their candidate enough to believe what they say is going to actually take effect,” Hysen said.
With the NSA surveillance threatening privacy, the Benghazi controversy, the IRS scandal, and other issues plaguing Obama’s administration, transparency has turned into uncertainty of what is really going on in Washington.
Liberty and the pursuit of the American Dream is such a positive talking point that no major political party will say anything against it. Democrats and Republicans believe in supporting the Constitution and obviously so do Libertarians, but the difference is in the solutions. The overarching issue facing — or hovering over — Millennials is the economy, and each party has a different way to bring about better times.
The ubiquitous national debt is more than one generation can handle, but if you incorporate private enterprise in the solution, the answer may surprise you.
According to Hysen:
“This [national debt] is for tons of generations to follow and the more we keep spending the more down the line the can gets kicked. In terms of tackling this issue we need to stop spending. Having Millennials in office that realize that you just can’t give away money we don’t have. We need to streamline things and encourage private enterprises to take on some of the issues that a lot of people think the government needs to handle.”
Democrats decide to tax and Republicans decide to simply cut spending, but both have their own untouchable third rail: entitlements for Democrats and defense for Republicans. Debt is not only plaguing government from the federal to the municipal levels, but student loan debt still tops $1 trillion and affects millions of Americans. If Millennials leaving college want to live on their own, they also have to earn enough to cover their rent and now are mandated to buy health insurance.
Millennials such as Ms. Hysen are proponents of personal responsibility and their solutions may be seen as outside the box. For example, in Boston, during the severe snow storms, the city opened up their data to civic hackers like Code for America.
These tech-savvy people created an app that mapped out every fire hydrant in the city and started an adopt-a-hydrant program. Instead of the city spending millions digging each hydrant out one by one, normal Bostonians could select the hydrant in front of their home and dig it out themselves.
“If you know that cleaning up trash is somebody else’s job, you’re not going to do it,” Hysen said. “But if you think it is everybody’s job, you’re going to contribute and help clean up that trash.”
Tackling health care is another big issue facing Millennials. Similar to the recession, it has touched many different facets of our lives.
“It’s a really interesting conversation that Millennials will have with themselves and their employers, their insurance providers, and figuring out what is affordable care,” Hysen commented.
What is considered affordable may not be the case, especially if you consider the benefits associated with the cheapest plan.
A recent college grad that is already stuck paying at least $220 in monthly student loan bills may not be able to pay an additional $100 a month for health care. If the college graduate gets sick, out of pocket expenses become another concern.
Preventative care needs to become a bigger component and the benefits Obama touted before passage, such as college students being able to stay on their parent’s health plan until 26, are not enough. This will cost a lot in the long run and not enough “young invincibles” are signing up.
This means the costs will be less affordable, government will spend more, and the issue will continue to grow. Millennials who look into signing up may be in for a rude awakening.
Mrs. Hysen said it best:
“If we really want things to change, we have to change what we keep voting for. We can’t keep repeating the same pattern and expecting a different result. That is the definition of insanity. So, if we really want to evolve, we have to change the game.”
Millennials need a greater voice in Washington and this is hopefully about to change. Candidates like Christopher David (27), in CA-33, and possible candidates like Nick Troiano (who will be 25 on Election Day), in PA-10, could be the first millennial voices on Capitol Hill.