Why It’s Time For Millennials to Reclaim Our Seat at the Political Table
Hi, I’m Ben and I’m a Millennial. To some, that may be a dirty word. For others, it’s a word you have heard only because of the media’s incessant tendency to use it to lambast the generation of people who were born between 1980 and 2000.
Let me break Millennials down for you by the numbers: It is estimated that there are some 80 million Millennials in the United States. Of those 80 million, 50% have reportedly taken a selfie. Ok, maybe that’s why people judge our generation. But there is another statistic that stands out much more to me: 50% of Millennials consider themselves politically unaffiliated, according to a Pew Research poll. To me those numbers are not shocking. Why would we identify with a partisan political system that seems to be more consumed with bickering and corruption than progress? Not to mention a political system in which the needs of young people—who happen to be the voters most affected by the policy that we enact today—don’t have a seat at the table. Millennials are in desperate need of a leader who’s willing to pull up a chair, and it’s time that we step up and demand one.
I myself can admit that I was becoming disenchanted by the very political system that had inspired me to dedicate my life to fighting for the progressive values that matter to me. That is, until I was introduced to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Her voice truly was the voice that I had been waiting for. It was last year at Netroots, a political conference of progressive activists and leaders, when I first heard Senator Warren speak. She laid out a list of progressive values—American values—each of which resonated with me so deeply:
“We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”
“We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement.”
“We believe in science.”
“We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations.”
“We believe that no one should work full time and still live in poverty.”
“We believe that equal means equal. It’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, and it’s true in all of America.”
“…and we’re willing to fight for it.”
They seemed like such obvious principles, and yet they represented the things I craved most for our country. Just like that, her words had relit the fire within me. Her passion represents the same passion that Millennials identify with, but don’t feel empowered to express. I believe the empowerment that Millennials long for lies with Elizabeth Warren. She is the person who can relight the fire that has all but been extinguished within young people—and the nation as a whole. She breaks the mold of corruption and of party politics and fights for us—all of us.
It’s clear that Millennials overwhelmingly stand behind the values that Senator Warren laid out, and overwhelmingly tend to vote for progressives—the problem is that we underwhelmingly vote. We saw it all too recently during the 2014 midterm elections. Young people just didn’t vote; only 12% of the total voters in the midterms were under the age of 30.
Millennials have been torn apart in the media as a generation of apathy. And you know what, that’s not entirely inaccurate. Many young people have given up. They feel that no matter what they do, their voices simply won’t be heard. While this has been a trend in our government’s history, it doesn’t have to be our future. We have the power to sway elections in a major way.
With nearly 70 million Millennials eligible to vote, we have the power to be the rising American electorate and truly sway our government toward the progressive values that we—and the majority of Americans—represent.
That’s why I’m issuing a challenge, my fellow young people: Let’s stand up and bring our own seat to the table, by fighting for a person who has already begun to open up politics—open up the political process—to everyone.
I’ve recently gotten involved in an effort to draft Elizabeth Warren into the presidential election. Our goal is simple: to show her that we support her as much as she supports us and that we believe that not only would she represent us well as president, but she has the potential to win!
I know what you’re thinking: What? Draft like football? Well, I don’t know anything about football, but I know a thing or two about democracy, and that’s exactly what this is. There is nothing more democratic than finding the candidates who would represent us best and driving them to do just that. In fact, it’s exactly what got Elizabeth Warren into the Senate in the first place. She herself said that in her heart of hearts that she didn’t want to run for office, but after rising to the call of the people of Massachusetts, not only did she run—and win—but she has gone on to be one of the most influential progressives ever to serve us in Congress.
Last week, MoveOn.org released a poll that it commissioned from YouGov, and the results were quite remarkable to me. The poll surveyed respondents from the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. While the entire survey showed that to know Elizabeth Warren is to want her to run, what stood out to me most was the mandate of young people. When asked about the appeal of Warren’s issues the best performing question related to Sen. Warren’s position on student loan debt. It was found that Warren’s call to lower student loan interest rates is remarkably popular, with virtually unanimous agreement, and strong agreement by four-fifths of respondents. But even more staggering, from respondents 18-29 years-old, 38.9% said that they would vote for Elizabeth Warren in a head to head with other potential candidates—the only other person who came close to that was Hillary Clinton with 16.9%.
As young people, we need to show Senator Warren that the nation supports standing by our students, hard-working middle-class Americans, and a system that isn’t rigged in favor of Wall Street but in favor of Main Street. When I joined the Run Warren Run team, I went onto RunWarrenRun.org and signed a petition telling Elizabeth Warren that I have her back, and now hundreds of thousands of Americans, from teachers to celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Olivia Wilde, have added their names as well. We have cemented our voices in history, and we’ve taken a seat at the political table.
So to Millennials, and to the rest of this great country, I think Elizabeth Warren put it best: “The way I see this is we can whine about it, we can whimper about it, or we can fight back. I’m fighting back.” I am joining that fight, and I hope you will too.