Millennials Shall Inherit The Earth
Bob Dylan once wrote, “don’t criticize what you can’t understand/your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.” That was in 1964, a moment when the youth of the United States were ready and willing to stand up for what they believed in and take control of the direction society was heading. They weren’t going to toil under the same system of the past 18 years that their parents had set up. The next few years would see radical changes throughout all facets of society. The youth took power.
It would be easy to think that we are currently in the midst of another generational takeover, considering the students from Parkland are seemingly in the news everyday. But other than that, how many millennial politicians do you see? Who is out there, speaking for millennials in the national conversation? Sure there are Bernie Bros who identify with the Democratic-Socialist agenda and think that Bernie Sanders is out there working for them, but the man is 76. All of his appearances with Killer Mike from Run The Jewels doesn’t make him any closer to us in age or mindset.
One of the biggest arguments political commentators have made against the Parkland students is that they are not yet old enough to influence public policy, as many of them cannot vote. Now these students are not technically millennials, but rather a post-millennial generation that has not officially been named but is referred to with names like Gen Z or digital natives. The millennial cutoff birth year is 1996 so these kids would have to have been redshirted more than a few times to actually be millennials. However they do serve as a model for the question being asked here: if millennials did get up and try to change politics like the counterculture of the 1960s, would we even be taken seriously?
While it is accurate that millennials are not well represented on the national stage, Time Magazine found that the average age in the House is 59 and the Senate 62, there is a growing trend of millennials thinking smaller in terms of government participation. This does not mean the state level either, as millennials only account for 5 percent of state legislature seats nationwide. No, our generation is looking to make changes locally. According to Run for Something, a Democratic-affiliated political organization tasked with recruiting young candidates, thousands of millennials have been inquiring about running at the local level. According to its research, millennials are discouraged from national or even state legislature because of the tendency toward party politics causing gridlock on important issues and the insatiable need for fundraising.
These case studies are popping up all over the country. From the mayor of South Bend, Ind. who took office at 29 and is now 35 and halfway through his second term, to 28 year-old Alex Morse who is mayor of Holyoke, Mass., and at city councils all over the country. One of the biggest changes being brought about by millennials in office is their willingness to test and adapt to emerging technologies. This could be as simple as updating community websites in an effort to better connect with constituents all the way to launching emergency services applications like in Portage County, Ohio.
So it appears that “all us millennials always being on our phones” has its advantages sometimes. But the question still remains: as the young people in an old man’s game, will we be taken seriously? The short answer is that we will have to be, there is no other option. In 2015, millennials overtook baby boomers as the largest population segment in the U.S. In California alone, 40 percent of state employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years. The boomers and whatever is left of the silent generation cannot hold on forever just so they don’t have to adapt to our new technologies or progressive ideals.
So for now, you still might get stuck in your company’s or city’s social media department because of your age. But, if the past few years of politics has taught us anything, our protests are not going to change much. Demonstrations for guns, Trump, border wall, immigration bans, etc. have yielded very few, if any, results. What older generations understand is action, not polls or protests. The way to be heard by the boomers and the silents is to take action. Get off your parents’ cell phone plan and insurance. Media portrayals of millennials show us as sensitive, entitled and overall leeches on society who expect everything to be handed to us. We know that’s not how it works. But they don’t know that we know. Get out there, vote, be independent and, if you’re so inclined, run for office. Bring down the age curve in politics.