Millennials Literally Can't Even You Guys... (So Let's Help)
In recent weeks, we progressives have been tripping over our Birkenstocks to point out that, by 2020, the last of the Millennials will be of voting age. Beyond that sounding like a really bad Mel Gibson movie (sorry, that was redundant: a Mel Gibson movie) that tanked at the box office, do progressives really have reason to be hopeful about this trend?
If this new youth-led gun control movement is any indication, then maybe. These young activists are shaping up to be a formidable force in the upcoming 2018 congressional elections. Following the success of the March for Our Lives, which brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets all across the country to rally in support of gun control measures, students are now turning their ambitions to a new project: organizing community forums in as many Congressional districts possible as part of the Town Hall Project. Out of 535 members of Congress, only 154 have refused to participate in these forums, many of them scheduled for tomorrow, April 7th, in some way.
But it’s incredible how quickly this new era of student activism seems to be lulling the rest of us into a false sense of complacency. The left is certainly energized, but the progressive twitter-sphere now seems to think a youth-fueled “blue wave” this November is practically preordained. All the rest of us have to do is sit back and watch as it crushes over the capital building, washing the gavels right out of the hands of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.
Despite the reinvigorated energy we’re seeing as a result of this student-led movement, however, we need to confront a troubling reality. The politically engaged young people leading the #neveragain movement are exceptional. I mean that literally: they are the exception, not the rule. Consider, for example, the recent Illinois primary that took place on March 28, where only 3 percent of voters aged 18-24 participated. While only 27 percent of Millennials approve of Trump's job performance, Millennial turnout in the midterms, when the Presidency is not on the line, will be predictably abysmal if history is any indication. Thanks to years of Republican-led gerrymandering, moreover, our youth-fueled "blue wave" in November will need to be the largest we've seen in 40 years.
This isn't to say that Democrats have no shot at taking back Congress. These are unpredictable times. Young people are energized, politically savvy, and they literally can't even. But it does mean we have to be clear-eyed about our prospects, which was a monumental task to begin with considering how popular marijuana legalization is with our base.
So let’s not place all our electoral eggs inside one fragile ballot box. We can’t simply assume, based on the strength of the current student-led gun control movement, that young people will tweet our way to an emoji-ladden victory this November. So rather than ceding the stage completely to the next generation of young activists, let’s register people of all ages to vote. Let’s connect them to political campaigns and introduce them to other politically engaged young people. Let’s make them aware of organizations like Run for Something and Indivisible that can help develop their leadership skills. Let’s launch social media campaigns titled things like #BringBaetotheBallotBox.
Ok so maybe we’ll leave the social media branding to the next generation, but you get my point.