Last year politico.com reported that millennials “dethroned” the Baby Boomers and took the title of largest generation in American history. As this characteristically individualistic and self-driven generation continues to grow, media outlets and consumer markets have quickly begun the adapting process - whereas the political system appears to have not.
As a young writer for the Centrist Project Blog, I can attest that my generation’s perceived agenda of social tolerance and environmental responsibility is indeed accurate. The country has yet to make a definitive move in this direction. It is also true that generation Y leans more liberal, mirrored in the numbers Pew Research Center found in a recent study: 34% of millennials identify as a Democrat versus 22% Republican.
Although the math there doesn’t quite add up. This begs the question for the future of American politics. “Where did the other 44% go?”
These voter ID statistics are notably low. For America as a whole, the spread reads 29% Republican, 33% Democrat, 34% Independent, 4% who don’t know. This marks a 6% deviation in millennials from the national norm, something astounding when taken on a national scale.
Of course a common criticism of the millennial is that his opinion is of no consequence, because he doesn’t even vote. Census.gov estimated that peoples from ages 18-29 make up about 21.60% of voting age citizens, or 49 million people. Only about 24 million under 30 years old voted in the 2016 election.
How can this be? Surely this must mean young people are too busy to be bothered to vote. While political analysts are quick to dismiss it as flippancy - and true, for some that may be part of the issue - that logic would suggest that millennials do not feel passionately about politics. Quite the opposite. Millennials are incredibly vocal about their political beliefs - sometimes even to the detriment of their cause.
What then? In truth, generation Y does not consistently vote because neither party appeals to the next wave of Americans. The worsening polarization has created a void of alienated voters.
Millennials desire political change so that they may escape from this void without compromising their core values. For many that means joining the ebb and flow of the socialist movement, yet it seems unrealistic to say that the entire generation is characterized by extreme left political views; many feel quite the opposite, worrying that either political extreme will jeopardize our nation’s future and make pragmatic solutions impossible.
Our own executive director, Nick Troiano, belongs to the second camp. A former Republican, Nick reached his breaking point when the GOP facilitated the 2013 government shutdown. It was a prime example of politics for the good of the party, but to the detriment of the nation.
After witnessing the havoc that partisan politics can wreak, he promptly ran for representative of Pennsylvania district 10 as an independent. Although victory was just out of reach, he became the youngest candidate (24, by election date 25) in our history, as well as the first independent to run in his district.
Troiano’s campaign embodied the growing political dissent among young people, which has only worsened since the 2016 election. As the party affiliation statistics decline, one thing is for certain: America’s young people would rather reform the nation’s politics as a whole than buy into a system that they consider broken.
Nearly half of millennials do not identify with either party, endowing our youngest age group with the power to greatly alter the political landscape. As more Troianos arise to catalyze change for the next generation, American politics could undergo a serious facelift.
The young people are lying in wait until their voices can be heard, and what they’re waiting for may well be the Centrist Project.
Andrew Hicks is a student from central Ohio. When he’s not studying economics and policy, he- well, no, that’s how he spends all of his time and he likes it that way. He has recently started a website, youthinmoderation.org, to help lead his fellow young people away from partisan politics and toward creative solutions for the good of the nation’s future.