We are the millennials. We are Generation Y. We are the 95 million Americans born between the late 1970’s and the early 2000’s. We are America’s largest age demographic, we are growing, and we are the future of this great nation. According to The Center for American Progress, by 2020, there will be 103 million of us: 90 million of which will be eligible voters representing 40% of the electorate. In the landmark 2012 election, for the first time in the history of the United States, more millennials voted than senior citizens. President Obama successfully won our demographic by large margins in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. In fact, in 2012, President Obama received about 5 million more votes from 18-29 year olds than Mitt Romney did. Just by looking at these figures, it is safe to say that the candidate, who wins the millennials, wins the election. The new, perpetual presence of millennials within the electorate is an extremely important concept that will dictate the future of our nation. We, the millennials, need to grasp how significant the opportunity that lies before us is. We need to wake up and understand the undeniable potential for change our generation can bring about.
We are a radically different generation compared to the Baby Boomers or even Generation X. We are the first generation to grow up in a globalized world and to experience the political, social, and economic transformations brought about by the Internet. Most importantly, our generation understands that change is unavoidable, a necessity, to remain relevant within the modern world. Unlike past generations, we do not partake in the nostalgia of “traditional America values” because American values have been evolving our entire lives. We look back at the 20th century to see what made our country great, and then look ahead to the future for ways to make our country even greater.
Our familiarity with change and the lack of traditional ideology allow millennials to offer new common sense solutions to our nation’s problems. We understand the need to reform entitlements because the looming burden of retiring baby boomers ultimately falls upon us. We see the need to alter our bloated defense spending because taking care of our battle weary veterans and defending against cyber warfare are a greater priority than creating surpluses of fighter jets. We take a progressive approach in promoting green energy, investing in schools, and supporting government’s role in society. And yet, we do not want the federal government making decisions that should be left to the states, such as the legalization of marijuana, and most recently, gay marriage.
The topic of gay marriage is a surprisingly accurate gauge of where our country stands, and in what direction it is headed. Within the next few weeks the Supreme Court will likely either throw out, or make significant changes, to key anti-gay marriage legislation. In 1996, when DOMA was signed, many argued same-sex marriage was morally wrong and had to be prevented at all costs. Today, over half of the nation believes gay couples deserve the right to marry. This is attributed, in large part, to the influence of us, the millennials. 73% of 18-29 year olds support gay marriage compared to 39% of those aged 65 and older. Some surveys even show figures of millennials supporting gay marriage in ratios greater than 4:1. Last week, Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a potential Vice Presidential candidate for Mitt Romney, declared his support for same sex marriage. The national conversation is changing on both sides of the aisle, and millennials are leading the way.
Our generation is finally finding its voice in American politics. The 2012 election was the 3rd straight election in which more than 50% of eligible millennials voted. As we continue to get out and vote, we will elect representatives who embody our generation’s hopes and dreams. The number of Millennials in Congress increased 3% from the 112th Congress to the 113th Congress; today, over 35 house representatives are under the age of 40. These trends will only continue to grow in 2014, 2016, and beyond as our generation becomes more politically active and aware.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress should take heed of this coming shift. The refusal to reform entitlements, change our tax code, or invest in our future will not go over easy. If both parties do not pay attention to the changing political tides, then it is all to likely that we just might put an end to this defunct two party system and create a party of our own. When Congress kicks the can down the road, it lands squarely in our laps - if Washington cannot solve our nations problems, then we Millennials will find representatives who will.