Last night Kent and I sat at our local watering hole with three of our friends who are in their 20s and 30s. One of them voted, two of them did not. My friend Josh, who did vote, explained that he totally understands the people of his generation who stay home even if he feels compelled to vote himself. Honestly what Josh had to say reminded me a lot of the lyrics from John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change:
Now we see everything that’s going wrongWith the world and those who lead itWe just feel like we don’t have the meansTo rise above and beat itSo we keep waitingWaiting on the world to changeWe keep on waitingWaiting on the world to changeIt’s hard to beat the systemWhen we’re standing at a distanceSo we keep waitingWaiting on the world to change
I do understand that feeling of apathy and helplessness and part of me occasionally wants to give in to the fatalistic voice that whispers that we are powerless to change the status quo. However, as I pointed out last night, we must fight the urge to remain uninformed and uninvolved. Young people most of all must fight the urge to let the older generations take the wheel while remaining content to sit in the back seat. I tried to explain that when young people, in this case millennials, stay home from the polls they allow the older people to make the choices for them about how the society is governed.
This year is a shining (and very current) example. Today Dylan Scott posted an article on talkingpointsmemo.com in which he stated that,
The disparity between the under-30 and over-60 was the widest it’s been in a decade…The seniors comprised 37 percent of the electorate; young people made up 12 percent.
You guys that is a 25% difference.
Wake up people under 30. Once upon a time you wanted to get out on your own so that no one could tell you how to live your life. Now that you are out on your own you seem content to allow others to decide what kind of country you should live in without even so much as a peep at the voting booth. How does that make any sense? How will things ever change? Why do you insist on withholding the wisdom and passion of youth from the rest of us. Make no mistake, the world (and the country) need to hear from you.
Interestingly, in Presidential election years the percentages of young and old voters are much closer together. For example, in the 2008 election there were 23% over 60 and 18% under 30. In 2012 those numbers were 25 & 19. I think this is because people perceive the presidential election to be more important even though local, state, and congressional elections often have a much bigger impact on day to day life.
I have news for you under 30s, you have way more power to affect change than you know and the establishment wants to keep it that way. When you, the younger generation realize the power you have you will shake the political world. And the world and dare I say it the United States is in desperate need of a shake up. Personally, I love the millennial generation. They are full of passion; however, they, like the rest of us, want to be inspired~want to feel there is hope. After all, without hope it is easy to despair. Despair soon turns to apathy and apathy to inaction. And inaction? Well that is what the people in power want most of all from those under 30. Why? Because those in power have it pretty good under the current system and there is no reason for them to want things to change. It is up to us, no, it is up to you to make it happen. You are our best hope.
Sadly, I think many in my generation (I’m 45), and even those older than me have given up on the dream of change. We, like you, have begun to allow the idea that we cannot affect significant change to take hold. But here is the secret. TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE THINGS. You can change things. I know this because I have seen it. I know this because I have experienced it. I know this because I have lived it. The problem is it will take all of us. As we discussed in the pub last night, it will take the whole generation banding together and saying, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”.
I will leave you with this, lovelies. I honestly believe the Democratic Party best aligns with the values of inclusiveness, liberty, justice and equality that this generation cares about. But if they want to have any hope of mobilizing the untapped passion and brilliance of this generation, they need to stop marginalizing, patronizing and underestimating them. They will also need to stop preaching to the over 60 choir and start speaking directly to the heart of the millennials. Honestly, I believe that if you truly get what matters to millennials and can articulate it you will be reignite the passion of the progressively minded of every generation. We want to believe change is possible too. We want to hope too. We once had the advantage of being young. George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I like to think that isn’t true. To me youth is only wasted when we fail to see its value: passion, energy, and a fresh perspective.
And now a note to the politicians, I feel I must warn you. The bullshit meters on this generation are really strong, they can spot a con job a mile away. And, when you do wake this sleeping giant you better be ready for the ground to shake under their feet.
One thought on “The electorate has spoken and they are old -or- We must wake the sleeping giant.”
I’m 32 and have never missed voting in a midterm or presidential election year since coming of age. This year, I had undergone a nearly 180 degree shift both my theology and politics (I’m a former, if not contrite, conservative, Christian Republican). Mercifully, I finally dropped the pretense recently and quit fighting against my heart, mind, and better judgement to battle back against my upbringing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite *there* by the time applications for absentee ballots were due (we don’t currently reside in our home state) and I did not vote. I felt okay with that at first because I believe a vote is too important to throw away when you aren’t “sure,” but it’s difficult to stomach the ramifications of the shift in our legislative branch. That said, I won’t be missing another election ever again.