Millennials. It’s complicated.
There are statistics and figures, opinions and speculation, but the fact remains that when it comes to millennials and politics, it’s confusing. The confusion stems from the makeup of the demographic itself--millennials are the largest demographic and the most diverse. We aren’t just different from one another, but we think very differently about issues than any generation before us. Our concern about the world around us is sometimes misunderstood, to say the least, and our efforts to organize have often failed. When they don’t fail, they are criticized. Yet, as a whole, we’re supposedly optimistic and interested in making a difference.
So, why aren’t there more of us involved in politics?
Well, many of us are, and many of us have flocked to DC to create change--within or outside of politics. Idealistic and ambitious, we want things to be different, so many things.
If you look beyond the gentrification we’re partially causing and the mass stereotyping we’ve sparked, you’ll see a deeper interest in learning about where we live, where we came from, and the communities we want to help build. In DC, many of us are trying to understand the neighborhoods we are moving into, volunteering our skills to help local students or simply celebrating the history and diversity of where we now reside. We may be coming from all over the US (and world), but the desire to add to the history of our country, in the capital of our country, is definitely evident, if sometimes disruptive, misinformed or short sighted.
Last week we attended the Political Town Hall put on by Millennial Week DC, hosted by the Washington Post. I couldn’t stop thinking about the difference between those of us involved in politics and those of us that aren’t. And then I thought, does it even matter?
Because, who’s really calling the shots? Who’s making the decisions and lobbying the decision makers?
It’s not millennials. It’s the (mostly) men in leadership positions. And the (mostly) men heading up the corporations paying the lobbyists.
Sad, but true
If you actually keep your eye on congress everyday, it's disheartening to see the reality. I don’t know what is more depressing: the fact Congress doesn’t actually create much change, or that most people don't contact their congressional representatives to voice their opinion, or that the people that do aren't the most well informed.
Even those that make the effort to call Congress often don't know who their representative is, or how to communicate to them. And I wonder, why aren’t more millennials contacting their congressional representatives? Can we really say the system is broken if we haven’t even tried to use it? It’s like we’ve all collectively forgotten High School Government. We’ve forgotten how it all works (in theory & practice).
So here’s my advice to millennials. Let’s give it a try. Let’s see what would happen if we flooded the phone lines, we wrote the letters and we dominated the internet regarding issues that matter to us. Some of this may feel uncomfortable and strange (I know I am one of few that still enjoys talking on the phone or hand writing a note), but we can’t say it doesn’t work if we aren’t even trying.
Create the change you want to see in the world, by trying to contact the people that make the decisions
Step 1: Assess your situation
- Where do you live?
- Are you registered to vote? Where are you registered to vote? Where do you want to be registered to vote?
- What district do you live in?
- Who are your Senators? Who’s your member of Congress? Who’s your mayor? Who’s your governor? Who’s making decisions for where you live?
Step 2: Know who to contact * how
- Who is calling the shots?
- Who has the most influence?
- Who do you contact to get a hold of these people?
- What’s the best way to contact them?
Step 3: Know your issues
- What do you care about?
- What do you want to change?
- What is important to you?
- What can you learn about these issues?
- What’s taken place historically regarding these issues?
Step 4: Find your people
- Who do you know that feels the same way about these issues? Find these people.
- Who feels differently about these issues? Find these people and force yourself you listen to their arguments. Be open to difference of opinion and informed -- maybe these are the very people that can help you create the best change.
- Use all your tools (online and offline) to connect, collaborate, discuss and define your position on these issues.
- Talk about it. Share your views and listen to what other people have to say.
Step 5: Make a plan
- What can you and your people do to create change regarding this issue?
- Use the internet to show you what has been tried before-- what’s worked? what hasn’t worked? Why?
- How will you do it?
- Be creative. Be disruptive. Be you.
Step 6: Try it out
- Remember: even the smallest action can create change.
- See what happens when you put your plan into effect
- Talk about it, share it and work at it
- Analyze your results
- Then do it again and again until you’ve creating the change you and your people envision
Let us know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’ll be pondering the fact that even if I did want to run for a political office, there is no place that would make sense to do so. There’s no place I’ve lived long enough to have a community to fiscally support me, and sadly, I highly doubt (here’s my millennial skepticism) that a conservative Gilbert, Arizona would elect a minority female in any office. But that’s a whole other issue.
How have you tried to change your reality? Do you know who represents your district? Are you registered to vote?