In 2020, Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run For Something, took to Twitter to remind her audience why her organization only works with political candidates under 40.
“Every generation has it rough,” she tweeted. “But millennials are dramatically underrepresented in government. If we were proportionally present in Congress, there’d be about 100 of us. Instead, there are about 25. At last count, we made up barely 5% of the 7,383 state legislators nationwide.”
The Pew Research Center backs up her stats. In February of 2021, Pew reported minor increases in millennial representation in Congress. There were 31 millennials in the House of Representatives (which is made up of 432 members), and 20 millennials in the Senate (out of 100 members).
At the same time, however, younger generations are beginning to make up the majority of America’s voting blocs.
According to TIME, millennials and members of Gen Z — which together make up the demographic of American adults born since 1981— now represent 31% of the electorate. TIME also shared significant increased voter turnout from young Americans, up by 11% in the 2020 election.
Increased millennial representation in politics is vital for increased diversity in all political arenas, as well as a means to maintaining a truly representative democracy.
Tim Royers is an educator in Nebraska, where he is running for a seat in the state legislature. He is 37.
"There are important issues that impact people at different points in their lives, and ideally you want a range of age groups represented in our state legislatures to help give voice to all important issues."
“There are important issues that impact people at different points in their lives, and ideally you want a range of age groups represented in our state legislatures to help give voice to all important issues,” Royers said.
“One of the biggest human flaws that we have is that we presume that what was true for us is implicitly true for others who are going through similar experiences. As a millennial who is in the back half of his 30s, I also recognize that I'm losing touch with some issues that are more pressing for Generation Z — which is all the more reason for every generation to have strong representation in elected offices.”
Though heavily outnumbered, millennial politicians are often quite popular; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pete Buttigieg, and Dan Crenshaw among them.
Of course, flaws in electoral politics and valid disillusionment are partly to blame for low millennial political engagement. Still, the future is at our feet, and change is coming — despite that change happening over years, and even decades.
In the meantime, how do younger politicians keep the momentum going?
A number of grassroots organizations and boot camps work exclusively with young politicians to change the face of American politics, both on a national level and within their own neighborhoods.
These organizations and boot camps help young leaders get started running for office:
Run For Something
Run For Something aims to “create a party that reflects the changing face of our electorate” by recruiting and supporting young, diverse candidates. They lower the barriers to entry for young candidates by helping with tactical and strategic support, mentorship, training, and fundraising.
New Politics is a bipartisan organization working to revitalize democracy by developing and electing young leaders who put community and country over self; especially those with previous experience in the military, Americorps, or the Peace Corps.
Arena convenes, trains, and supports the next generation of candidates and campaign staff through training programs, career initiatives, free toolkits and resources, and robust candidate support.
Besides these robust candidate resources, young politicians need our help to get elected. You can support them by volunteering for or donating to their campaigns, but Royers said the easiest thing you can do is vote.
"If more millennials and Gen Z turn out to vote, it changes the landscape of elections dramatically."
“If more millennials and Gen Z turn out to vote, it changes the landscape of elections dramatically,” Royers said. “I know that many are disillusioned because they feel that lawmakers are failing to address their concerns, but until younger adults vote, it's going to stay that way. If younger voter rates start to go up, you will absolutely see a shift in messaging and campaign agendas to sell themselves to the evolving voter base.”
This article was first published in The Generations Edition of the Goodnewspaper.
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