It’s Not ALL About the Free Tuition
Well, maybe it is a little bit about the free tuition when it comes to some of the issues that matter to “Millennials,” those Americans born between1982-2004. After all, many millennials are graduating from college today with a student loan tab of about $28,000 on average. I suspect that a recent graduate would rather use that amount of money for a down payment on a home or starting a new small business, but I digress. “Free tuition for all” is just the tip of the iceberg for this young generation – they are far too dynamic, complex and politically engaged to be defined by a single issue. Having surpassed baby boomers as the largest – and most educated – living generation that America has ever known, millennials have the potential to influence local and national elections in 2016, and subsequent elections to come, in a profound way. But the question is: will they vote?
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, has drawn massive crowds throughout the primary season, largely made up of millennials. He is a few months shy of his 75th birthday, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, who reminds many people of their angry uncle who stops by during the holidays. But his campaign manifesto, which includes dismantling a “rigged economic system” perpetuated by Wall Street oligarchs, is attractive and makes Sen. Sanders a rock-star among millennials. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic wrote in a recent article that “In Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, more than 80 percent of voters under 30…voted for Bernie Sanders.”
So what are some of the issues that are top of mind for millennials? What are they passionate about? While analyzing several surveys that asked them similar questions, including those published by the Pew Research Center, and USA TODAY/Rock the Vote, I can opine that this generation is in sync with the rest of America concerning the economy. They desire a good job with a living wage that will allow them to finally leave their parent’s nest to fully embrace adulthood. Many are in favor of increasing the minimum wage and levying a heftier tax bill on America’s top income earners. Young people are usually more liberal than their parents, and on social issues like immigration reform, marijuana, universal healthcare and gay rights, millennials are no different. I recently spoke to a 34 year-old single mom about the importance of voting in this election cycle. I realize a sample size of one is not that significant, but while waiting on a to-go order at my favorite BBQ stand, I figured I’d do some research. She told me that “the values of the candidates need to match mine.” I then asked her to expand on what she meant by “values.” She said “I care about people; the least among us. I don’t believe that a Republican will do anything for them…I don’t vote Republican.”
Millennials want a political revolution. They were hit the hardest during the 2008 economic meltdown by a turbulent combination of rising tuition and depressed wages that has made their ascent toward the middleclass a slow climb. They’re justifiably angry, and they’re voices are being heard loud and clear. With a less than stellar voting record, with about half of eligible voters between the ages of 18-29 voting during the 2012 presidential election, millennials have to find a way to stay engaged, especially if their chosen candidate comes up short in the primary. They have the passion and the numbers to have a say in which direction our nation goes. So, millennials, what say you?
About Marvin Dasher, Jr
Marvin Dasher, Jr. serves as the Civic Engagement Chairman for the Pinellas County Urban League Young Professionals. He has served as Chairman since 2009. Marvin received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg. He currently lives and works in St. Petersburg, Florida.