Last year, a major upheaval occurred in the United States, and you probably didn’t even notice. The change was silent, yet seismic, and will irrevocably alter the course of our country.
Millennials, Americans born between 1980 and 1997, now comprise the largest portion of the U.S. population — and all of them are now eligible to vote. That’s right: If they so choose, millennials could be the dominant force in American politics. If demographic and political surveys are any indication, this portends massive changes to U.S. governance and culture.
These changes are ones that many millennials, us included, will enthusiastically welcome. As we havepreviously written, our baby boomer parents and grandparents have monopolized and misused their political power ever since they seized it – committing crimes against their children’s and grandchildren’s generations in myriad ways.
For starters, they have expanded lavish government benefits on themselves while lowering their own taxes, with the inevitable result of piling up future government debt. Furthermore, they have catastrophically mismanaged the economy, relegating millions of citizens to second-class status. And they have ignored the real causes of climate change, the worst effects of which many of them will never see.
The damage inflicted upon millennials was foreseeable — and ignored. We have every right to be angry. We have every right to be apathetic. Yet, most of us aren’t: As polls have shown, millennials are more optimistic about America’s future than any preceding generation.
It is with this optimism that we eagerly approach our impending political power, bringing with us a slate of unified opinions on critical issues that diverge significantly from those of previous generations.
However, fear not, America: While millennials have been wronged, we’re not looking to get even. We’re simply looking to get things right. And here’s how we’re going to do it.
First, when it comes to social policies, we’re going to incorporate into our nation’s laws what we’ve already internalized in our personal lives: namely, the principle that the behaviors and preferences of any person, provided that they do no obvious harm to any other, are no business of anybody else.
It is a principle made clear by our overwhelming support for gay and lesbian rightsand for the legalization of marijuana — two issues on which nearly 70 percent of millennials align (15 percentage points more than any other generation) — and by our majority support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants (the only generation which holds that view).
Second, with respect to foreign policy, we’re going to more fervently embrace multilateralism and use diplomacy more often and more effectively as a tool. Inresearch conducted by the Cato Institute, millennials were “far more likely to see China as a partner than a rival and to believe that cooperation, rather than confrontation … is the appropriate strategy for the United States.” Also, while the rest of the country was split evenly on the Iran nuclear deal, millennials favored the diplomatic resolution by a 2-1 margin.
Economically, we’re going to create a system that affords every worker an equal chance — not an equal outcome — by making and effectively implementing basic health care as a right for all Americans (a position to which we are the first generation to provide majority support) and by increasing the minimum wage.
Yet, even as most millennials are united on these issues, many of our elders misunderstand us. Some progressives think this means our whole generation is primed to become Democrats. Others commentators, both liberal and conservative, have dubbed our views “confused” and “contradictory,” citing, among other things, our preference to declare ourselves political independents more frequently than any other generation despite voting for Democratic candidates in greater numbers, and the fact that most of us favor safe and legal access to abortion, even as many of us hold deep moral and ethical reservations about the procedure.
But we know the truth: That our views, far from being “confused,” actually comprise a coherent worldview for a modern, nuanced world, something neither of the two major political parties really make a pretext of presenting.
The two major parties, when approaching millennials, will have to get used to speaking to thoughtful voters who may favor optimizing welfare and disability systems, reducing the federal government’s role in education and housing, and streamlining taxes on businesses, yet also believe in a single-payer health care system, raising taxes on those individuals and families whom America has most richly benefited, and implementing strict controls on greenhouse gas emissions.
To start wooing us, Democrats and Republicans first have to recognize that our views are not necessarily contradictory. Millennials understand that while government has shown that it can be proficient at managing large systems intended for the service of many millions of people (Medicare and Social Security consistently receive universal support from all Americans), it often falters when doing things that are more complex or service fewer people.
To put it simply: We want a government as efficient as Uber, as connected as Facebook, and as simple as Venmo.
We know that many of our baby boomer politicians will laugh at such a statement, calling us naïve or – our favorite slight – “entitled.” This time, however, we’ll shrug it off. All our parents and grandparents need to know is that when we’re in control we’ll take care of our country, we’ll take care of our planet, and we’ll take care of them.
We pledge this even as we confront a harsh truth: That we are the first generation in modern American history whose parents and grandparents failed them – the first generation for whom that basic American promise – that parents should leave their children better off – was not kept. It is a wound most tragically encapsulated by a simple statistic: half of millennials believe that the American Dream is dead for them.”
But we are not despondent. We refuse to be remembered as the “Lost Generation,” as some have called us — far from it. When we take over, we’re going to be remembered as “the loud one.”