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Millennials Don’t Vote, And For Good Reason

So I want to talk about this article in Mother Jones, and how awful it is. Basically, it blames millennials for the Democrats losing so many elections. If only young people voted en masse, the article says, we could have won! It doesn’t matter how bad the candidates were, or how poorly they campaigned, or what their positions were, we could win as long as everyone (but especially millennials) blindly voted Democrat.

Well duh. “We would win if we had more votes” is obviously true. It’s such a vacuous statement that I’m surprised anyone insists on making it, but apparently Mother Jones is willing to stoop to that level. Of course if the groups that tend to skew Democrat vote in greater numbers, Democrats will do better in the elections. I seriously hope this surprises nobody.

But instead of simply pointing fingers and blaming millennials who didn’t vote on the Democrats’ loss, Mother Jones could have stopped and asked why we didn’t vote. It’s a much more interesting question. Why didn’t millennials show up at the polls? Why do millennials seem not to care about politics? It’s not like voting patterns happen in a vacuum. There are reasons for why this year saw the lowest millennial voting rate in a decade. Instead of whining about it, Mother Jones could have tried to figure it out.

Personally, I think it’s because millennials feel that no one in politics cares about us. If their elected members of Congress aren’t listening to our concerns, and issues we care about are being ignored, why should we bother voting? If neither candidate is willing to take up issues important to young voters, is it really that important to try and choose between them?

There are plenty of issues that millennials care about that politicians don’t seem interested in addressing. Student loan debt is one. A living minimum wage is another. Many millennials care about climate change, because in a few decades, we’ll be living through the consequences if we fail to address it. But few politicians are willing to do anything to fix it. Lots of millennials are falling victim to the increasing militarization of the police, or are joining our actual military only to be sent off to die in a foreign country for cheap oil. But it seems like too many politicians are gung ho about wars on drugs and wars in the Middle East, and have no concern for the lives they’re destroying.

Is it really any wonder why so few millennials are turning up to vote, when it will have such a small impact on our lives? Why should we vote for another politician who won’t do anything to improve the job market? Why should we take time off of work or school to choose between someone who will screw up the economy, and someone else who will screw up the economy? Why should we bother casting a ballot for a candidate when they won’t bother to listen to our concerns? The Fusion article linked to by Mother Jones says, “[Millennials] generally vote in much lower numbers than their older… counterparts” but, again, misses the forest for the trees. Millennials don’t vote because they feel that their vote doesn’t matter, because regardless of who wins the election, millennials lose.

So now, let me turn the question around. If the millennial vote is so important, why don’t politicians do more to court it? Why don’t politicians address issues that matter to us? If they want our vote so badly, they should do more to earn it. Instead of treating us as a magical Democratic voting fairy, candidates should listen to our opinions and take our concerns into account. We have issues that we care about, we have causes that we think are important, and we would probably be far more inclined to vote if our elected officials paid attention to them.

Politicians, instead of blaming us for your loss, start making sure our concerns are represented in Congress. Then more of us would care about elections. Stop trying to blame millennials for your defeat. If we don’t vote for you, that’s your fault, not ours. Work to fix it.

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Avery

Avery

Avery is a 23 year old recent college graduate, and when he's not busy wishing he didn't major in physics, he enjoys go, juggling, and music.
You can find him on his blog, Google+, or on Twitter as @PhysicallyAvery.

9 Comments

  1. November 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm —

    The choice between the candidate who won’t improve things, and the one who will almost certainly make things worse, seems clear enough to me.

    • November 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm —

      Exactly. 90% of politics is voting for the lesser evil. Usually you have one party that is determined to make things worse for you in as many ways as they can find, and others ranging from “worse, but only on selected issues” to “mostly better, except”. Except that in the US there are only two choices, so it’s “really bad vs truly awful”. Look at the (worldwide) political compass, the Democrats and Republicans are way up in the authoritarian/neoconservative/capitalist corner. But even so, the democrats tend to be less out there than republicans, so pick a direction.

      You’re not saying “I hate you all”, you’re saying “no matter how awful you are, I won’t do anything about it”.

      • November 10, 2014 at 12:01 am —

        Ugh.. No. We need to wake up to the fact that all this does is let the worse ones drag the semi-bad ones even farther into the sewer. Like I just posted over on the thread for the linked article, voting for Republicans is no longer a case of trading Joe Anybody, clueless, but well meaning, for Machiavelli, its trading bloody Machiavelli for Julius Caesar. There is no “progressive” party, and hoping that the “less bad” ones will win enough, while it seems like a brilliant idea, of you are willing to wait another 50-100 years for them to actually drag themselves back over the line, and out of the cess pool of plutocratic BS and lower key authoritarianism, then.. maybe. But, can we really afford it? And, if not, how the hell do we get them to put up “real” progressives, right now, not when I am bloody 80 years old, or, worse, 50 years into my grave? Because, just voting for the least stupid of them doesn’t imho, cut it now.

        This isn’t to say I didn’t, and won’t, unlike so many others, keep voting anyway, but.. bloody hell. I would kind of like the choice to be not to have my clothes or my hair lit on fire, not, “Which one would you prefer?”, and that, is way too close to the situation at this point, with what gets actually fielded as an option. And, that is even without the bullshit, like here in Arizona, where you get to pick the shittiest Dem you can, or the craziest Republican, purely based on which party you are in, during the so called “primary”, then, in the real election, pick whether you want the village idiot, or the village bully. Those, now, being the only options left, since Dems can’t vote for the least insane Republican, and no Republican is allowed to pick the the other parties least flaky, maybe actually capable of ideas, Democrat.

        The whole system is stacked so that the crazy party only fields crazies, and the clueless party only fields the most useless of the clueless, then, we are told, “Here are your two options, one drools a bit, and the other tends to go nuts and swing from the chandeliers, when ever you mention abortion, or climate change, but heh.. at least you have ‘options’!”. F that!

  2. November 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm —

    “There are plenty of issues that millennials care about that politicians don’t seem interested in addressing. Student loan debt is one. A living minimum wage is another. Many millennials care about climate change, because in a few decades, we’ll be living through the consequences if we fail to address it. But few politicians are willing to do anything to fix it.”

    On all of those issues, the Democrats have tried to act, and are committed to acting. So it’s simply not true that both sides are unwilling to try to fix these problems.
    Further, if you are upset with the way things are going, rather than disenfranchising yourselves, organize. Get together and take action at the local level! Organize, and push the local narrative towards the issues you are concerned with! You can’t solve climate change locally, but you can make a difference by trying to ensure green building regulations, like demanding any new building be net zero emissions. You can absolutely get a living wage passed locally! We did it here in Seattle, and San Francisco has long had a much higher minimum wage than the national one. Student loan debt may require state or national action, but by organizing locally, you can affect the conversations and make sure that your state and federal reps are more dedicated on the issue!
    The answer to unrepresentative government is not to give those in power what they want: your disenfranchisement; organize and run better candidates! Maybe you can run for office, maybe you can help someone else, but if you have gripes, make sure you are heard! When you don’t vote, and you don’t take action, you send a clear message: “I don’t care.”

    • November 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm —

      Let’s just look at student loan debt. I’ve seen a lot of talk about reducing or eliminating student loan debt, but literally zero action. Which was my whole point. Politicians aren’t interested in reducing student loan debt, because it only affects young people, and they could care less about us. That will never change, no matter who you vote in. That’s also why organizing at the local level doesn’t work. I don’t know if you remember the Vietnam War era, but young people spent over a decade protesting that war. It didn’t do much. People have already said it here, but the system is broken. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that blindly casting ballots for the same candidates will never work.

      • November 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm —

        One thing it did do, though, was put an end to the draft…because politicians were thinking it would get the youth to stop protesting if they realized they wouldn’t have to fight. It would seem there are both pros and cons to that. The obvious con being that perhaps it actually worked, which is why you don’t see more war protests today.

      • November 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm —

        Answer – A new,, third party, with enough clout to matter. Err.. Let me also add – SANE, to that, since about the only one that comes remotely close, so far, might be “Green”, and they, unfortunately, have a bit too much of the woo woo crowd tied up in their entirely one issue (environment) political stance. Not that ignoring the complexities of the world, instead of focusing 100% on one single set of interconnected issues is, itself, sane, but..

        No, like I said. The problem is that there is no “progressive” party. The Democrats are, at best, confused, uncertain, and lacking in clear ideas on how to fix problems, being unwilling, or unable, to rock the boat, and, at worst, just “Republican Lite” – Same flavor, less religious favoritism.

        Independents either a flaky party that never went any place, with its own odd vision, or.. a herd of cats, all going in different directions.
        Libertarians are basically a less religious version of the Tea Party, and.. just as clueless about how reality works. Heck, their hero’s own book cast the “good guys” as something liken to Lex Luthor, which is to say, willing to build fake businesses, undermine safety in others, defraud the government, and others, etc., all to rob 99% of the population of resources, to they could build a utopia, from which to watch the rest of the world burn. Its a bloody league of super villains, and they base their entire economic theory on it.
        The rest… does anyone even have a clue what they are, or stand for, any more? I mean, other than that they also have their own quirks, which lend them squarely outside the space called “The real world”?

        No, the two party system is broken, and “fixing it” demands the same thing that would have made the ACA work, and so many other things – competition. Without competition, businesses, political parties, heck, even social systems, can’t improve. And, the two parties we have are not a stable configuration. When one pulls, the other follows, like a game of tug of war, because there is no third point, anchoring them, or representing a position of comparison, by which they can tell that they have been dragged “too far”

        Oh, and on “competition” – I don’t, at all, believe in the Tea Party, or Libertarian, version of this. Their version is the same thing that happens with the two political parties. There is no “middle line”, with their versions. They are all in competition with each other to maximize their own checks, minimize their costs, and provide as little as possible. Yes, someone, at a premium, may provide a bit better product, and those that can afford it, will pay, just to get the slightly better product, and yes, *if* this becomes a serious enough threat, then the rest will try to do “slightly* better. But, its a bit like the Chinese ‘buffets’ where I live. There have been nearly 10 of them, in the last 5 years, half have closed, due to violations, or people not going any more, and the other half will soon follow, leaving only the usual “hole in the wall” places. Why? Because, when they first start out, they offer “better” than the competition, but then, once they have the business, they don’t give a damn any more, and start cutting corners, until, they cut one too many, and either go bankrupt, or get shut down for health violations. And.. Tea Party/Libertarians think that the former, “No one wants to eat there any more.”, is absolutely valid, but, “Its dangerous to eat their, the health inspector says so.”, is not. Oh, they will claim this isn’t really the case, but, what else is, “The market will decide.”, and, “We need to deregulate things, so people an innovate better.”, really saying? Because, without those, you get thousands of businesses all racing to the bottom, with **no** obligation, at all, to follow any rules. There has to be a fulcrum, or third point, something dragging things back from the edge, someone, or something to “compete” against the rest, which is actually a clear threat to their positions, and which **is not** functioning under the same rules.

        Two parties cannot be one another’s foils. They have no obligation to avoid being dragged down the same path, one following the other, like sand being dragged down hill by running water. There has to be an obstacle, which they *both* have to deal with. And, as useful as the constitution is, in some ways, to do this, it is, by design, imperfect, and changeable, and cannot address that which its writers never envisioned to be a problem. So.. we are left needing, again, something else, sufficiently different, to become the third point, that the others have to contend with.

        Though, it would help, greatly, I think, if we could also, instead of working so damn hard to prevent people from voting, to a) make it mandatory, with a fine if you fail to do so, b) possible to vote, at all (a real holiday, where your job doesn’t tell you, “Nope, sorry, you have to work the holiday!”, and c) limit the time frame that campaigning happens. Australia does at least two of those – you *must* vote there, and they limit the entire time the crazies can spam your email, plaster signs every place, and ramble on TV, to 3 months before the election. Just those things, right there, Would end so much stupidity, including the very stupid, “I didn’t vote, because I know the other 100 million people that agree with me didn’t either, so what would have been the point?”, attitude, which let all the paranoid, fearful, pro-terror party win this last election.

  3. November 13, 2014 at 3:01 pm —

    Cool story, bro.

    You want to see policies that benefit you, you have to turn out, all the time. You have to show up, plain and simple. You think the Tea Partiers get everything they want? They don’t, but things are still going their way because Republicans know that those people will show up at town halls, donate cash, and vote, every election. Republicans know, without a doubt, that they will have to answer for every vote they cast.

    The handy side effect is that they are also turning out for local and state elections, and since the rest of us aren’t, they control state legislatures, city and county councils, and local party machines. These are the political machines that enact the policies they want to see, and they are far more vulnerable than the federal bodies to settings in the turnout. They have far more influence on your life and mine than Washington does, and what you see happening locally is what you will see nationally in every election.

    When millennials sideline themselves, they remove themselves from this local/state equation. They don’t see policies they want and need, because they don’t participate in the process that yields them. Then, apparently, they sit and pout that their closest allies didn’t do enough to engage them, which is true, but mainly because millennials aren’t making themselves a force to be reckoned with on any level.

    You can see a parallel in Ferguson. There, decades of voter suppression and sporadic participation left the majority black population without significant representation anywhere in government. That didn’t turn out well, and only sustained organization and voter participation will result in any lasting change in the institutions there.

    But, by all means, wait in silence for what you want to magically appear. Has to work some time, right?

  4. November 13, 2014 at 9:23 pm —

    Hmmm… “There are plenty of issues that millennials care about that politicians don’t seem interested in addressing. Student loan debt is one. A living minimum wage is another. ”

    I’m 54 yo, and I just spent months working my ass off as a volunteer to reelect my congressman and my governor (Joe Courtney and Dan Malloy, respectively, of Connecticut), both of whom are my age or older. Student loan debt has been a signature issue of the former, and raising our state minimum wage a signature accomplishment of the latter… along with paid sick leave, tough new gun safety laws, decriminalization of pot, and legalization of medicinal pot.

    I’m not a millennial, and neither was either of those candidates… but our sons and daughters are. Do you really imagine we’re just not “interested in addressing” the issues they care about, or that will shape the world they must live in?

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