How millennials can become a successful generation

Millennials, engage! It's the reason you keep losing to baby boomers.

MICHAEL HOBBES: I think there's this tendency to think that technology is going to save us or that technology is going to be uncomplicated when it saves us. And if you look at every technological innovation, they've all been really complicated. And so we can't wait for automation to save us; we can't wait for technology to solve climate change. These are political problems; the reduction and the quality of work is a political problem that requires a political solution. There's no app for forming a union in your workplace. There's no app for raising the minimum wage where you live or raising taxes on rich people. These are the things we need to work toward, and we can't wait for or hope for or expect that technology is going to offer us any solution when it never has before.

If you're a millennial, one of the things that will probably make you really mad is that when our parents were protesting the Vietnam War, Americans under 45 outnumbered Americans older than 45 by two to one. So, when they were electing JFK and when they were protesting the Vietnam War, they could elect politicians to put them in power, whereas now, as the population has gotten older – it's now almost 50-50; half the population is under 45 and half the population is over 45. And what that means is there's never been an American generation that has held onto power as it aged the way that the boomers have. The boomers are still in power; they still out-vote us. They don't outnumber us anymore, but because they vote at greater rates they still do outnumber us in power. The median member of Congress is 59. That is bad. If you're a millennial you've spent your entire life being told by everybody from teachers to MTV that you should vote; you've also experienced voting getting harder. The lines are getting longer, especially in poorer areas. This is being done deliberately. Voter ID laws are coming up everywhere. It's getting harder to vote. So, yes, it's important for us to vote, but it's also really important that when we get into power we need to make it easier to vote.

I live in a state where you receive your ballot in the mail, there's no waiting in line. You get it, you have two weeks, the postage is paid and you send it back. We have way higher turnouts, especially in primaries, than a lot of other states do. If you're working two jobs it makes perfect sense for you not to vote. Of course you're not going to stand in line for three hours. So I think what needs to be our generational project is finding all of these procedures and making them easier. It's not just a matter of voting, we need to vote and then we need to make it easier for the next generation to vote.

  • Millennials keep waiting for technology to fix their problems, but they can improve their quality of life now through voting and civic engagement.
  • Baby boomers participate in politics and turn up to vote at much higher rates, so their priorities dominate the political system. (The median member of Congress is 59 years old. That's bad.)
  • Removing roadblocks to voting will help millennials realize their political power so they can vote for issues that affect them most, like climate change policy, raising wages for workers, and closing the wealth gap.
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