Years of government gridlock has made us Millennials
care less about pure ideology
When I registered to vote at age 18, I immediately registered as an independent. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Intensely following political news for four years prior to that hadn’t changed my mind one bit. Neither has it since.
And I doubt that will ever change. I’m too straight down the middle to belong to any party and I cannot subscribe to the faith that one party or one platform has all of the answers. Indeed, in this past November election, I voted for four Republicans, three Democrats and one independent on the ballot. I’ve taken multiple online quizzes to see where I stand politically, based on my responses to questions on issues. Each time, I’m placed in the exact middle of the political spectrum. One quiz once even classified me as an “absolute independent moderate Democratic Republican.”
I don’t think you can get more moderate than that.
And even though we live in heated times where it seems we are running farther from the middle, there seems to be a growing number of young people who feel the same way as I do.
A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that nearly half of Millennials (those born between 1982 and the early 2000s) are politically independent. That’s the highest number of any generation Pew has found in its years of polling. While that poll is now three years old and its accuracy can be reasonably argued, there is a strong sense that young people today feel politically dissatisfied with both major parties that largely goes unnoticed.
The reason for that dissatisfaction isn’t at all surprising. Millennials are facing many tremendous hardships that are unfortunately being branded by older generations as simple laziness. While that may be true in some cases, we are paying a lot more for college and getting paid less at the job we get afterward — if we can find a job, that is. We can barely afford rent, let alone health insurance once we turn 26.
For years, we have looked at our government, hoping for sincere efforts in addressing the issues we face. And instead, we got Ted Cruz reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on the floor of the Senate.
Yes, as long as we’ve been old enough to vote, all we young people have known has been a government in gridlock and hyper partisan politics. Republicans blame Democrats for this and Democrats blame Republicans for that. We’ve grown up with candidates saying the same old campaign cliche crap.
“He is for the donors. I’m for the people!” “We’re going to return power to you!” “Wall Street thrives while Main Street suffers!”
We’re tired of that. We want things to get done. Tell us what you are going to do, not what you think your opponent is going to do.
But after years of bickering, some of us have lost faith. And who can blame them? We’re afraid that all we’ll ever know is one side in the minority obstructing the other until they gain power. Then the other side will obstruct them and the cycle will just go on and on and on.
The contentious presidential election of 2016 underscored our discontent. A recent Associated Press/NORC poll found that less than one-third of teenagers surveyed were favorable to President Trump. Hillary Clinton fared only slightly better. Our two major party presidential nominees were both Baby Boomers, historically unlikeable and both people who claimed to fight the system that many of us feel they were a part of. In the end, it was the same thing we’ve seen for a long time — two campaigns with little or no message who spent months at a time relentlessly attacking the other.
That is why so many young people resonated with Bernie Sanders. Himself an independent, he intensely focused on issues young people cared about without all of the mumbo jumbo.
And while most Millennials are liberal Democrats or mostly vote Democratic, the rise of Sanders made many young people look at the party closely and really begin to question their commitment to average working class Americans. I can’t tell you how many young friends and acquaintances of mine wrote in Sanders’ name in November or immediately changed their party registration to independent when former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee over Rep. Keith Ellison.
And while the age of Trump might quash some of that defection, there are still going to be a sufficient number of people who feel the party left them — not the other way around. And the same could be said on the Republican side as well.
We are the voters of the future. It gives me much satisfaction that so many people are reconsidering their loyalty and doing what I do — voting for the best person, not the best party.
It’s funny really. In their efforts to paint each other as a bad guy as a way to recruit Millennials, both Democrats and Republicans are doing the exact opposite.
They overlooked one important thing. Ideology by itself just isn’t as important to us. A fair government that can cooperate and has our best interest at heart is all we require. Maybe they should start doing that. But should both major parties want to keep politics all about stopping the other at all costs, I have no doubt they are going to create more absolute independent moderate Democratic Republicans like me in their wake.
Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and daily copy editor/page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88