An Open Letter to the Future Chair of the DNC about Next Generation Engagement

Sarah Audelo
Jan 15, 2017 · 5 min read

Dear Candidates for Chair of the Democratic National Committee:

We are a group of Millennials who have worked to organize our generation in electoral and issue-based advocacy campaigns. We write to the future chair of the DNC to urge that both they and the other party affiliated entities make investing in the Millennial generation, and the generations that follow, a priority.

You know the talking point: Millennials are the largest, most diverse, most educated, most progressive and inclusive generation our country has ever seen. We also value diversity and are committed to protecting the rights of our communities, no matter their race, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ability, nationality, or socioeconomic status. For nearly every issue in our party’s platform — including on the economy, education, climate, gun violence prevention, criminal justice and immigration reform, LGBTQ and reproductive rights and more — the Millennial generation is more supportive than any other. Young people under the age of 35 that, since 2004, have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates for President.

Our peers are leading movements on immigration reform, against police brutality, addressing student debt, and more. We are the reason why so many of these issues have been part of the national dialogue. Yet, leaders on the left continue to approach our generation with contempt, if not outright ignoring us.

A 2012 report by then-named Campus Progress pointed out the disparities between the left and right when it comes to investing in the next generation. Unfortunately, little has changed. For four years, the DNC has no line item budget for College Dems, and less than a full-time staff person dedicated to supporting these students. The College Republicans spent over $6 million in 2016. Investment in a College Dems program should be at least at parity, if not more.

Now, we have a generation that identifies less with the party than any other. You must lead the fight from the top of the party in order to right this wrong.

As leaders who have fought alongside and for our peers, we have compiled a list of actions that should be taken to ensure the party is a place where our generation can find a political home:

  1. Create a minimum line-item in the DNC budget that funds party engagement and outreach to young adults between the ages of 14–34. This engagement should include:

a. A robust College Dems of America program that is staffed by at least two full-time staff members.

b. The development of College Dems of America programming beyond “traditional” colleges and universities. These schools should include: community colleges; commuter colleges; HBCU and other minority-serving institutions; and high schools.

c. A staffed position for non-college outreach to young adults who do not attend college. Engagement opportunities should include: apprenticeship programs, unions, and other job training sites.

d. Party activities that are accessible to parents, including uplifting policy stances to support new parents (affordable childcare, paid leave, etc.), as well as parent-friendly meeting spaces that provide childcare and activities for children.

e. Staffed positions on the digital and communications team that target millennials and millennial-focused outlets.

f. Paid internships that includes housing in Washington, DC and state capitols across the country. Internships should also be available to undocumented young people.

g. A staffed position that aims to grow the number of young Americans identifying with the party focused on outreach to non-affiliated young people who agree with us on the issues and hold our same progressive values. h. Verbal, digital, and other support for movements driven by young people so that the party is seen as an ally of this work, not an adversary.

2. Uplift Millennial electeds in order to create a candidate and staff pipeline that reflects the identities and values of our party and voters. This includes:

a. Supporting these electeds with policy ideas that reflect both the needs of the generation and the country writ-large.

b. Media training and press placement to lift the profile of these electeds both within and outside their communities.

c. Funding & support to find employment off-cycle to ensure these elected can afford to continue to represent our communities.

3. Train electeds and their staff on young adult outreach and engagement. Engagement could include:

a. Creating youth advisory councils for their campaigns and once elected.

b. Holding regular meetings with young constituents.

c. Supporting progressive youth organizations located their districts — such as speaking at meetings and conferences.

d. A list of recommended vendors with experience contacting young voters.

e. Oversampling young voters in polling, and utilizing youth-specific messaging in youth specific outreach materials (mail, literature, advertisements, etc.).

f. Invitations to fundraisers for young activists, particularly the best volunteers from local campaigns, at near-100% discount. Voters are shaped by the experiences they have at a young age, and their inclusion in these critical party functions will stay with them throughout their lives.

Democratic electeds should see their young constituents as their greatest allies.

4. Allow donors to donate above and beyond a line-item specified for next generation engagement.

There is no time to waste. President Obama has already announced his intent to develop “a whole new generation of talent.” The party must as well. This moment is more important than ever to start course correcting. We have a generation eager to not only push back against a Trump Administration, but fight proactively and collectively for a country that reflects our progressive values. Our generation may be drifting away from party affiliation, but focusing on investment, trust, and the issues our generation cares about most can reverse that trend. Our elected officials, our party leaders, our generation, and our country will be better for it.

Thank you,

Sarah Audelo Former National Millennial Vote Director, Hillary for America

Rep. Park Cannon Georgia State Representative, District 58

Max Cotterill Co-Founder, College Students for Bernie Member, California Democratic Party State Central Committee

Rep. Mary Gonzalez Texas State Representative, House District 75

Mayor Svante Myrick Mayor of Ithaca, NY

Symone Sanders Former National Press Secretary, Bernie 2016

Christopher Sloan Director of Government Affairs, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)

Quentin Wathum-Ocama Secretary, Young Democrats of America

Ben Wessel Millennial Vote Director, NextGen Climate

CC: Dan Sena, Executive Director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Mindy Myers, Executive Director, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

Elisabeth Pearson, Executive Director, Democratic Governors Association

Jessica Post, Executive Director, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee

Sarah Audelo
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