Voting is Only Step One

No matter who you vote for, chances are that if you are between 18 and 35 years old, on November 9th, you are going to get dumped for someone richer.

Every campaign, whether it is presidential or local, wants to woo us young people. And they’re right to want us. There are about 80 million Millennials and because we are the largest American generation ever, we are also now the largest voting demographic. Campaigns will curry favor among Millennials and cross their fingers that even a percentage of the young people they recruited turn up on Election Day. To win, candidates need us.

Huge sums of money get pumped into registering young voters, and foundations and individual donors support things like Rock the Vote. Earlier this week, environmentalist and philanthropist Tom Steyer announced a $25M plan to register young voters concerned about climate change. Getting young people to vote is a good thing. Voter registration and Get Out The Vote campaigns are a needed reminder for disenfranchised young people that politics influences every aspect of our present and future lives, whether or not we choose to participate. On November 8th, campaigns and voter registration initiatives will pray all their work pays off. But then what?

What happens after November 8th?

What happens after all the political energy cultivated among Millennials transfers back to the ballot box via election day osmosis?

On November 9th we’ll all go back to our lives as the first American generation predicted to be worse off economically than our parents. At that same exact time, companies, unions and America’s wealthiest will go be back to spending $8M a day to push their corporate agendas forward. Although the fate of politicians may change on election day, no policies change on election day, and that is because politics does not just happen on election day. Politics is what happens between elections and it happens every day. I am not suggesting voting does not matter — of course voting matters — voting gets people elected. Our responsibility does not end after we vote, but unfortunately, our capacity to stay deeply engaged in politics usually does end there.

We need to find a way to keep those we elect accountable and focused on creating the future we want, not the future that corporate lobbyists and special interests want. I would propose a law mandating that Congressional members wear blinders when they walk the halls, but because Congress doesn’t seem to be able to do much, I’m not particularly confident that would pass. Instead, I propose we get our own lobbyists to fight for us every day. Voting is the most powerful democratic tool when we talk about getting people into office. But being able to keep elected officials focused on our priorities might take the cake when we talk about getting things done.It would be like getting to vote every day.