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Millennial Involvement In Politics Is Important

In the 2016 presidential election, one of the most unfortunate factors leading to Donald Trump’s success was the silence of the 18–29 age group. Millennials have the lowest voter turnout rate in America, despite the fact that they have the potential to hold the most significant amount of political power. The things millennials care about are inherently political, but voter registration still remains too low to challenge the Baby Boomer generation.

This is not entirely their fault…

Young people are pioneering social movements across the nation; they face struggles that older citizens have never been fully familiar with, in financial, racial, and environmental spheres. It is clear that there is a lot of issues worth discussing for millennials, but there have been blockages in voter registration in recent years that have wrapped red tape around the ankles of young voters, many of whom are forced to jump through the hoops of provisional ballots. Because the younger generations are made less aware of how the political process works, their voter eligibility is questioned, and they are punished for their lack of knowledge about the subject.

But all is not lost. Especially in collegiate environments, organizations are arising that make it easier than ever to increase youth involvement in politics. At UVA, The NextGeneration organization is attempting to not only increase voter registration on school grounds but also increase awareness about a variety of issues affecting young people today. By volunteering and education oneself, the older generations will have no other choice but to see millennials for the true political force that they are.

We all have issues we’re passionate about. Education, the economy, student loan debt reform, foreign policy issues, same-sex marriage, and many other issues top our policy priorities. The list is seemingly endless, but what many millennials don’t realize is how the nuts and bolts of government work.

We’ve all seen the iconic School House Rock’s “How a Bill Becomes a Law” video and have a general grasp of the constitutional workings of government; however, what we really need is a practical education in how the political system works. What forces precipitate the writing and introduction of a bill? How do issue groups work to support or undermine that bill? Why do some bills get a vote and media coverage while others die a quiet “death” before even one committee hearing?

Though we have a pretty good handle on fantasy football or the latest political intrigue on “Game of Thrones,” we still consider our own government Byzantine. But, it doesn’t have to be unnecessarily complicated. (Though, to be fair, sometimes it is, despite our best efforts.)

Effectively translating our goals into results is a mechanism we’re all familiar with and should use, no matter what you do for a living or your experiences. Our generation is arguably the most plugged-in, politically unconventional group of young Americans ever. We pick and choose policy issues (and our positions on them) not because they conform to overall ideological precepts, but because we think it’s the right course of action.

I’ve been lucky to grow up with many friends, probably more than I deserve, who are passionate about issues, politics or just results that can benefit our communities and nation. Few will say, for example, “I’m a conservative, therefore I have to take X position on criminal justice reform.” Rather, they’ll say, “I’m a conservative, and I believe X is the right way to reform our criminal justice system. Here’s why, and why others, regardless of political affiliation, should support it.” They don’t feel constrained by ideology and are happy to work with an idea from the other side of the ideological spectrum if it’ll produce results.

It’s hard to believe, but many welcome the opportunity to make difficult political decisions (or any political decision at all) because they’ve been deprived of the ability to make such decisions in their own home countries.

We’re on our way, but we still have much to learn.

Our generation has the potential to transform traditional politics. That’s not a hyperbole; it’s the truth.

Millennials have been criticized for being vapid, self-absorbed and indifferent, but I think we are just frustrated with the institutions. We’re poised to make the tough decisions, but before we do, we need to understand how we got to where we are and where we want to go.

Our future depends on it and each of us.