By Praditya Fulumirani
Millennials don’t care. Those aren’t my words, that’s just what the figures say.
“Heal the world/ Make it a better place/ For you and for me/ And the entire human race,” Michael Jackson sings in his 1992 song “Heal the World.” It’s a commendable sentiment—healing the world—but the question is, is it actually achievable?
Actually, let’s get rid of the word “healing” altogether. I feel you, readers—it is rather dramatic, roll your eyes as much as you want.
Let me rephrase that: “change” is the more appropriate term. Can we change the world?
OK, the world’s a stretch—can we change America?
Actually, it doesn’t even have to be change. Let’s start with something simple, let’s start with care. Can we care for our country—especially with the indifference to politics many of its youth holds? We certainly should, and by “we” I mean Millennials. Why? Because we’re about to take over America—no, that’s not an exaggeration.
The Pew Research Center reports that, “Millennials are on the cusp of surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation, according to population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. As of July 1, 2016 (the latest date for which population estimates are available), Millennials, whom we define as ages 20 to 35 in 2016, numbered 71 million, and Boomers (ages 52 to 70) numbered 74 million. Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers in population in 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million and Boomers decline to 72 million.”
But the bigger question is, are we willing to care?
Before we go on further, there’s probably one thing we have to get out of the way first.
The newly-settled cutoff year (1996) for the Millennials has sparked a lively debate as of late. Until recently, the term had been used to describe young adults in general. And for the rest of this article, I’ll be sticking with the old definition. Because one, there isn’t even a proper name yet for the following generation, Pew Research Center simply refers to them as “post-Millenials.” “Generation Z” is another term floating around, but nothing is set in stone. In a recent New York Times questionnaire, post-Millenials were asked what they would name the generation they were a part of. The answers were varied, but no one seemed to be particularly drawn to either “Generation Z” or “post-Millennial.” Those of us born in 1999 couldn’t vote in the past election but we certainly can vote this year, even babies born in 2000—at least those born pre-November 8, are eligible to vote (well, if they register). As you can see, Millennials aren’t the only ones coming into power—post-Millennials, specifically the older ones, are right behind them.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Only 50 percent of the youth electorate (18-29) voted in the 2016 presidential election, the Brookings Institution reports. Where was the other half? In comparison, 69 percent of Baby Boomers and 63 percent of “Gen X” voted, Pew Research Center reports. Regardless of political affiliation, it’s a quite distressing fact—that people who can vote aren’t voting. The results of a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California show that 60 percent of Californians aged 18-35 are registered to vote, but when asked, only 32 percent of them were likely to vote.
The issue of young adults not being inclined to vote isn’t anything new. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” was a popular slogan used in the youth voting rights movement of the ‘60s. In 1971, the Twenty-sixth Amendment was ratified, which lowered the voting requirement age from 21 to 18. The next year, only 53 percent of people below 30 voted, Brookings Institution reports. As with today, the same question arises: where did the other half go?
Participation is perhaps democracy’s leading characteristic. What’s the point of living in a nation like this if you aren’t willing to vote? A person loses their right to complain the second they refuse to partake in politics. It’s one thing if the people aren’t allowed to have a say on what occurs within the government. But that’s not the case here. Granted, American citizens don’t have direct control. Yet, they can still elect a representative whose ideologies fits best with theirs.
But simply writing off all Millennials as being apathetic would be the easy way out, some do care—at least online. The popular microblogging website, Tumblr, has about half of their user population being ages 15-34. In a 2014 survey, the site found that 64 percent of its users have an interest in social issues and use the website to look further into them. Of course, there’s nothing bad in using social media to spread awareness. Plus, online activism is a great alternative for those who aren’t old enough to vote but it’s all for naught if people don’t show that same kind of enthusiasm at the polls.
“They’re just lazy,” Adam Klanecky, a psychology student, says about millennials who refuse to vote. “And instead of complaining about choosing between idiots, maybe they should vote earlier so they have a better lineup.”
“America has its agenda, so it doesn’t matter what politicians are in front, they’re just the face,” Ray Martinez, a mechanical engineering major, explains when asked for his reasons for not voting in 2016, or anytime in the near future.
This just shows the disparity of opinions our generation holds. Politics is a personal choice, and there really isn’t one reason to drive a person to vote or not vote. Simply put, we are complicated.
Nick Hernandez, a political science professor at COC, explains this phenomenon:
“If you’re asking specifically why young people are not voting, I believe there are a number of reasons. One, they don’t believe the people running for office represent their interests. Two, they don’t relate on a personal level to the candidates. Three, general lack of enthusiasm for politics because many of them see the political system as broken and don’t believe they can fix it. Four, study after study illustrates their lack of voting which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The reports say they don’t vote so why should they.”
Yet, the future seems bright. Out of a sample group of 100 COC students, when asked if they would vote in the 2018 midterm elections, 40 percent said they most likely would. 37 percent were unsure, while the remaining 23 percent said they wouldn’t.
“In the end, young people in those generations are going to participate in politics if it is something they truly care about, something that affects them on a personal level rather than participating because someone has told them along the way that it is their civic duty to do so,” Hernandez later adds.
Of course, Millennials aren’t a monolith. Plenty are not comfortable with the way this country is being run at the moment, plenty are just fine. Plenty find themselves in the middle ground. But something we can all agree on is that apathy won’t cut it anymore. Regardless of what you believe in, you have to fight for it, not simply sit on your hands while your grandparents decide what’s best for this generation. Yes, there’ll be debates—but then at least, it would be our debates.