There’s one thing all of us are certain to hear during every election cycle: it’s the most important of our lifetime. In fact, we hear it so often that many of us have become immune to what it’s implying – except for the fact that this year, it might actually be true. Of course, while every prior election has been significant in its own way, the results of the 2016 election have redefined “importance” in ways none of us ever imagined. On a national level, our democracy is functional but fragile, as the current administration continues to threaten the American institutions that keep us stable; on a state level, our challenges demand solutions that can no longer be postponed by ineffective, status quo governing.
While the choices we need to make seem obvious, they remain dependent on our collective motivation to make them. This starts with my generation: millennial s
Political complacency has been a stigma that has continually plagued millennial s, even as we have surpassed the baby boomers in becoming the largest voting demographic in the nation. Our lack of interest is used as a tool for blame on election outcomes, and when we finally do show the motivation to take action, it’s usually seen as nothing more than an incoherent and poorly executed excuse to complain.
To some degree, the numbers reflect this reality: in 2012, 49% of 18-35 year old’s turned out to vote; in 2016, that number increased to 50 - a whopping 1%. The numbers for midterm elections, as you can imagine, are far less.
However, this generation now has the opportunity to change this conversation more decidedly – and the proof of this change seems to be occurring throughout the nation. Millennial s are beginning to age – finishing their education, starting careers, settling in locations, and starting families – making the importance of the issues, and how those issues affect the future – more firmly in reach. Much of this, in turn, has motivated more millennial s to run for office than ever before – in fact, I was one of them during this year’s primary here in Palm Beach County.
At the same time, the excuses often used to ignore political conversation are dwindling, too. Because this generation is more proficient and adaptable with technology, social media, and the rapid evolution of both, conversation about the issues that surround our politics is more available, more effortless, and less avoidable than at any point prior.
Yet, for as much as these indicators show that the level of engagement might be changing, they will only have a minimal impact as long as people stay home on Election Day.
In years past, not showing up to vote may have seemed like a more acceptable option, since the choices available to us often felt like simple ideological differences that were conventional, ordinary, and safe. Today, the possibility of a president left unchecked, or a state that continues to find little urgency in correcting the vastness of our environmental crises, addressing our educational priorities, and establishing more acceptable standards of living are nothing short of a series of reckless scenarios that can be easily avoided.
For millennials, the results of inaction are perhaps the most consequential. This is the generation that will be around to witness rising seas, to work toward vanishing social security, to send their kids to schools that lack proper funding – and protection.
Those are risks that none of us can possibly accept.
With that, I leave my fellow millennial s with the following message: jeopardizing our entire future would be a tragic price to pay for our failure to spend less than 15 minutes filling out a ballot. In just over a month, let’s finally put this stigma behind us by taking action, showing up to vote, and making the difference. Your happy hour that Tuesday will be a real reason to celebrate.