Millennial Optimism Will Reshape the Political Arena
Alan Eyzaguirre writes about the growing millennial voice in our country for Medium. Read for more on our #ErinForUs campaign as well as just how much OUR generation has the ability to change the future...
Why a 25-year-old woman running for Congress is the answer to a lot of poignant questions.
by Alan Eyzaguirre
Last week, I wrote, then muted an article on how The Internet created Trump. It was a piece that deconstructed the impact of lightspeed communications on our marginal state of humanity, how the brightest minds are optimising digital ads rather than shaping a better state, and how the Internet fuels both intelligent discourse and impudent radicalism. As a seasoned corporate marketer, it is all too easy to see the dark underpinnings of this metastructure we’ve imposed on ourselves, and completely ignore the silver lining.
This week, however, I was inspired by the abundant resource of unbounded millennial thinking. Yesterday, Tiffany Shlain invited a group of Marin County residents to hear Erin Schrode’s pitch for Congresswoman in the California Second District, spanning from north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Oregon. Now this all sounds well and good, but then one quickly realizes that Erin Schrode is twenty-five years old. She launched her campaign on Medium, her YouTube video became a sensation, and she’s inherently aligned with the social media phenomenon. Her approach and potential impact is in stark contrast to some other candidate.
Erin’s optimism is a reflection of some millennial trends. Regardless of the success of her campaign, she represents a clear movement: the millennial generation is now the largest population in the United States, women are a majority of the U.S. population, and millennials are not afraid to redefine a creaking political system that seems barely capable of surviving to three hundred years.
The key here is that Erin shouldn’t have to defend her right to run for office. That is guaranteed in the Constitution. She shouldn’t have to point out that campaign finance policies favor incumbents. She shouldn’t have to be pitched to national media as a phenomenon. Erin is simply acting as a representative of the millennial optimism that is an aspect of that generation we Boomers and Gen X’ers have long forgotten. Whether we agree with her point of views or emergent platform, she is acting as a fully empowered citizen, and could possibly point to the potential of the next generation to reshape social policy.
The following are a few political trends that can be used as judo tactics for a millennial challenger. Though on the surface, these trends seem to support the rising tide of radicalism, they can also fuel a grass-roots revivalism particularly biased towards millennial attitudes.
1. Public Apathy Enables Political Radicalism
Edelman recently published their annual Trust Barometer Report, a global study of public opinion. The report found that “we are witnessing a widening gap in trust in government between the ‘informed public’ and the ‘general population’ in the United States. The majority of Americans (61 percent of the general public) simply don’t trust the government to do what is right. Not only is this gap significant, it’s accelerating: over the past three years.”
The report also found that it matters less “whether or not a candidate has a concrete plan to address their issues appears less important than believing someone understands them as individuals.” As the report summarizes, “perhaps [this trend provides] insight into the popularity of candidates who voice the general population’s concerns and fears in ways that don’t sound like a politician.”
Though this trend and observation describes the presidential candidate that cannot be mentioned, the trend can also serve millennial candidates. One of Erin’s appeals is her unabashed ‘truth-speaking’ with regards to issues facing California including the environment, jobs, and governmental transparency.
What is also interesting is the space between the planks in her platform. That is, her optimism enables her to gleam over what hardened Boomers and GenX’ers have already learned the hard way—don’t challenge the system. Given that millennials are the hardest hit with unemployment in America, they should have the room to imagine new and constructive ways to help their ailing situation.
Louvre Pyramid, Paris, France. e-architect.co.uk
2. The “Pyramid of Influence” Has Been Inverted
The Trust Barometer report continues, “Influence now rests among the broader population, who talk to each other on social media and use search to access information.” As previously noted, the Internet does not have an inherent moral compass that filters unfounded claims or sensationalism. Yet, the open structure of the Internet also allows for grass-root movements to start, rise, and find cohesion.
Social media is intrinsically a millennial phenomenon. Though curmudgeons can use it to amplify their torpid ramblings in an old-media echo-chamber, the real movement has yet to begin. Millennials will continue to reshape and adopt social media in a way that will soon be unrecognizable and uninterpretable by the older generations. Whether it happens this election cycle or not, millennials are the key bearers to the promised digital panacea.
3. Millennials Match Baby Boomers as Largest Electorate
Pew Research reported in May 2016 that “Millennials, who already have surpassed Baby Boomers as the United States’ largest living generation, now have caught up to the Boomers when it comes to their share of the American electorate.” However, Pew Research also warns that “as a result of their relatively low turnout [in 2008], they were only 14% of those who said they actually voted.