Young people today are growing increasingly distrustful of institutions, including political parties. According to data from the Pew Research Center, Americans aged 18 to 33 are significantly more likely to identify as political independents than other generations. We still see the potential for government to provide for Americans, but given the influence of money in politics, political gridlock, and a culture of detrimental brinkmanship, we also believe that government today is not working as well as it needs to be. The question remains: can any of our 2016 presidential hopefuls really represent a movement for reform?

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHillicon Valley: Facebook reeling after NYT report | Dems want DOJ probe | HQ2 brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Judge upholds Russian troll farm indictments | Cyber moonshot panel unveils recommendations Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails On The Money: Senior GOP senator warns Trump against shutdown | Treasury sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | HQ2 deal brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Senate confirms Bowman to Fed board MORE (R-Ky.) is certainly attempting to. In his presidential campaign announcement, the senator promised to “defeat the Washington machine.” It’s a noble cause, and one that many young people believe to be necessary. That’s not to say that we need less government, but instead that we need smarter, more democratic government. However, opening up government requires more than rhetoric; it requires specific and effective policy action.


Paul, for instance, argues that taking regulatory power away from government workers and putting it in the hands of Congress is a way to break down the machine. But that would not really change the dynamics of power; the modern-day Congress is just as removed and unaccountable to the people as an “unelected bureaucrat.”

Skepticism of a candidate’s ability to open government to the people applies to both sides of the aisle. Secretary Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters Former Facebook security chief: 'I failed to prepare my employer' on Russian disinformation Rand Paul: Facebook must 'convince conservatives they're not the enemy' MORE’s pro-people, “not about her” campaign launch also has many populist undertones. Clinton did not appear in her campaign video until close to the end and instead focused on the stories of families and workers. Clinton’s message may be about putting people first and Washington second, but will her campaign and policies be? According to recent reports, her campaign plans to “think small” and focus on listening tours rather than large rallies. This could be a step in the right direction as long as it’s reflected in her policy agenda.

This will require greater participation, not just feedback, from Americans of all walks of life. Both Paul and Clinton have yet to demonstrate their commitment to this critical point: government works when participation is widespread and citizens have agency in decision-making. Any candidate who is serious about opening up participation will stand for meaningful campaign finance reform, full voting rights for all Americans, and more participatory structures across government. Paul and Clinton are, by virtue of office and family, Washington elites, but that does not mean they cannot support policies that will foster a more democratic future.

Gamble is the national director of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, a nationwide student policy organization.