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Gen Z ready to make its mark on Congress

(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)/(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Congressional candidates Democrat Maxwell Front (Left) and Republican Karoline Leavitt (Right) are the first of Generation Z to run for the House.

You may not have heard their names — Maxwell Frost and Karoline Leavitt — but someday, they could be national Democratic and Republican Party leaders. For now, they are young congressional candidates, the first who represent Generation Z, the age group that includes people born after 1996.

They beat older establishment candidates to win their parties’ primaries. They are young voices just old enough to hold a House seat at 25 years old — less than half as old as the average age of current House members, which is 58.

Millennial House members already have had a substantial impact and Frost and Leavitt could accelerate the trend. Leavitt’s former boss, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), is 38 and already the GOP conference chair, which makes her the third highest ranked person in the party caucus. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is only 32 but is already a prominent national force.

The two young House hopefuls might be the first Gen Z members of the U.S. House of Representatives in January.

Frost has the easier path to victory. The young Florida Democrat is running in a deep blue district vacated by Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who gave up her seat in the House to run against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Frost’s election could be a challenge for the aging Democratic leadership.

On the other side of the aisle, young Republican Leavitt is running in New Hampshire against incumbent Democrat Rep. Chris Pappas, who represents a competitive district. The GOP and conservative political action committees have mounted a major media blitz in the Boston and Manchester, N.H. media markets to attack the incumbent and pave the way for their young candidate. If Leavitt wins, she wants to be a spokesperson whom the GOP can use to reach out to young voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates.

Frost and Leavitt are both young, but they are light years apart in background and ideology.

Frost is Afro Latino and the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 10th congressional district of Florida, which includes Orlando. He is a Green New Deal supporter and gun safety activist who worked for March for Our Lives, a group dedicated to mobilizing young people against gun violence.

Leavitt is white and the GOP nominee in the 1st congressional district of New Hampshire. The former Trump administration staffer questions the legitimacy of President Biden’s election victory. She favors corporate tax cuts and wants to reduce the power of the federal government.

Frost is an outsider who has never run for office. Leavitt is an insider who has already served as a presidential and congressional staffer. Both candidates appear to frown on compromise, which could intensify the polarization and conflict that already exists in the House if they win their races.

Frost more than Leavitt shares the attitudes of their generation. A national survey of Gen Zers in 2020 by the Pew Research Center indicated that their age group is more liberal than any other. Leavitt’s role as GOP spokesperson for her generation would be a tough sell since her views are greatly out of sync with other young voters.

Seven in 10 of these young adults believe that government — not businesses and individuals — should take the lead to solve the nation’s problems. The Zoomers, as their generation is sometimes described, are more concerned about the threat of climate change than any other generation.

The generational gap in American politics is already as wide as the Grand Canyon and the coming of age of Gen Z represents a special obstacle in the way of the future fortunes of the Republican Party. The progressive members of this generation are reinforcements for the liberal members of the millennial generation who are already on their way to dominating the civic arena while strongly supporting Democratic candidates.

The major ideological combatants in the political wars are the Baby Boomers, Americans born between 1946 and 1964, and the millennials, who constitute the cohort born between 1981 and 1996.

In 2020, millennials supported Joe Biden in large numbers while Donald Trump narrowly won the Boomer vote. The emergence of the Zoomers could tip the balance further toward Democrats. The Zoomer vote is a big boost to millennials in their generational contest against the baby boomers for electoral and ideological supremacy.

Gen Z is ready to make its mark on Congress. Frost and Leavitt might be the first members of their generation to serve in Congress, leading the generation to come.

They are the first wave of emerging young candidates hoping to bring divergent backgrounds and different perspectives to Capitol Hill. They represent the generational forces constantly in motion that upset the status quo and bring change to government and politics.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags 2020 election 2022 midterm elections Democrats Donald Trump Elise Stefanik gen z GOP Karoline Leavitt Millennials Politics Politics of the United States Republicans Val Demings

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