How to turn out the new generation of American voters for this election
There is a narrative in the 2020 election that Joe Biden needs to focus on young voters. As a young elected official in America, having been elected to the Nassau County Legislature on Long Island in my early 20s, I believe the narrative is real and should garner increased attention.
In order for Biden to win, he must not just convince young voters that he is listening, but he must energize them to turn out this fall. Young voters have more power than ever with the election. Millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest generation across the country. Census data estimates that 72 million millennials call the United States home. Further, right behind them are 67 million members of Generation Z.
Generation Z comprises more than a quarter of the population, and they also constitute 10 percent of voters. Scholars at Tufts University estimate that the 2018 election had “by far the highest levels of participation” with young voters in the last seven midterms. Scholars believe these numbers had a significant impact on key races in Congress. The preference gap of 35 points fueled Democrats to take back the House in 2018.
An impact of young voters was also viewed in states. The preference gap of more than 20 points in favor of Democrats led to Republican Governor Scott Walker losing for Wisconsin, while similar preference gaps sparked wins by Democrats for senators and governor of Nevada, with 19 percent of young voters casting ballots in races decided by less than 5 points. All this underscores the fact that young Americans could carry a significant impact on the 2020 election and more future races to come.
But despite the power of young voters, our priorities rarely transition from rhetoric to law. This inertia with our many priorities, including health care, student debt, climate change, and more, makes young voters skeptical of the next politician who claims to represent our interests. What can Biden do to address this after listening to us and governing for us?
Biden should commit to establishing an Office of Youth Affairs. Rather than create a temporary council or task force, the better idea will be a permanent office with official federal funding and staff members. The executive director would report directly to the White House to ensure attention and credibility that the office deserves for its work.
The office should have federal funding for the staff members. They must show their dedication to enhancing the welfare of young Americans and must reflect the broad diversity across the country. The office must also run an ambitious agenda that starts with a review for the state of young people. The goal is to create the snapshot for young people, in terms of opinions and demographics, along with the issues they face.
The president could then embark on a national tour that includes visits to high schools, college campuses, and community centers. The office must partner with organizations such as Sunrise Movement, Generation Citizen, Junior State of America, and the organizations with young Democrats and young Republicans. The office can also partner with numerous celebrities, influencers, and several individuals with platforms that promote the White House agenda on young people and bolster national campaigns, whether the issue is mental health, voter registration, or wearing masks.
Our generation has been pandered to for years about our contributions to the country. The time has now come to create an Office of Youth Affairs so that we can finally have a vehicle for real change in the future.
Joshua Lafazan is a member of the Nassau County Legislature in New York.
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