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Millennials Made It Clear In 2016 Race: We Demand Better Than Establishment Politics

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The 2016 presidential election has been considered one of the most important in history for many reasons. For starters, it puts at stake the atmosphere of politics for decades to come. A conservative president for example, will create a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, and could bar certain progressive policy from being implemented for the foreseeable future. A liberal president would signify cracks in the structure of the GOP. Some have even speculated that if a Republican does not win this election, then it can never win one again. It seems fitting that some Millennials —well on their way to becoming the most influential generation at the polls — will finally be old enough to vote in this most important election.

Since the start of campaigning for the 2016 election, Americans have gotten a glimpse at the voice of this new generation. What they saw was not what they expected. Many in the Millennial generation are more liberal than previous Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. They consistently support background checks for gun owners, advocate social reform, and are more open to liberalizing economic policy. Yet what many older Americans did not expect, was an almost complete rejection of traditional party politics. Ironically, the spokesperson for this dissatisfied generation was Bernie Sanders, a 74 year old white senator from Vermont.

Older voters have scratched their heads wondering why this generation in particular has become so radically anti-establishment. One important factor is that many Millennials came of age during the recession era. Many had parents who lost a job, and opportunities that were once pathways to future success disintegrated at the hands of a crippling economy. This generation also grew up during times when public dissatisfaction of the government is at its peak. Post Watergate era journalism has continued to harangue government for its gridlock, and government shutdowns and all time low approval ratings of Congress have not helped the cause. Millennials grew to see a government marred by party politics, lobbying and partisanship as the problem.

In a democracy, a politician’s main goal may be to implement policies to better their city, state, or country. In order to do so, however, they need to ensure that they will be elected, and re-elected to accomplish these tasks. Politicians are able to do this by creating coalitions — groups of certain demographics that work together to put a politician in power. In return, the politician will implement policy that will benefit these groups. At the same time, the politician  needs funding to campaign and to gain legitimacy as a plausible candidate. In order to do this, many candidates turn to lobbyists, who promise large sums of cash in exchange for a few policies being passed in their favor. Although politicians could simply be moral and reject these lobbyists if they don’t align with the coalition’s views, the politician risks losing their spot to someone who is willing to take money from lobbyist.

This leads to the biggest problem with politics. While ideally, the goals of the politicians align with the goals of the citizenry, most politicians’ goals can only align with those of the lobbyist who paid their way into Congress, and the specific coalitions who voted them into office.

If you are not a large corporation or a part of a politician’s coalitions — which most Millennials are not (since fewer members of our generation show up to vote and therefore do not help aspiring politician’s into office) — then your representatives in government do not care about your needs. This is why Millennials were starting to feel this negligence from the political system, and why a man like Sanders, unlike his opponent, was not accepting large donations from lobbyists while advocating for progressive policies like free college education was so refreshing to young voters. It seemed that Bernie Sanders did not care about politics, and simply wanted to help the American people.

Although Sanders did not win the election, his massive amount of support from the younger generation foreshadows a shift in future party politics. This new generation of voters is not willing to vote for another politician who owes favors to the banks or other lobbyists into office. They want a candidate who can promise loyalty to the American people. That is what made Bernie Sanders such an appealing candidate.

As the Millennial generation grows older and its effect on the election becomes more prominent, it wouldn’t be surprising if politicians began to depict themselves in completely new ways. Lobbying is continuously seen in a negative light among younger people, and as a result, politicians may have to rebrand their sources of funding through donations or other means. At the same time, Millennials, by supporting Sanders, show that they care more about a candidate who supports the constituent first, and serves party politics second. Therefore, if the young generation continues to push these demands of more honest politics, teens may expect to grow up in an era of refreshingly honest politics.

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