The "Pass the Mic" series showcases voices, perspectives and ideas that spark interesting conversations.
Rob Flaherty is the Youth Media Director for the Democratic National Committee.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
I graduated school and despite my best efforts to apply to jobs in my field of choice, I didn't get hired. With few options left before I had to accept defeat and move in with my mom, I applied for a random clerical job back home in Massachusetts and an unpaid internship on a political campaign. I got both gigs. It was a tough choice: Go home and work a job I'd likely hate but would pay and insure me, or take the risk to get my foot in the door with an internship that wouldn't. I'd saved my money so I could afford to eat and live somewhere, but there was one piece of the puzzle that stood between me and a job I didn't care about: health insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I could stay on my parent's insurance once I left school. Insurance card in hand, I took the risk, got hired, and now, a year later I get to talk to young people about why voting for Democrats matters.
Don't get me wrong. I know my situation could have been way worse (woe is the recently-graduated aspirational party flack). I was lucky to have a college degree and no small amount of support as I moved through the process. But I'm a living example of how the Affordable Care Act is helping our generation get ahead. The things that matter to us — taking risks, innovating and having careers that are meaningful to both ourselves and our communities — would likely be out of reach if we were stuck worrying about healthcare, or about how we're going to pay for student loans, about being fired for who we love, or about achieving equal pay.
Put simply: The stuff that matters for our generation is the stuff that Democrats are fighting for. In 2008 and 2012, we came out hard for Barack Obama, but not just because we believed in him. We came out because we believe in the values Democrats advocate for: The idea that everyone should have a fair shot to get ahead, regardless of background or income.
Today, we're in the middle of the fight that won't be won in a day or year. This takes time, and while there's a lot more work to do, we've made progress. The unemployment rate is down, there have been 55 months of private sector job growth and companies have more jobs open than they did before the recession. But it's not over. We're still fighting to make sure our generation is getting the skills we need to get hired in the jobs of tomorrow. We're still fighting to make sure that higher education is more affordable, and that it's easier for young people to pay down their loans. We can fulfill the promise of change, but we need you with us.
Republicans have thrown every wrench they have at the agenda we voted for. They've blocked bills that would allow you to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate. They've blocked bills to help ensure pay equity for women. They haven't moved forward on legislation to end workplace discrimination based on who you are and who you love, and they've blocked bills to reform our immigration system. They've tried to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times, and even shut the government down in an effort to do so. They're even trying (and failing) to sue the president. While millennials are looking for pragmatic solutions to the problems we face, Republicans are focusing on ideological posturing. DC gridlock: Thy names are Ted Cruz and John Boehner.
So when the DC chattering class says "young people won't vote," they're saying that young people are about to cede the battle during the charge. The change we fought for in 2008 and 2012 is the same change we're fighting for now. It's the change putting young people back to work after a catastrophic recession and making it easier for people to afford college. But there's so much more work left to do, and Republicans are banking on you staying home.
Let's prove them wrong.