What do JFK, Barack Obama, and Senator Ted Cruz have in common? All three were once thought to be too young to make a real difference in politics, but now their names are synonymous with the great changes and lasting impacts they've facilitated. The issue of age is a similar problem facing millennials across the country today. Politicians in Washington often disregard them because of their age, thereby showing indifference to a wide array of ideas that have the potential to end gridlock in Washington and move the country forward. As a recent TIME magazine cover put it, most view millennials as "lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents," many of whom would rather document their lives through social media than help this country forward.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, as the 2008 election proved, with record numbers of young voters voting and actively participating in grassroots campaigning on both sides of the political aisle. The 2008 election showcased what a powerful impact young voters can have on the political landscape. It also highlighted the importance of paying attention to this growing segment of voters, not just because of their role in elections, but also because of their views on important issues like Social Security, military spending, and LGBT equality, among other things.
Yet somehow today, a Harvard survey indicated that most millennials' faith in major institutions like Congress has declined over the past years. Why? Partisan gridlock in Washington is the simple answer. The same old politicians are arguing over the same old ideas and refuse to allow millennials a voice in politics. No longer do we hear stories of politicians reaching out to hear what is really important to the millennial generation, like footing the bill of this country's immense deficit, paying off sky high student loans, and job prospects in a recovering economy. This failure to recognize the political potential millennials have is detrimental to the state of American politics, because we are in desperate need of fresh ideas and new thinking when it comes to re-evaluating the political standstill in Washington. Furthermore, by not appealing to this generation, Washington risks alienating a huge base of current and future voters who find that politicians in Congress no longer have their interests at heart. And that is a risk no politician ever wants to make.
So what can we do to get the wheels moving? Let's start by having some frank discussions about the state of our economy right now, along with the incoming student debt bubble and the ever-growing federal deficit. With that going on, let's introduce ideas on how the millennials can help, not hinder, the process and get a real dialogue going between those in power and those who put them in power. By giving millennials a seat at the table, politicians can be guaranteed bright new perspectives on age-old problems that require immediate solutions. After all, Washington has nothing to lose and everything to gain from such inclusivity.