Millennials: There are things you can do to make the next four years better for all of us.
I do not expect most of the nation’s young people will ever get used to the idea of President Trump. That’s OK. You are not required to like our new president. But the millennials who are feeling down after the election shouldn’t just sit back and watch this nation, or the world, go down a path you disdain. It’s time for your generation to stand up and forge your own political plan of action.
First: Stop complaining about how the election system doesn’t work. The Electoral College has been ignoring the will of the people since the Constitution was written; that’s not the main reason Donald Trump won. He was elected because too many people, including millennials, sat home and complained about their choices instead of voting for Hillary Clinton.
Data from the Pew Research Center show the Millennial Generation — 18- to 29-year-olds — is now about as large as the baby-boom generation. Millennials had the power to decide the election, or at least strongly influence the outcome, but instead many stepped aside and let their parents and grandparents, who voted in double their numbers, choose Trump, according to estimates from the U.S. Elections Project. National exit-poll data found millennials made up 12 percent of voters this year, compared to 19 percent in 2012. People ages 65 and older made up 26 percent of voters.
• You need to use your energy and your voice to advocate for change. Pick your top two priorities: the environment, the economy, women’s rights, immigration. Then make sure your voice is heard. Volunteer for a cause you believe in, donate and call or email your U.S. representatives and demand they vote to take action on things like the Paris climate agreement, for example. Talk about these issues at the Thanksgiving table and have these same discussions with your friends.
• Consider branching out and advocating on behalf of the people who feel left out of the economic boom you have benefited from. Washington state just passed a new minimum-wage law; now push for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Support job-creation legislation. Advocate for free college for all. You do not need a sympathetic ear in the White House to succeed in making changes like these.
• Broaden your social network. Look beyond social media and interact face-to-face. Get out of the echo chamber, politically and demographically. Join a community group or congregation. Have an open mind. Find your middle ground and work together on issues that matter, like homelessness or gun safety.
• Change can begin at home. Many of our nation’s biggest recent political achievements started in states and local municipalities. Gay marriage, pot legalization, minimum-wage increases, common-sense gun laws. Some of these ideas even had their roots in Washington state. Anyone can propose a bill to a lawmaker or gather signatures and put an initiative on the ballot. If you don’t know your lawmakers, make appointments to visit them in their district offices. Share your concerns. Start an online petition. Testify before legislative committees. Run for office if you’re not getting the action you want. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant first ran for office to push for a higher minimum wage.
• On the national scene, remember that the president has limited powers that are balanced by the other branches of government. If you want immigration reform and a path to citizenship, join an advocacy group and lobby Congress. March on Washington, people. It’s been done to great effect in the past — to stop the Vietnam War and to fight for civil rights.
If you don’t like the two-party system, be part of expanding our political scene. But don’t wait until 2020. Sign up now to organize people to run for local office, or run yourself and advocate on the state and national level. The same effort could be applied to amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College.
Millennials, it’s in your hands to make sure this nation elects the president of your choice in 2020. If you’re not registered to vote, today would be a good day to change that. Go online to register: st.news/register-to-vote. Hold a party, set up some computers and have all your friends do the same. Tell them they can’t have a beer or glass of wine until they show evidence they have registered.
Now get to work.