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Motivating Millennials

Motivating Millennials

By Kevin Kelton

This Tuesday, Democrats need young voters to turn out in record midterm numbers. Yet news report after news report still tells us millennials just aren’t motivated enough to vote. “I’m too busy” or “Voting won’t make a difference” are among the array of excuses young people give when asked why they don’t plan to cast a ballot.

So let’s try a new tack. Instead of asking them to vote for their own self-interest, let’s appeal to their sense of friendship. The young people I know are incredibly loyal and compassionate to their friends and peers. They care deeply about gender rights, civil rights, fairness, and justice. Maybe appealing to the better angels of their nature can cajole a few to the polls.

Toward that end, I suggest you ask your voting-reticent kids and acquaintances to consider these people on Tuesday morning:

  • Think about your friends who are gay, trans or still finding their gender identity. Do you think it makes a difference to them which party controls congress for the next two years? Will it make a difference to them if there is no check on Trump stopping transgenders from serving in the military? Or from even being considered a real gender? Will it matter to your gay friends if they can be fired or legally discriminated against for the mere act of coming out? Does it make a difference to them if the can continue to get married, or if their current marriage is someday annulled by an act of congress abetted by an increasingly right wing judiciary?
  • Think about your black classmates. Will it make a difference to them if civil rights, voting rights and affirmative action laws are rolled back to the point of being meaningless? You don’t want to vote, but if you don’t vote, they may never get the chance. Republican state legislatures – again, abetted by conservative courts – are increasingly finding creative ways to stop blacks and Latinos from voting. The chance to vote may not mean all that much to you, and we understand. But will they understand if your lack of civic duty robs them of the chance to make their voices heard?
  • Think about your female friends. Will the #MeToo movement be stronger or weaker with a Republican congress? You may be right that both parties are tainted by corruption. But only one party painted Professor Christine Blasey Ford as a hysterical, opportunistic liar. Only one party wants to take away a woman’s right to choose. Only one party continues to fight against paid family leave, increasing the minimum wage (which is particularly helpful to young women and single mothers), and only one party continues to push abstinence as the only acceptable form of birth control. If you don’t want to stand in line for an hour to vote for your own rights, would you stand in line to protect your sister’s rights, or your mom’s, or your best friend’s?
  • Think about the kind man who cuts your parents’ grass or the kind woman who helped raise you and your siblings. It was always amusing that they could barely speak English, and you and your family had to communicate with them with your limited Spanish. Maybe he came here as a young boy; maybe she is a citizen because her parents immigrated here a few years before she was born. But they are good people who became your extended family and you could count on. What will it mean to them to live in an America where their citizenship can be taken away, or their parents or kids can be deported in an instance, suddenly disappearing with no trace? Would you stand in line to vote to help protect their children from suddenly being orphaned by an ICE raid? Is their entire future worth a half-hour of your time?
  • Think about your friends in college (or applying now) who will increasingly be saddled with crushing student debt. Would you take a half hour out of your Tuesday to vote for the party that stands for lower student loan rates, finite payback periods, and a return to the days of low-cost or even free public colleges? Is 30 minutes of your time worth tens of thousands of dollars to your younger brother or sister? Because in many ways that’s on the ballot, too.
  • Finally, think about another friend of yours: the future you. Think about the world you’ll be living in in 20 or 30 years. I know it’s crazy to think about far off things like Social Security and Medicare and pension plans. But do you want to spend your thirties and forties wearing surgical masks out in public, like they do in Beijing? Hooking up is hard enough. Imagine trying it with one of those on. Will you consider voting to protect your lungs and your future sex life? (Or the planet you plan to live on for the rest of your life?)

If you think it’s a waste of your time to go vote, next Tuesday, okay – maybe it is. But is it something you can do for someone else? You’d do almost anything for your best friend, your little brother, your big sister, your LGBT friends, and your minority classmates and work pals. If you’d do anything for them, can you do this?

Because, yeah, maybe it won’t make a difference. But, if enough young people like you think about their friends this Tuesday, maybe it will.

The outcome of the midterms may not mean anything to you, but it means everything to them. It’s 30 minutes, about the time it takes to get your car washed or wait for a pizza to arrive. Give that 30 minutes as a gift to your friends this Tuesday.

Do someone you love a small favor. Vote.


Kevin Kelton is the founder of Open Fire Politics and cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast.


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