A series of lost special elections isn’t enough to stop progressive millennials — even if Democratic leaders are calling for a change in party leadership and branding after Jon Ossoff’s loss in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
Newbie politicos, like myself, are good at protesting. We’re good at engaging on social media, and we’re good at telling people what we think. However, the question lingering is whether we can turn that energy into votes. While the short-term answer for Democratic officials seems to be no, 20-somethings with their feet on the ground campaigning for Democrats feel differently.
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During the run-up to the 2016 election, there was a sharp difference in tone about the election between those I go to college with in Washington, D.C. and those I left on Long Island, where I grew up.
At my university, the election was discussed with fervor and voting was the way for our community to change the status quo. But when I traveled home for a mid-semester break in October, people avoided political conversation. When I was surrounded by those of all ages, politics remained a no-go point of discussion at family gatherings, or casual get-togethers. Perhaps it’s because other generations still keep in mind the adage to not discuss politics, religion or money with friends and family.
Now that the excitement of post-election protests, special election campaigns and university semesters are in the rearview mirror, millennials should refocus their energy on bringing people into the political process and conversation.
Mollie Bowman, a 23-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, is the face of millennial liberalism. She attended George Washington University, where I attend school and is a liberal-leaning university, interned on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, participated in the Women’s March the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration and canvassed to flip her home congressional district and elect Ossoff. Like many college students who left home for school, Bowman never thought she’d go back to the South.
Then, things changed.
Vote with your feet
“I never wanted to come back. To me, the South wasn’t a place where we celebrated people’s differences, but now that feeling is so different,” Bowman said. “People are now coming out of the woodwork, and not being shy about their political beliefs. This is a place where people used to not say if they were a Democrat.”
And, to Bowman, a lack of a Democratic win in four special elections this year doesn’t change that feeling. If anything, it spurs her and many like her to concentrate on voter registration, civic engagement and education. Of course, bringing more people into the political process doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for Bowman’s preferred candidates.
The 6th Congressional District in the Atlanta suburbs was one of the most educated districts in the country that voted for Trump in 2016. And Trump only carried the district by just over 1 percent — Mitt Romney’s margin was 23 percent. That coupled with Trump’s weak showing in suburban districts in comparison to his Republican predecessors gives young Democrats hope: If you can politically and civically educate a community, you might just flip that community’s vote.
“We have grown up saturated with news, and we take that for granted. We get answers fast, and we don’t have to wait around to see how we feel about candidates or policies,” said Chloe Bowman, a 22-year-old, also of Marietta but unrelated to Mollie. “We need to stick our necks out and take the extra step to engage with people. To use our social media and technology better.”
Melissa Holzberg is an intern with Newsday Opinion.