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Millennials not interested in ‘do-nothing’ politics

In an age of lazy government, our generation has the chance to incite change.

By Melanie Sharif. Originally published on Oct. 23rd, 2015.

Millennials don’t dig politics.

Although there are those of us who still pretend to read newspapers, listen to NPR, watch “The Daily Show” or, better yet, find an independent news source of our liking, the majority of young people in the United States are disinterested in mainstream American politics. In the 2012 presidential election, the younger age brackets made up only 36 percent of the electorate, while the upper age brackets, 40-65-and-up, made up 64 percent. This is of course disproportionate to American demographics: According to the Census Bureau, Millennials recently eclipsed the Baby Boomers as the largest demographic in the U.S. This may have not been official in 2012, but nonetheless, massive amounts of young people stayed home during the first week of November three years ago, while nearly everyone’s grandmother made time to go out and vote.

This is because of more than just the fact that many of us don’t watch Fox News. Many a journalist suggest something to the tune of our finding politics disheartening and immovable. It seems as though the system is so flawed, so far away from giving the faintest rat’s behind at what we have to offer, that it’s not even worth exerting our precious energy over. And this might be true, to an extent.

The American government is in a bit of a rut. In 1948, Harry Truman invented a phrase to describe certain lazy incarnations of government branches known as “do-nothing.” First used to describe Congress, the phrase criticized groups of elected officials that didn’t manage to pass many useful laws. Truman would faint if he saw politics today. The 112th Congress, which ended on January 3, 2013, currently holds the record for passing the least amount of bills. In other words, the government nowadays is managing to promote the least amount of change in the history of the country. Ever.

We are unfortunately in a do-nothing stage, and we sense it. These periods are brought on by vast economic growth and income inequality. When the rich in the U.S. are extremely rich, laws are essentially paid for. Your vote for president or your letter to your congressman doesn’t seem to mean much because that’s not what’s keeping them in office. Efficiency and reliability as a means to attract the voter has died. The one percent supports the headquarters of the politicians that will pass bills that make the rich richer or just manage to subdue the “rival” cause, and keep these unhelpful people in office, year after year. All of that money just to elevate the political status quo, a stalemate between two ridiculously polarized groups of people.

The president isn’t much better: He is now a figurehead for one of our bloated parties. Toward the end of his eight-year run, Obama essentially disregarded Congress and attempted to rally the favor of the American public. Even then, some are still labeling him as “do-nothing.” The most effective branch of government at the moment is arguably the judicial branch: they recently granted marital freedom to millions of Americans. And we can’t even vote for that.

This is unattractive. In fact, it’s stressful and hopeless. “For the people, by the people?” More like, for the rich, by the stubborn Baby Boomers. Millennials don’t really have money to influence politics. They have their “personal brand,” their Apple products, their American Spirits, their friends and their open-mindedness. But they don’t really have as much money as the Koch brothers, or even close to that. So what now?

The presidential election cycle is just beginning, with Donald Trump here to scare the shit out of us. If you just turned 18 or are about to turn 18 this year, you should register to vote, even if you don’t care about politics. You don’t have to vote. But you should know that your vote still matters, even though politicians just see you as a part of a rating percentage or a number in a rally turn-out total. Politicians don’t count on young people, because they know they aren’t reliable voters. But that’s our edge.

Millennials are like a hidden political weapon. We have immense swaying power and no one expects us to use it. But we can vote, and you can pay attention, even if paying attention means finding out what exactly is wrong with politics and in what ways you disagree with the circus on Capitol Hill. So that maybe, come the time when there is a congressperson in your district that actually might do something instead of that guy who’s been there since the ’70s, you’ll give a damn, and you’ll be ready.

Originally published Pipe Dream Newspaper, displayed here. Article displayed on current domain with express written permission.

Melanie Sharif