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How Political Parties Can Unlock the Youth Vote Next Election

Jessica Carpenter Originally published on AllSides.com. This blog is in collaboration with AllSides, a nonpartisan media group focused on strengthening our democratic society with balanced news, media bias ratings, diverse perspectives, and real conversation. This midterm election, 27% of voters aged 18-29 cast their ballot in their local elections. This is the second-highest youth turnout during the midterms in the past 30 years, and it challenges the idea that young people don’t care about voting, or about politics in general. 27% is only activating about a quarter of the youth vote, but it’s already proving to make a difference in our elections. If political leaders across the political spectrum hope to be successful, it’s obvious they need the youth’s support. The problem is that both parties are missing what the current youth votes – and non-votes – are telling them. Young people are navigating the political landscape through a lens of fear and apathy. Increasing political division has made many of us hopeless, frustrated, and mistrusting of our institutions. We feel unheard when it comes to the issues we care about, and we aren’t seeing actual solutions. If political parties wish to unlock the youth vote in 2024, they need to include us in the conversation, ditch the toxic partisanship, and work to produce sensible solutions. .stk-6f585a9 .stk-img-wrapper{width:58% !important;height:395px !important}:where(.stk-hover-parent:hover,.stk-hover-parent.stk–is-hovered) .stk-6f585a9 .stk-img-wrapper{–stk-gradient-overlay:0.7 !important}:where(.stk-hover-parent:hover,.stk-hover-parent.stk–is-hovered) .stk-6f585a9 .stk-img-wrapper::after{background-color:#000000 !important} .stk-f2208ee-container{background-color:rgba(0,0,0,0.3) !important}:where(.stk-hover-parent:hover,.stk-hover-parent.stk–is-hovered) .stk-f2208ee .stk-f2208ee-container{background-color:rgba(0,0,0,0.6) !important}.stk-f2208ee-container:before{background-color:#000000 !important}.stk-f2208ee-container{display:flex !important}.stk-f2208ee-inner-blocks{justify-content:center !important}.stk-f2208ee-container{flex-direction:column !important}.stk-f2208ee-container{margin-top:0px !important;margin-right:0px !important;margin-bottom:0px !important;margin-left:0px !important} .stk-f20240c{margin-bottom:8px !important}.stk-f20240c{opacity:0 !important}:where(.stk-hover-parent:hover,.stk-hover-parent.stk–is-hovered) .stk-f20240c{opacity:1 !important}.stk-f20240c .stk-block-subtitle__text{color:#FFFFFF !important}People wait in line for early voting in Atlanta, Nov. 4, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago, Getty Images) When trying to understand the youth vote, we must first look at why some young people aren’t showing up in the first place. At 24 years old – one of the oldest members of Gen Z – my political experience has been characterized by violence, economic pain, and division. I was born two years before 9/11, went to middle school during the 2008 recession, began college right after the 2016 election, and graduated during a global pandemic. To top it off, we were faced with the reality of unresolved racial and ideological tension through the Black Lives Matter protests and Jan 6 Capital Riot, and growing international tension when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year. All of these events have caused many in my generation to be discouraged, mistrusting of our institutions, and deeply worried about the future. But, instead of posing sensible, actionable solutions, our political leaders have turned to partisan legislation and attacking those across the political aisle. Not only are the worries of my generation being overlooked, but the issues we care about are also used as campaign talking points, which are then left unresolved after election season and repeatedly used again as an incentive to vote for a candidate the next time around – a treat dangling above voters’ heads on a never-ending treadmill. It’s not hard to see why some young people are apathetic and disengaged with this type of behavior, in fact it’s completely rational. To win the youth vote, political parties need to put aside superficial politics and get serious about including young people in their political strategy. To do this, we first need to be part of the conversation. This means listening to and speaking to us. A 2021 poll by Pew Research Center showed that young adults between 18-29 are less likely than older generations to feel represented by the two major political parties, and we are also less likely to identify with a specific party. Therefore the traditional approaches to social and political issues may be less enticing to younger voters.  Instead, Gen Z aligns similarly on key issues across the political spectrum including, including mental health, economic security, higher education, gun violence, civic engagement, racial justice and the environment.  These are topics that the Democratic Party is currently better at talking about; If Republicans want to gain the attention of young people, they also need to start talking about these issues seriously. Young people need to see that our leaders are listening to us and that our concerns are being heard.  Not only are we aligned on several key issues, but Gen Z is also a values-based generation. We value authenticity, diversity, and connection, and make decisions based on those values. Therefore, to increase their chances of reaching youth voters, leaders must stop exploiting division and ditch partisan talking points. Instead, consider embracing our diversity as a nation–ideologically, racially, ethnically, religious, etc.– and help find ways we can move forward together. Gen Z is tired of political division that leads to inaction. We are overwhelmed by the extremes who continue to control the narrative around politics. We need leaders who will get back to the heart of our country, and who will address the fallout from the pandemic, and the growing tension and hate that has led us to become more disconnected from each other. Finally, young people want action. America’s youth care about the same issues as other voters, however, we are rarely considered in long-term political strategies. This year, young voters were driven to the polls primarily by the issues of abortion, student debt, climate change and gun legislation. Despite these topics being discussed for years, we are still seeing inaction or failed, partisan policies that have yet to address the underlying problems.  .stk-fd40c08 .stk-img-wrapper{width:73% !important;height:452px !important} To change this, both parties need to start putting common goals and sensible, long-term solutions ahead of partisan wins. Both the Republican and Democratic parties need to start considering young people’s concerns in their political strategy because our success as a generation relies on decisions that are made today. We cannot tolerate having our future considered only during election years as a means to win votes. It’s obvious that young people are making a difference in our elections. This year’s youth voter turnout should be a wake-up call for our leaders and a sign to take us seriously. If they want our votes, something has to change. By including young people in the conversation, focusing on reuniting our country, and choosing to work together to find sensible, common ground solutions, both parties stand a better chance at unlocking more of the youth vote in years to come.
21
Nov

How to Improve Your Political Discussions At Thanksgiving Dinner

How to Improve Your Political Discussions At Thanksgiving Dinner

BridgeUSA and AllSides This post is in partnership with AllSides Media. AllSides is a nonpartisan media organization that exposes people to information and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum so they can better understand the world — and each other. It’s everyone’s favorite time of year– getting to have political discussions with family around the dinner table! I mean, Thanksgiving. For some, Thanksgiving is an excuse to get together with loved ones, share a meal and give thanks for what we have. For others, it has become associated with having awkward, and difficult, political conversations with family, while simultaneously trying to avoid that “crazy uncle” everyone seems to have. It’s no secret that politics has become very divisive. But, you may be surprised to learn that 85% of Americans said that political differences did not hurt their relationships with family members. This includes 71% of Gen Z between 18-24; 70% of Millennials; 86% of Gen X and Boomers, and 89% of the Silent Generation. Unfortunately, our perceptions of what having political discussions is like can be largely swayed by what we see online or in the media, and that may hinder our willingness to have conversations this holiday season. While you’re not obligated to hop into a political discussion this week, don’t be afraid if the topic does come up! Here are some tips if you do find politics on the menu: #1: Establish common definitions and discussion guidelines At the root of many political differences lies the definitions we use. If participants enter a conversation with different understandings of words or phrases, the discussion can become much more difficult. Establishing common definitions for terminology and agreeing on a set of shared facts will make political conversations go much smoother.  Make sure to also establish discussion guidelines! This can be as simple as agreeing to respect each other and not interrupt when someone is talking, and can go as far as setting a timer for how long each participant gets to speak. Hint: You can use AllSides Red Blue Translator™ to get a basic understanding of what different words might mean to different people. #2: Listen to understand, not to respond At the end of day, we all just want to be heard. Remember this when you are discussing politics this holiday season. Conversations become less effective when participants are planning their response ahead of time instead of listening to what’s being said. The point is to allow each other space to be heard, and to see if you can understand a different perspective. If understanding is not an option, the other person may still be grateful that they were able to share their thoughts with you. Try this: Repeating back to your discussion partner what you heard them say in your own words, to make sure you were listening and interpreting what they were saying correctly.  #3: Ask questions about experiences Instead of diving right into a debate, try asking about experiences. Many times, our views come from past experiences, including where and how we were raised, who we are surrounded by, and also the values we hold. It’s easier to discuss difficult topics when we focus more on the individual and learn what shaped their views, and it also helps us humanize each other a little more. You may find that you’re able to empathize with each other, even if you don’t agree on the opinion. Try this: Ask “What is an experience that shaped this view?” or “What happened that caused you to think this?” #4: Address the perspective, not the person It’s easy to assume that everyone who may disagree with us is against us. But, just because we may not like what’s being shared, doesn’t mean the person sharing the thought is necessarily a bad person. Instead of directly addressing the speaker, try addressing the perspective they are sharing. You may think the idea is not very well thought out, but that doesn’t mean your counterpart is uneducated.  Addressing the perspective also makes it easier to avoid personal attacks and can keep the conversation focused more on ideas and policies rather than informing the character of participants. Try this: Say “I’m not sure I agree with that point. Is there a different way you can explain this idea?” #5: Don’t try to change minds The most important thing to remember in political discussions is that the point isn’t to try and change minds. Many of us go into these conversations with an intention to have the other person agree with us, but the reality is we often won’t be able to change the other person’s mind. By removing this expectation and allowing discussions to unfold authentically, we can develop better conversation styles and even build trust between each other. Hint: The best way to change minds is by listening to each other and having patience. (BONUS!) #6: Thank each other for the conversation Too often, we view people with differing views as bad or as “the enemy”. Less often do we actually get the chance to have a conversation with them. Try thanking each other for taking the time to discuss this holiday season and for being willing to share views. Political discussions can be intimidating. They can also be challenging. That doesn’t mean we should shy away from them. That also doesn’t mean we have to engage in them. Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, these tips can help navigate conversations with loved ones and may even lead to a better understanding of each other, political or otherwise. .stk-a9cb2a7 .stk-img-wrapper{width:47% !important;height:332px !important}
06
Oct

It’s Time for Term Limits in Congress

It’s Time for Term Limits in Congress

Hailie Addison The average age of House Members of the 117th Congress is 58.4 years and the average age of Senators is 64.3 years.  As per the Constitution, you must be at least 25-years-old to be a Representative and at least 30-years-old to be a Senator. There are currently no term or maximum age limits for those in Congress.  It is something that many of us wonder: How are people, almost three times our generation’s age, supposed to accurately represent young Americans and what we want? Almost every industry has mandatory retirement based on age-related declines in vision and hearing, the ability to endure stress, and the increased risk of medical emergencies. Currently, 31 states and the District of Columbia require state-level judges to retire when they reach a certain age. But yet there are no age limits for those in Congress. Why? Currently, there is little to no conversation around implementing maximum age limits among Congress. Many members of Congress agree that age limits are not something that we will be seeing anytime soon, even though 3 in 4 Americans favor it, and 4 in 10 Americans view the ages of political leaders as a major problem.  However, term limits are a more feasible solution that we may see and that is widely favored among the American public. According to the last five national polls, 82% of Americans want term limits. This is an issue that both sides agree on, including 89% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats, and 83% of independents, and an issue that both President Trump and President Obama also agreed on.  Term limits within Congress would give other politicians the chance to be in Congress, rather than keeping the same politicians in their seats for several years. It would also fix part of the age problem that so many Americans want fixed. For example, Nancy Pelosi, who is 82-years-old, has been representing San Francisco for 35 years. With term limits, Pelosi and other congress members in similar situations, would not be able to represent a district for so many years..  Given that so many Americans support term limits, and that members of Congress are elected to represent the American people, why do politicians not support term limits, too?  The answer is quite simple, money and power. Members of Congress are able to gain power by remaining in office. The seniority system is an incentive for Congressional incumbents to stay in office, arguably longer than they should. Seniority is used to determine who gets first choice at offices and who gets to chair committees. This often turns into a campaign mechanism; the longer they are in office, the more power they hold. During campaigns, they are able to use the seniority system to their advantage which often gets them reelected.  Many who are against term limits argue that to be a good lawmaker, you need experience which you gain by staying in your position for years on end. Yet Congress only has a 14% approval rating among the American people, and 60% say they would “fire every member of Congress if they could”.  Another argument against term limits is that older generations need to be represented in Congress. Term limits would not end older generations holding office, they would allow for more diversity across the board, including in age, ethnicity, gender, and ideology. Older generations could still be represented, but so could other groups of people that have not had equal representation in the past.  Already, Congress is growing in racial and ethnic diversity with 124 lawmakers in the 117th Congress identifying as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American. But that is only roughly 23%, leaving the other 77% white.   Regardless of how many Americans support term limits, many Congressional incumbents are against them for their own selfish reasons. The reason being power. Congress Members would not have power without the people that elected them to represent. Not giving their people what they are asking for is an abuse of power. Power that their people gave them and trusted them with when they were elected.  In order to rejuvenate the government, bring in fresh ideas and outlooks, and create accurate representation of America’s diverse society, we must have term limits. It is one of the only issues that a majority of Americans agree upon, regardless of their views or political affiliation. It is something that Americans have pushed for for over 25 years. It is not only long overdue, but it is a wrongdoing of Congress Members to not give the people what they want. You can not build a career based on representation of the American people if you are not willing to represent them accurately, even if it means sacrificing the power and position that you hold.
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