Friday, November 03, 2017

We Need To Get Some Millennials Into Congress-- But Good Ones


Last year, just after the general election, writing for Bloomberg, Dave Merrill and Yvette Romero explained how millennials haven't been able to crack Congress. "In 2016, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the nation's largest living generation," they wrote. "Yet for all that voting power, millennials are still woefully under-represented in Washington. Donald Trump just replaced Ronald Reagan as the oldest elected president in history, and in the new Congress, baby boomers will outnumber millennials 50 to one. About a third of millennials (age 19-35 years) aren't old enough to run for the House, since you need to be at least 25 years old to hold office. But if the 435 members of the House were apportioned to match the generational divide of everyone who meets the age requirement, millennials would hold 97 seats, about a quarter of the chamber."

But there aren't 97 millennials in the House. Today there are 5, only one of whom is a Democrat:
Elise Stefanik (R-NY)- 33 years old
Mike Gallagher (R-WI)- 33 years old
Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN)- 34 years old
Matt Gaetz (R-FL)- 35 years old
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)- 36 years old
As Merrill and Romero mentioned, Congress has an abysmal approval rating-- worse now than when they were writing last year. The most current poll I saw, from YouGov for the Economist released on Halloween, shows congressional approval among registered voters at 9% and disapproval at 60%. PPP had similar numbers last month-- 9% approval and 68% disapproval. And yet... "Congress remains a mostly static body that re-elects incumbents 95 percent of the time. This is one reason why House members are disproportionately older-- the median age is 58 years-- than the voters they represent."

That can change more rapidly in a wave year-- and there are plenty of millennials running for Congress in the current cycle. Maybe there are some young imbeciles-- like Gaetz and Hollingsworth-- running, but the ones I've been talking with are incredibly intelligent. I just realized that I keep referring to them as out-of-the-box thinkers. But they are actually in a different box than the one I'm in. I was just on the phone with 28 year old Austin Frerick of Iowa-- a really smart "big picture" guy. He seems so smart that I just really want to see him in Congress. His mind seems to work differently... and then I realized it's because he's a millennial and grew up in a much more tech-savvy environment than I ever did. When we were talking today he noted that "The perfect DCCC candidate is a good telemarketer with a bunch of rich friends. Because of that, a lot of voices aren't being heard or represented in Congress. I'm running to be one of those missing voices."

Cautionary note: Millennial as an identity group won't work, of course. One of the very worst ass-wipes in Congress is young Matt Gaetz from Florida. Today, by way of example of his worstness, he was busying himself by working to protect Trump from Putin-Gate, demanding Robert Mueller recuse himself from the investigation based on the far right uranium trope popular on Hate Talk Radio and Fox. We need more millennials in Congress but not moron-millennials like Matt Gaetz.

Last night I had dinner with another millennial candidate, Orange County's Michael Kotick, who's taking on Putin-friendly senior citizen Dana Rohrabacher. Kotick and I ate at Michael Voltaggio's new restaurant, ink.well, a very food-forward restaurant where there is literally not one dish on the menu that you would ever find on another menu. Every single thing Voltaggio serves is unique and his own invention-- and incredible. And I know that many older people find that challenging and even uncomfortable. Kotick e-mailed me this morning and the first thing he mentioned was to thank me for turning him on to, in his words, "a great new restaurant choice!" Open minds are good. And then on to business:

"I grew up," he told me, "in a new millennial generation that reinvented almost every industry over the last decade. Whether it was businesses, apps or other breakthrough innovations, new ideas and a new way of doing things were created with a core set of principles-- collaboration, inclusion, and mutual respect. The last frontier that remains relatively untouched by this generation is government."

Last month, Kotick penned an OpEd for Bold, Millennials Will Save Our Country-- If They Opt Into Government. Quoting Ron Fournier's 2013 piece for The Atlantic he noted that "this generation 'believe[s] traditional politics and government (especially Washington) are the worst avenues to great things… They have no patience for inefficiency, stodgy institutions or the status quo.' It is for this reason that millennials have been opting out of government. We have felt effective solutions can only be made outside elected office-- in the private or nonprofit sectors where there is an open, entrepreneurial spirit. I get that. I have seen real change achieved that way. Now, at this moment, we need to bring that great promise back to government."
We are a generation raised in uncertain times. Through the 9/11 terror attacks (and the 16 years of war that have come after), we tumbled through the volatile economy of the Great Recession, searched for dwindling jobs and were burdened by staggering student loan debt. We saw our country polarized and gridlocked. All the while, our distrust in elected officials increased.

During this time, something else also was happening-- something no one mentions. Something that shows that we just have been waiting for the right time to bring our collaborative, inclusive and community-first spirit to the last frontier relatively untouched by my generation-- politics and government.

No other generation since World War II has volunteered as much as ours. According to the National Council on Citizenship, we “lead the way in volunteering” and are remarkably eager-- fiercely even-- to serve our community. We also are the most wired and connected generation ever, with such a sense of inclusion that we often view our neighbor’s problems and the globe’s challenges as our own. And, we did all of this while reinventing almost every major industry whether through new start-ups, apps or break-through innovations.

Goal ThermometerAfter four decades of government dominated by Baby Boomers, I believe it has never been more critical to finally bring our generational spirit of connectedness forward-- not defined by a particular political ideology, but by a collective commitment to progress. Our time is now-- 2018 will be the first election that we will be the largest generation of Americans eligible to vote.

Here is my challenge: Let us serve the greater community in a new way.

The technology that has empowered us as individuals and fueled our generation also empowers us as a group-- to band together for a greater good. Respectful collaboration, not insults and yelling. A world with tolerance-- less ideological and more welcoming for all of us to shape our future.

Connecting through pragmatic solutions and mutual respect rather than party divisions are key to facing our future in a new way. It is time for a connected age of government.
California has some mighty fine millennial candidates running for Congress this cycle-- sharp, idealistic, service-oriented... Another one is Katie Hill, the progressive Democrat in the Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Antelope Valley district still held by reactionary Republican Steve Knight. "Our representatives in Washington," Katie told us, "have failed to address the biggest problems facing our country for far too long, and it's our generation that is going to have to deal with the consequences of their inaction. We can't afford to wait any longer to address issues like ever-increasing income inequality, climate change, the rising cost of a college education, a permanent state of war in the middle east, and the staggering amount of money in politics. Our generation understands this, and we need to step up to the plate, to provide the new leadership, new ideas, and real solutions it will take for us to move forward as a country. It is clearer now than it has ever been that we need political change on a systemic level-- and the best way to do that is through a changing of the guard. It's time, and we're ready."

Another great young California candidate this cycle is Sam Jammal, running for the Orange County seat occupied by Ed Royce (unless Royce retires like so many Republicans in Congress are doing). "So much of the American Dream is at risk and has been for some time. We have a millennial generation with unprecedented student debt, the lowest home ownership rates since World War II and economy that still isn't creating middle class jobs. You can look no further on the need for millennials in office than the complete silence over the expiration of the Perkins Loan Program on September 30th or the continuing silence over the student debt crisis by both parties. This silence is largely the product of a lack of voices in Congress connected to the struggles of students and younger workers."

Also running in Orange County, in a district further south and against Mimi Walter, Kia Hamadanchy has put some thought into the role of millennials in government. "I’m not surprised that so many great millennial candidates are running for Congress," he told me yesterday. "Like many in my generation I had some of my first formative experiences in politics in 2007 and 2008 when Barack Obama was first running for President and that more than anything is what inspired me to go into public service. It also reinforced the idea that anything really is possible in our politics if we are willing to stand up and fight for it. Top to bottom the Democratic Party is in the worst shape its been since right before the Great Depression. For a long time we've been devoid of new ideas and 2017 is a great opportunity to elect young, fresh faces to Congress who who will not be afraid to push for bold policy ideas like single payer. Who better to work on issues like student debt and climate change?  More than anyone else we are the ones most impacted and we are the ones most willing to think outside the box to try and push the envelope to actually get something. I've been in the Senate and can tell you first-hand its time for a younger generation of leadership to step up to the plate. That's a big reason as to why I'm running for Congress."

Ricardo Franco is the progressive candidate running for the Central Valley seat that Devin Nunes holds. He told us that "Though Trump and I both went to Wharton, one of the biggest differences in our education is this: I and fellow millennials after me were REQUIRED to take ETHICS at Wharton. Though Trump's unethical practices are hardly new, today's GOP Tax Plan hits a new low: cutting the heart and life out of the millennial generation and middle-class to pour more money into the pockets of the ultra-rich and large corporations."

Twenty years of conservative trickle-down economic policy has left us with stock markets at all-time highs and interest rates at all-time lows. This means corporations are already flush with capital. Loopholes allow them to pay an effective tax rate of 18.5% Economic figures will suggest that the economy is doing well and growing with strong GDP figures and low unemployment.

However, those numbers don't show you the real struggle millennials are facing: underemployment. Millennials have been thrust into a working world, drowning in student debt, not being able to save enough money to buy a house, struggling to find affordable healthcare, and not being able to save for retirement. Now, the GOP has the audacity to eliminate state and local tax deductions from their federal filings with their new tax plan. The plan's reduction on the mortgage interest deduction will put more people out-of-reach in being able to buy a home. This will depreciate home prices, raise rents and possibly make refinancing more costly for those with equity to pay for their children's college in the future or use for retirement.

Did I mention the deduction on student loan interest is also removed?

This plan is nothing but a handout to the super-rich while straddling us millennials with $1.5 trillion in debt in 10 years. The GOP will position this as an investment in economic growth. That's a lie. Investment implies they're taking a risk. They aren't. Instead, this is daylight robbery.

We MUST increase our representation in government if we want our voices to be heard.  Private sector companies and non-profits can only do so much for the common good.  Government is where the rules are decided, and we must take action if we are to have an equal voice in our own future. We cannot wait to climb the ladder of local party politics. It must happen, and it must happen NOW-- because our economy and future depend on it.
See that thermometer above? You can contribute to any of our California congressional candidates, including millennials like Michael Kotick, Sam Jammal, Katie Hill, Ricardo Franco and Kia Hamadanchy.

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At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the only millennials that can run are the ones in dynastically wealthy families and those who are eager to whore for their money (or, as always, those who believe they are chosen by gawd to save humanity from the devil). That's why there have seldom been many younger members of congress... plus anyone any good that sneaks in is immediately disillusioned by the rampant systemic corruption.

"Twenty years of conservative trickle-down economic policy has left us with..."
Another problem with younger folks. They lack proper perspective. We've been gushering up for 36 years and counting, not twenty. The 'trickle down' meme was begun by Reagan during his campaign in '80. American voters, proving they truly had shit for brains, elected his 'voodoo economics' bigly.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Mf Lehman said...

Republicans always seem aware of the need to bring younger people along and into leadership and to clear away unsuccessful deadwood. For whatever reason, the need for this seems to escape our party.


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