Millennials. You may have heard the term. Those born after 1977 are more optimistic, service-oriented and progressive than Gen X'ers. Millennials played a huge part in the campaign of President Barack Obama with their grassroots participation in such groups as Students for Barack Obama, Generation Obama, the College Democrats of America, and Young Democrats of America. While the Obama campaign ended months ago, the political involvement of young people hasn't. Millennials are now taking that enthusiasm for change through political participation to the next level by running for and winning positions in the Democratic Party across the country.
Last Saturday, Democrats in Wisconsin elected a 30-year old to serve as the Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Mike Tate, a grassroots activist, became the youngest state chair in the country. Mike, like many other young Democrats, took an interest in politics early in life and got active and involved.
Mike certainly isn't the exception to the rule, but rather just one of many young people who are taking on important leadership positions within party politics. In the past few months alone, two other states have elected young people to serve as officers in their state Democratic parties. Nevada chose Daela Gibson to serve as the party's First Vice Chair. South Carolina selected State Representative Bakari Sellers to serve as Party 1st Vice Chair and Jamarr Brown to serve as Party 3rd Vice Chair.
Those are just the individuals getting elected to statewide leadership positions. We cannot forget the many other young people, like 22-year old Jeffrey Ioimo of Alabama, who are taking on leadership positions within their local party organization. Jeffrey ran for and was elected Chair of the Elmore County Democrats, making him one of the youngest county chairs in Alabama history. All over the country we see young people just like Jeffrey who are stepping up and getting involved with the inner workings of the Party.
The myth that "young people don't vote" has been debunked by the past three election cycles. Young voters are the new base of the Democratic Party, and it can't be denied. From primaries to caucuses, to the general election, young people turned out to vote in record numbers across the country. Not only did they show up but young voters favored Barack Obama by 34 points, 66 percent to John McCain's 32 percent. The election of President Obama marks the third cycle in a row where youth turnout has increased significantly, securing millions of new voters for the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party simply hasn't garnered votes from young people; we engaged a group who are now taking an active role and getting deeply involved in the inner workings of the party on the local, state, and national levels.
No longer are young voters confined to holding leadership positions within their state's respective College Democrats or Young Democrats chapters. Young people are stepping up to the plate, running for, and winning spots at all levels of the party. And that is a good thing because currently young people make up 22 percent of the overall eligible electorate. By 2010, they will constitute 30 percent and by 2012, young voters will be nearly a third of the electorate. And if the trends continue the way they have been, we will continue to see more and more young people holding leadership positions in the Democratic Party.