Why are many young Americans moving in a new political direction?
Today, the youth vote is more important than ever. By 2015, the youth voting bloc (ages 18-29) will make up about a third of the entire electorate. In the 2012 election, the youth vote was the deciding factor for President Obama to win Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. If Obama had not won the youth vote, he would have lost these states, and thus lost the entire election. We are a force to be reckoned with, and we will make our voices heard.
My generation is increasingly voting for the Democratic Party, but it hasn't always been this way. In the 1980s, the GOP repeatedly won with the under-30 crowd. Since the turn of the century, the youth vote has trended more and more heavily to the Democrats. Much discussion has centered on this issue, and there are several obvious reasons why 18 to 29-year-olds are voting Democratic, but it's more complex than you might think.
At first glance, it's easy to see why young people favor the Democrats. Today's youth supports Immigration reform, marriage equality, environmental protections, healthcare reform, and other issues that the Democratic Party champions. Furthermore, Republicans are directly alienating young voters. For example, just days ago, Congressional Republicans let student loan rates double while they proceeded on to their July 4th holiday. This will be detrimental to young people, education, and the future of our economy.
However, it's not just the issues; there's a deeper reason young people are voting Democratic. Democrats have something Republicans cannot beat: Optimism. Democrats are hopeful about our future, while Republicans are fearful of change and nostalgic for the past.
As a perfect example of this philosophical divide, in 2012, Barack Obama ran on the slogan "Forward" while one of Mitt Romney's key slogans was "Restore America." This is the true reason young people are voting Democratic; one party wants to move "Forward," the other wants to move back, to "Restore" the good ole' days.
The Democratic Party's entire philosophy hinges on the belief that America's best days are ahead of us. That while we may face challenges and obstacles along the way, progress is being made and prosperity is in our future. While many young people are not satisfied with the nation's current situation, this ideal of optimism guides the Democratic Party's views on most issues and is extremely popular with young voters. The fact that most young people agree with Democrats on the issues only reinforces this idea.
The Republican Party believes America is currently headed downhill and that we must return to the better days of our past. Whether right or wrong, this philosophy does not appeal to young people. Often, the GOP points back to the days when Ronald Reagan was president as an example of where we should return to. This message appeals to many older voters, but for 18 to 29-year-olds, reminiscing about a time when they were small children or before they were born is not an attractive rallying-cry. Would a young person choose the party of a hopeful future, or one betting that America's greatest days are behind us?
While the Republicans ran on the idea that we needed to "Restore America" in 2012, it's clear the American people disagreed. Call me naïve, but I believe our better days are ahead of us. The Democratic Party believes in progress and that America is on the rise. This optimism is core reason that young people are voting Democratic and will continue to do so. The Party that believes in American achievement and future prosperity will always be successful. As long as the Democratic Party holds on to this philosophy of optimism, we will continue to triumph with younger voters.