Despite year-long talk of a youth "enthusiasm gap" this election, millennials had other plans last Tuesday. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, an estimated 22-23 million young voters turned out, comprising 19 percent of the American electorate -- 1 percent larger than in 2008, and 2 percent larger than in 2004.
Without a doubt, President Obama once again owes his successful election to a generation who supported him by a margin of 23 percent. With even a 50/50 split in the youth vote in Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania, we would be inaugurating President Romney on January 21st. And thus the larger story from last Tuesday night is that the Republican Party needs to modernize itself.
The millennial generation is the most diverse in American history and believes deeply in social equality. When candidate and party platforms are built upon restricting access to equal rights such as marriage and fair pay, or upon maintaining the discriminatory way in which drug laws affect minority communities, they will lose.
The culture we live in is largely more progressive than the Republican Party claims. Many of millennials' favorite TV shows highlight same-sex couples who are happy and successful. Top-of-the-charts hip-hop artists we listen to such as Jay-Z and Nas write lyrics about ending racial profiling or sentencing disparities. Consumer studies illustrate that we prefer to shop at businesses that donate and share profits with charities. Our generation is also a pragmatic one. Growing up in a technological era, research shows we are the most trusting of math and science. Denying climate change defies logic, as do medieval notions about rape and pregnancy.
A pragmatic generation also pays deference to facts, and moving forward, we must pressure our leaders to admit when they are wrong, rather than insist they are right in blatant disregard for data and evidence. This will create a nation that is more advanced, tolerant, and innovative.
Tuesday's election was a clear victory for pragmatism and social tolerance. Millennials are at the helm of this movement, and past voting once every two or four years, we must stay engaged year-round to ensure accountability to these ideals. The real work begins now.
Matthew Segal is the co-founder of OurTime.org, a nationwide non-partisan advocacy organization for young Americans.