Donna Brazille, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Republican strategist Margaret Hoover discussed “The Rise of the Millennial Voter” on Oct. 11 during a Georgia State University panel focusing on Millenniual voters, their political impact and issues they face in this election.
The panel, part of the university’s Distinguished Speaker Series, was moderated by professor of law Tanya Washington.
“[Millenials] have a philosophy that is preoccupied with engagement, but not in the way that former generations have been engaged,” Washington said. “They will volunteer in great numbers, in greater numbers than any other generation, they will protest, they will campaign, but the question is, will they vote?”
Millenials have expressed disappointment with the election process, the parties and the candidates and as a result are considering not voting, Washington said. “What can the political parties and candidates do to inspire them to vote?”
Brazille sought Bernie Sanders’ advice about what steps the Democratic Party needed to take to ensure Millenials were hearing the message. “Bernie said you gotta talk about the issues,” she said. “Your generation is so deeply involved in whether the candidate is talking about things that matter to you and your life.”
Hoover said being civically engaged is important — no matter who you cast your vote for. “I know if you vote, there is a very big chance you are not going to vote for the Republican ticket and that’s OK with me,” she said.
Hoover, who stated she is “not a fan of Donald Trump,” asked the students to keep an open mind about the Republican Party. There are many Republicans who truly believe it is critical to the party to be welcoming to minorities and to apologize for past wrongdoings, and who are LGBT-friendly, Hoover said. She listed a number of Republicans who are fighting for issues such as equal pay, criminal justice reform and fighting against anti-LGBT legislation, including Gov. Nathan Deal.
Both Brazile and Hoover implored young voters to show up at the polls on Election Day.
“Four weeks from tonight this country is poised to make history,” Brazile said. “History that we have never seen before in the United States of America. History that we have all made together.”
Millenials have impacted the political landscape by fighting to bring important issues to the forefront, such as income inequality, student debt, the environment, and racial justice issues, Brazile said.
“What are you going to do with this awesome power, one-third of the electorate, to change your country? Are you going to continue to let the narrative be about the things that we’re against or are you going to make this election about the needs and the vision and the values of your generation? You’re awesome because you have the enormous power to make the change we all believe in,” she said to the audience of students.“I urge you not to believe the caricature, don’t believe the broad brush strokes that people paint one party and another party to stand for,” Hoover said. “A lot of Republicans out there have a very different idea of what the Republican Party should be and stand for, and they have nothing to do and nothing in common with Donald Trump.”
Painting all Republicans as evil, or all Democrats as evil is not the answer, Brazile said. “Nobody is evil, we just have different ways of reaching, in many cases, the same goals.”
Many Millenials are reportedly turning away from this presidential election because it is so divisive and polarizing, Washington said.
Brazile said there have been numerous contentious elections throughout history, but this is the first one that citizens have experienced through social media. However, she admits the discourse in this election has gotten especially distasteful.
“Part of the reason people why I think the American people can’t see straight through the silliness of this all is they don’t know what to believe anymore. Every institution in our society is almost under water, from our government itself, as most Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, to even our social institutions, academia, the media … that says that we as Americans are not communicating, we don’t believe in civil discourse,” Brazile said.
A number of Americans feel betrayed, exploited and that no one cares about them, in both white and minority communities, Brazile said. And Trump has exploited those divisions and stoked those fears, she said.
The nomination of Trump revealed a real failing of the Republican party, Hoover said. However, many of his supporters have real grievances, she said.
“They’re not just angry; they have been left behind frankly because Republican policies have not been helping them,” she said. “Part of what we are seeing is a failing of Republican Party elites to answer real grievances and disquietude amongst the Republican primary base.”
Millenial civic engagement is important because they can decide the direction of this country, Brazile said.
“Think about the world in which you want to see … that can happen as a result of you being active in politics. $1.3 trillion in debt and you’re going to stay home and say that there is nothing on the ballot? There are many reasons to vote,” she said. Further, she said Millenials should not only vote, but run for office.
Hoover said what distinguishes the Millennial generation is their pragmatism. “You don’t like this framing on either side, and you want to figure out the truth. That’s what I love about this generation and that’s what the future is,” she said.