Are millennials running from politics? According to the book "Running from Office," by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox, the answer is yes. In a sample of over 4,000 high school and college students across the country, Lawless and Fox found that the overwhelming majority of young people surveyed “saw nothing particularly noble about those currently in office, viewing most as dishonest, self-interested, and disinterested in helping their constituents.” Despite the popular distaste these young people felt toward public figures and politics in general, they also expressed their desire to “improve their communities and enact change in the world; but, they don't think politics is the way to achieve these goals.”
I will be the first person to validate the concerns many millennials have toward American politics today because they are the same reasons that I have been turned off by the political game I see being played. Growing corruption, increased partisanship and a severe lack of integrity, personal responsibility and accountability have become far too commonly referred to as “politics as usual” — all resulting in little to no results for constituents. So how do we turn “politics as usual” into “politics that is useful”?
Everyone wants to be a part of the game until the game isn’t fun anymore. This is the case for many millennials, but can you blame them? The reasons why millennials are running from politics are the very reasons we need them to stay. If you change the players, you can change the game. We live in a world of tough competitors and you attract the best players when they know they’re playing in a game that they believe they can win.
With Utah having the highest population of millennials per capita in the nation, 41 percent of them being homeowners and many of them launching high-tech careers in Silicon Slopes, I believe they have the power to not just change the game of politics, but to be the most powerful players in this game our country has ever seen.
In the midst of the “innovation generation” I see the term “millennial” as more of a mindset rather than a reference to a particular age group. To me, having a millennial mindset means you are cool and nerdy, confident and smart, tech-savvy and creative and — most importantly, highly effective and efficient in everything you do because you know how to get from A to B in two steps instead of 12. You are less likely to allow social and cultural barriers such as race, gender, religion, economic status and yes, even political affiliation, to impede the most direct and natural pathway to generating creative solutions to everyday problems. This mindset, my dear friends, is exactly what we need to restore faith in the American political system and make the game of politics a game that people with a millennial mindset want to play.
So what do we get when we infuse the power of players with a millennial mindset into a collaborative "think tank" learning environment and apply that conversation model to the public policy arena? The Millennial Policy Tank: Where Policy Creation Meets the Innovation Generation.
In the process of processing the 2016 elections, many of us find ourselves facing a serious ideological identity crisis. Which camp do I belong to? What does it mean to be an American? How do I stay true to my conscience without falling into a mental and moral state of complacency? The greatest gift that came out of this last cycle was the fire that was ignited in the hearts of people all across the country to get up and do something. Many of us have that strong desire to do something, but we aren’t sure what to do or how to do it.
So, let me suggest something you can do that I hope you will consider. The RE-Think Tank and GEN PAC are launching the Inaugural Millennial Policy Tank Series this Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Join us. Details are at www.re-thinktank.com.
The Millennial Policy Tank (MPT) will function as a series of monthly policy tank discussions with policymakers, business leaders and millennials designed to tackle a wide range of salient issues facing Utahns today. Among them are health care, Utah business and taxes, immigration/refugee resettlement, sex trafficking, homelessness and the environment. The power of the MPT lies in its unique ability to bring together public and private sector leaders on both sides of the aisle to join forces with millennial leaders in solving community problems and generating innovative policy solutions.
We invite you to join the conversation to listen, learn and contribute. We need all hands on deck to change the game of politics to a game where all players believe that they can win.
Sui Lang L. Panoke is the founder and partner of RE-Think Tank.