Democrat or Republican? More Millennials choose 'none of the above.'

There are clear signs now that the new generation of voters are not allowing themselves to be cannibalized by polarized voices on the left and right.

By   Mark Gerzon, Voices contributor   JUNE 1, 2016

AP Photo/John Amis/File

With a nation paralyzed by intense hostility between two major parties, Democratic and Republican, why are there only Democratic and Republican clubs on most campuses? Does it make sense to replicate the problem? How can the next generation free themselves from the same two gridlocked alternatives?

The good news is: Millennials are making other choices. They are rising up and declaring their freedom from their parents’ partisanship. There are clear signs now that the new generation of voters are not allowing themselves to be cannibalized by polarized voices on the left and right. On campus and off, they are refusing to be inducted into the current dysfunction designed by their elders. Instead, they are fulfilling Thomas Jefferson’s original vision of democracy that is that it will be renewed by every generation.  

“Multiplicity in choice is what the Millennials have grown up with,” says Jon Avlon, editor-in-chief of the online news source The Daily Beast, highly favored by the millennial generation. “They don’t have to buy the album; just have to buy the song. That’s what they are used to.”  

“Our generation is just less willing to line up with whatever party platform they lean toward,” says Erik Fogg, the co-author of Wedged, a compelling Millennial manifesto. “Instead, we’re having these very real, intense conversations about policy, economics, justice. We’ve been ignored by the parties for so long that we're just forging our own way now. There's a growing sense that we’re part of a civic Silicon Valley for renewing politics.”

No one is more wire to this “civic Silicon Valley” than the generation now on campus.BridgeUSA is an organization founded by, for and of Millennials that is working to bridge the gap between the current polarizing student groups. Less than a year old, this group is already gaining traction from college students who want other options besides donkey and elephant. The organization hopes to have 30 chapters running on college campuses by the time of the election in November.  

“BridgeUSA gives students a safe learning environment to talk through divisive issues,” says Courtlyn Carpenter, a junior at the University of Colorado, and one of the co-founders of this organization. “Even more important, it helps us develop communication skills and methods for finding shared values that will enable us to be political change-makers in the future.”

Tired of partisan stalemate, turned on by technological innovation, the Millennials, and the generations that will follow in their footsteps, are emerging as an instinctively “transpartisan” political and cultural force. Poisonous partisanship and has been going on so long that the younger generation has seen nothing but political dysfunction. For this reason, they tend to see more quickly than many of their elders why being hyperpartisan is a dead-end. The Millennial generation is less enamored of political parties than any generation before them. Culturally as well as politically, their generation is saying a powerful “no” to political boxes.

Millennials can tell that, although both the Democratic and Republican parties are courting their votes, neither of them is taking the emerging generation seriously. Faced with a contracting economy with limited job opportunities, they are nevertheless saddled with more than $2 trillion in student loans. Their inheritance is being squandered by the two political parties’ focus on short-term partisan advantage, not long-term fiscal health.   

Beyond the campus, score of emerging initiatives are working to put this transpartisan, “Country Before Party” narrative into action.

  • Millennial Action Projectis harnessing the energy of the new generation in Congress.  
  • Action for America  will convene the New American Congress, bringing together Millennials from every state, possibly every Congressional district later this year.
  • Run for America is actually running candidates who will, if successful,  bring a fresh, entrepreneurial, pragmatic energy to local races across the country.
  • Something to Consider is building a “new political community” of independent-minded young voters to raise the level of political dialogue, re-engage the middle-ground and build a movement based on “shared values and mutual understanding.”
  • Change.org is providing a platform that takes “civic tech” to a new level and provides the cyber-savvy generation with a stronger voice and wider set of choices about how to engage as citizens.

“We have the greatest potential political power,” says David Burstein, founder of Run for America, “but we also have the most to lose. While the rest of the country has been galvanized by partisanship, our generation needs to be galvanized by our desire for solutions. Our collective voices can disrupt and change our failing system – and we can’t allow this opportunity to pass us by.”

Bob Dylan’s words are as true today as they were in the '60s: “The times, they are a-changin.’ ” And the leaders of this Millennial-powered movement are providing the paths forward to a Technicolor America that transcends red and blue.

Mark Gerzon, president of Mediators Foundation, is the author of “The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide.”

Originally posted on Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/Politics-Voices/2016/0601/Democrat-or-Republican-More-Millennials-choose-none-of-the-above.