America is “looking at the end of civilization in a couple of decades, in the lifetime of the Millennial generation,” posits Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Strong words from someone who willingly admits she has no chance of occupying the Oval Office as president of the United States. But rather than dissect her prediction of a second burning of Rome, let’s ask this question: what are Millennials going to do about it?
Last month we young’uns made history, which has kind of become our jam (that’s how cool kids talk). The share of Millennials eligible to vote virtually matched that of our baby boomer parents for the first time, according to a Pew Research analysis of Census data. With 31 percent of the American electorate comprised of Millennials (and 31 percent made up of boomers), we could make a huge difference come November. But will we? So far, the data present some mixed results.
In Harvard University’s Institute of Politics semi-annual survey of American youth release in April, 50 percent of 18-29 year olds (which, as a reminder, does not account for all Millennials) said they would definitely vote in November. Another 14 percent indicated they would probably vote and 15 percent said it was a coin-toss (or 50-50 in the poll’s language). A combined 20 percent did not plan to vote.
It gets worse. While 15 percent in the same survey said our nation is on the wrong track, 48 percent don’t believe politics is the answer to solving our problems.
That, in and of itself, is a problem. If young people do not see utility to voting in November, the vast collective power of the generation will fail to prevent the collapse of civilization Stein believes is coming our way.
With Bernie Sanders’ campaign coming to a slow roll, and the alarmingly high negative ratings of the two major party candidates, the number of young people willing to sit this one out may increase. And if we aren’t careful, we will cede choosing the nation’s direction, which we ourselves believe is on the wrong track, to other generations for another four years.
I can’t get spun up about this numbers, though. It’s June, and the election is still five full months away. A lot can change between now and then. Hence I’m comforted by the words of Republican pollster Christine Matthews, who told me on my podcast, The Front Row Seat Presents, that rather than obsess about summer polls we should all go outside and look at the sky. Taking her advice, I shall commence looking up and hope we will do our part to prop civilization up for more than a few decades.
This column originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times on June 5, 2016.