Oliver Ward, openDemocracy:
Millennials have faced a litany of charges in the media from displaying traits of narcissism, self-entitlement and laziness to killing off traditional attitudes to marriage, vacations, and even causing the future demise of Home Depot. They are infantilised and derided, branded as a generation of “Peter Pans” who shun responsibility and fear growing up.
But unlike the baby boomers before them, millennials have not had the opportunity to step out of their parent’s shadow and flourish. The economic climate of the 21st century has produced a generation of overworked and underpaid employees living through a rise in right-wing thought that is testing the resilience of the political system on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the US, the average millennial enters the workforce with more than $37,000 of student debt. Millennial unemployment is more than double the national average, and those who do find work are paid salaries that are 20 per cent lower than those the baby boomers received when they were the same age. Between 2008 and 2013, millennials were the only section of the workforce who saw their real wages fall.
The decision to put off marriage, children, and purchasing a home is not borne out of some “Peter Pan syndrome;” it’s a product of the economic uncertainty that faces most millennials, who havn’t been fed the same economic nourishment that promoted maturity, self-sufficiency and independence among their parents. Instead, economic malnourishment has left many craving the financial safety and security of the nest. More than a third of 25-29-year-olds report moving back into the family home at some point.
Millennials grew up with the mantra that a college degree guarantees a better life, but after graduating into a recession they are discovering that this is an illusion. Education-inflation has eroded the value of an undergraduate degree even though employers now expect undergraduate studies for even the most rudimentary positions.
Once entering employment, millennials are facing longer workdays. Rather than a lazy generation fused to their iPads, they work longer hours than their parents’ generation.
Millennials are confronted by a two-party political system that doesn’t look like them, speak like them, reflect their political views or address their core concerns about precarity. The under-30 demographic is the most ethnically diverse in American history, but the 115th Congress that took office in January 2016 was made up of just nineteen per cent women, nine per cent African-Americans, seven per cent Hispanic members, three per cent Asian-Americans, and one per cent openly gay members.
That’s one reason why young voters are disenchanted with politics. Baby boomers now outvote millennials by some 30 per cent and voting among the under-30 demographic in non-presidential elections is at its lowest rate in 50 years. This means that millennial concerns are often overlooked in favour of themes that resonate with a candidate’s older core voters. But without candidates that inspire them, a growing number of young people are turning their backs on the traditional political system.
A growing majority of 18-35 year old voters reject the core values of both the Democrats and the Republicans. A Reuters/IPSOS poll showed that the Democrats have lost nine percentage points of support among voters aged 18-35 in the last two years. But this support is not going to the Republican Party. Only 28 per cent of 18-35 voters expressed support for the Republicans, the same figure as two-years ago.
These unaffiliated voters are politically receptive and ready to put their support behind a candidate or a party that speaks for them. But neither of the established parties have offered much to excite the millennial generation. However, when millennials do mobilise behind a candidate they become a powerful voting bloc.
…as generational shifts reduce the political influence of the baby boomers, millennials have the opportunity to transform American politics. They have the chance to break up the two-party system, perhaps introducing new parties founded on millennial values or pushing the Democratic Party to the left. Millennial voters could also force both parties to confront the limitations of the current political system. Revitalising democracy to tackle the problems of the modern world would inspire millennial voters and could lead to the emergence of grassroots movements campaigning for reform within the American political system.
Via naked capitalism.