Millennial voter: I just want my issues taken seriously
By Ian Gutierrez
Apr 03, 2019 | 10:25 AM
Polls show young voters support Hillary Clinton, but it’s uncertain whether they will turn out in sufficient numbers for election day.
I am about as millennial as they come. I was born in the late 1980s, I am a highly educated professional, I have six figures of student debt, my politics are left-of-center, my wife and I have delayed having children into our 30s, and though to the best of my recollection I have never made avocado toast, I like avocados and I like toast, so I imagine the two go together just fine.
My problems are also typical millennial problems. Almost my entire paycheck goes to paying down my student loans, my credit cards, my rent and my bills. After that, there’s not much left to put away for home-buying, children, vacation or retirement. Many millennials in my situation blame neoliberalism and the capitalist economy into which we were born two to three decades ago for these woes. A recent poll by Harris Polling shows that nearly half of all millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country as compared with a capitalist one. Notably, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s public embrace of democratic socialism and her “Green New Deal," which stalled in the Senate last week amid Republican opposition and Democratic protest, has made her a lightning rod for proponents and dissidents of socialism in America and a hero to millennials across the country.
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I like Representative Ocasio-Cortez. Through her powerful voice and principled words, I can hear the concerns of my generation expressed by an elected official on Capitol Hill for the first time. Though, as a Marylander, she is not my district’s representative, she is most certainly my generational representative.
Yet, if I am being perfectly honest, as a millennial and a voter, I don’t much care for all this debate about the comparative merits and foibles of capitalism and socialism. Talk of economic systems and political theory surely keeps many pundits, academics, and politicians employed, but it is awfully far removed from immediate concerns over personal finances.
All I want is to buy a home, raise a family, ensure their health and safety, and be a productive citizen.
That is what I want to do in the 2020s. I’m not saying that I don’t care about the size of government or the fate of the planet. I do. Yet, in truth, what is more concerning to me at this point in my life is that it costs half a million dollars to buy a 2,000 square foot home within a 30-minute drive of my job in Montgomery County. I am frustrated by the fact that I will be paying off student loans for the next decade. I am angered that I am paying for the Social Security benefits of today’s retirees when I am unable to save for my own retirement.
As a society, we have spent the past decade — my 20s —fighting about health care, fighting about race and fighting about the president. Again, these are important things that I care deeply about. Everyone should have access to affordable health care, nobody should be mistreated on account of their identity, and we should all have leaders who we can trust.
Yet, as I see the Democratic presidential hopefuls start to make their cases for why they should be elected to the country’s highest office, I will not be thinking about neoliberalism, avocados or the Green New Deal. Instead, I will be asking myself who can speak to my issues as a millennial voter who simply wants to secure a future for myself and my family. Who can appreciate that people like me just want to own homes and raise children? Who understands that millennials are not just a demographic to be ridiculed and dismissed? Does anyone have the capacity to talk about millennials without going on some diatribe about laziness, entitlement, narcissism or the Way It Was Back When?
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To date, the only elected officials who seem to be able to do this are, well, millennials. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez appeals to millennials not because she is a proponent of democratic socialism, but because she takes our issues seriously.
I just want my issues to be taken seriously. Is that so much to ask for?
If Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a model for future elected politicians in my age demographic, then I look forward to casting my ballot for worthy Marylanders under the age of 40. I encourage my fellow Maryland millennials to do the same.