Alyssa Harbaugh Michigan

The Millennial Dilemma

In our changing world, it is becoming mandatory to involve the younger generations in politics that were formerly reserved for the well-established.

Dear Mr./Madam President,

I think that politics is not nearly the devil we make it. I attempt to live with an open ear, and thus I have learned that people seem to believe that there are a thousand demon tongues hidden behind every podium and that the leader is merely a decoy while they drag naive listeners to their graves. This cannot be true, for I understand the Pope also uses podiums and, to the best of my knowledge, he has yet to burst into flames. Still, this does not mean that the politician is some angel sent from above, for he cannot be. The necessities of work, the unrelenting public eye, it must crush some part of that spirit. A politician, nay, a leader in any regard does what one must, like any job in the world. As you’re likely far more aware than I am, this brings consequences, which then bring more consequences in the forms of newspaper articles and pointed interview questions. A leader must continue to speak and in theme, the media must continue to embellish. This appears to be the means of survival for both parties. I would assert that neither is at fault and lacking solid fact on both sides is simply an unavoidable casualty.

Yet despite the inescapable nature of the cycle, the leader must be good, either in reality or in appearance. A bit Machiavellian, but potentially necessary with our changing political culture. The young are becoming less and less inclined to sip the syrupy language of politicians and to chew the speculation of the media. They understand that whoever files their papers alone, ignores the whole world; he demeans those around him to be unworthy of his consideration; it is very shortsighted, nay, naive; They know society will retaliate, and it will begin with those who have already taken their fill of derision and have felt the sting of condescension. Mr./Madam President, in order to survive, the state must take heed of the language scrawled across forums and buildings. It must hear the shouting out of windows and in lecture halls, on social media and in polls. It is no longer possible to pretend that the young are silent. In their minds, the only reality is one where fact and transparency hold hands as they climb the steps to the political throne. Any other leader is unfit to rule; this is the nature of the millennial ideal. And whether they are right or wrong, this must be taken into consideration.

The government, I think, can be described best as a machine with infinite cogs that are all interconnected. Powering it is a simple concept: all one must do is pull down a lever and then slowly guide it back into position. But the hands that meet it today are old and wrinkled. They shake, trying desperately to make the bar move until finally, it makes its slow descent. Then, exhausted, the arms release the lever a bit too fast, and it slams into position, rattling the entire machine. A pair of eyes that slope downward at the edges stares ahead for a long while.

“I can not do this until the end of time,” a turned-down mouth breathes.

Meanwhile, a pair of smooth, firm hands peers in through the window, hoping maybe one day it will be noticed, one day it will be trusted with the key to the machine room, not to grab and keep for himself, but to hold with the wrinkled hands until they can hold it no longer.

Unless the powerful have become deaf and blind they will see how the world is changing. In the first quarter of 2015, the millennial generation surpassed generation X in workforce numbers. Voters aged 18-35 are now rivaling the baby boomer generation in the percentage of people eligible to vote. At a breakeven of 31% in each group, this may seem minimally concerning, but there is a fundamental difference between the two that politicians simply cannot and likely do not ignore. The baby boomer population is aging and has thus fallen into a significant decline while millennials rise at alarming rates. The way politicians appear to the public right now is not sustainable. The most skeptical, the youth themselves, will abandon their candidates if they are not heard, if they do not gain the truth they desire, and if they are not given the consideration that the United States democracy promises. And in twenty years, when the adult population has been whittled down, the government, too, will crumble. Unless it can learn to adapt, the machine will sputter… and it will fail.

Will you grasp the young hands before their strong feet take them away?


Alyssa Harbaugh