Public policy experts and veterans of the 2016 presidential primary campaigns characterized the newest generation of voters as the most coveted and elusive demographic in the presidential election cycle during a panel discussion held Monday in the Rafik B. Hariri Building.
The event, titled “The Millennial Mindset: Millennials, the Economy, and What it Means for 2016,” was co-hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, the Economic Innovation Group and professional service firm Ernst & Young.
The conversation centered on the findings of “The Millennial Economy,” a survey conducted by EIG and EY, which paints a complex picture of millenials’ desires and their vision of the future, finding the majority of millennials have a pessimistic view of the economy.
Tim Miller, who was communications director of former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s campaign, which has an increasingly aging voting base, must seek a transformational candidate who can appeal to millennial and minority voters in future elections.
“The biggest problem is that you go to a Republican Party event, and it’s all old white dudes,” Miller said. “What the party needs is a ‘millennial Trump,’ a candidate that can run in 2020 or 2024 that can appeal to minorities.”
Moderated by Michelle Jaconi (SFS ’96, GRD ’97), senior advisor to the Independent Journal Review and former producer of “Meet the Press,” the panel discussion covered a wide range of issues including partisanship, patriotism, college tuition and tax rates.
EIG Executive Director and School of Foreign Service adjunct assistant professor Steve Glickman (COL ’02) noted 80 percent of millennials in the 21st century fear they will not be able to obtain jobs that pay as well as their parents’ jobs. Glickman said while the viewpoint is pessimistic, he acknowledges the rationale behind it.
“Millennials are the most educated, yet most indebted, generation in U.S. history,” Glickman said. “Millennials don’t feel like they’re in a position to take risks.”
As the conversation turned to the role played by millennials in the 2016 presidential election, Miller offered insights into how the political parties should aim to reach out to millenials. Miller praised former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ efforts to reach out to young voters as a platform for future presidential candidates to use.
“What they need is a government that is more responsive to them,” Miller said. “A lot of these young voters liked what Bernie Sanders was doing because he demonstrated that he cared about them. He listened to them.”
Symone Sanders, previously the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, attributed millennials’ reluctance with identifying along party lines to the lack of an existing party addressing issues important to them.
“Forty-six percent of millennials across the board identify as independents. That is an opportunity across the board for both parties,” Symone Sanders said. “Fundamentally, they do not believe that this system is dedicated to the betterment of their lives.”
EY Tax Policy Leader and GU Politics Advisory Board Member Cathy Koch (GRD ’94) encouraged millennials to pursue a career in public service.
“It’s one of the fastest ways to accelerate your career,” Koch said. “There is room above you that you won’t find in corporate America.”
Glickman said millennials might find work with local comunities rather than the federal government to be more rewarding.
“There is something very entrepreneurial about what’s happening at the local level. I would say go home, find partners in the private sector and start turning those communities around,” Glockman said.
Sanders praised the findings of the EY and EIG report and stressed the continued importance of reaching out to this generation and involving them in policymaking as well as government decisions beyond the 2016 race.
“I think the research is very rich. It tells the true story about millennials in this election and what millennials across the board are thinking,” Sanders said. “Regardless of the outcome, the political establishment are going to have to grapple with the role that young people are going to play.”
GU Politics Director of Programming Sophie Goldmacher said the discussion skillfully addressed the need to discuss the views of the millennial voting group.
“I think something that has been lost in the political conversation up until now is some of the actual issues that matter to voters,” she said.
Max Magid (COL ’19) said the discussion focused largely on the theme of entrepreneurship while neglecting trustworthiness, a component important to millennials that would explain the tepid support for Hillary Clinton.
“That’s why millennials didn’t seem to back Hillary Clinton, and I feel like that’s something that they sort of passed over,” Magid said. “I think people are finally starting to pay the right amount of attention to millennials.”
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