The Primary election is on Tuesday night, but I’m so out of the loop sometimes that I didn’t even realize early voting ended today. I always try to vote early because you can avoid all the crowds and craziness. Sort of like Christmas shopping.
I wasn’t planning on voting today. I was driving downtown to run some errands. But I happened to pass by the library and saw all the campaign signs and a long line of people waiting to get inside. Huh? Why so many people standing on line when it’s early voting?
I got out of my car and breathed in the warm early spring air. It was a glorious day, with the sun shining and the birds singing. A few trees are beginning to blossom. I walked over and asked someone why the line was so long, and she told me there was only an hour left before the early voting polls closed until Tuesday night! I’d made it right in the nick of time. So I thanked her and took my place at the back of the line. The atmosphere was party -like. People were excited about their candidates of choice, and the spring weather made things seem festive.
The vast majority of people waiting to vote were young families, many with babies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many babies in one place since I took my own kids to Gymboree classes back when they were tiny toddlers. A quick mental calculation based on these young parents’ appearance told me they were part of the Millennial generation (born in the 1980s and 1990s) A few might have been later Gen-X or Gen Y, but not too many. I’ve been reading about how politically active the Millennials are, something the previous generation (Gen-X) was generally not when they were of like age, oh, about 20 years ago now. (Has it really been that long?)
There was a 20-something clean-cut young man handing out flyers and another 20-something young woman dressed in hipster garb and covered with campaign buttons enthusiastically talking about the election and handing out flyers for a different candidate. My own 24 year old son has also become politically active in his state. He’s campaigning for Bernie Sanders (who seems very popular with Millennials, which is ironic since he’s the oldest of all the candidates). A an aside, Bernie has amassed his enormous popularity among Millennials through social media, especially Twitter, where you can #FeeltheBern becoming an unquenchable fire. 2011’s ill-fated Occupy movement also built its momentum using Twitter to spread the word. The movement might have fizzled out before it could make a real impact (or been silenced), but I think it was the first real sign of things to come.
Millennials get it. They’re not taking any more of the same old, same old. They’re not backing candidates who spout the same old tired rhetoric we’ve become so familiar with, jaded candidates funded by huge corporations who promise change but fail to deliver. This generation has inherited a broken nation and no one seems to give a damn. They have had a terrible time getting a foot in the door of real adulthood because they can’t find decent jobs that pay a living wage and many can’t afford to move out of he home they grew up in. They are in college debt up to their eyeballs and will no doubt remain in debt until their late middle age or even for the rest of their lives if things don’t change. They’re sick of being called entitled crybabies, when all they want is the same opportunities that other generations before them did. They also realize that if things are going to change, it’s going to be them that have to make things change.
Most of the Millennial generation is now old enough to vote, and they are taking advantage of that right and showing up at the polls to exercise that hard-won right, whether they are male or female; black, white, Hispanic, or “other;” gay or straight; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist; and regardless of political affiliation (though most seem to be quite liberal or independent). As Americans, we all have the right to vote, and voting is the only thing that brings real change. If you fail to vote, do you really have a right to complain? Although I’m terribly unhappy with the state of this nation and have been for a long time, I always felt guilty griping about it whenever I failed to vote.
So I stood there on line feeling the spring breeze in my hair and looked around at all these enthusiastic Millennials on line, with their bumper crop of babies and toddlers (the future generation of this country), and felt very proud of this young adult generation, the same one William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted back in the 1990s would become the new “Greatest” generation–the people who would finally be able to save America from itself.