Opinion: Politicians must represent the voices of young people
Midterm wave of millennials shows the potential for young people to be elected
Back in my hometown, which is in Connecticut's 26th district, history was made this November. One of the youngest state senators ever was elected. Will Haskell, a Georgetown alum who is just 22, managed to defeat a 10-year incumbent who is 40 years his senior. Besides myself, many of my friends and family were inspired by his campaign.
There were also many historic firsts for young people at a national level too. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York’s 14th Congressional District is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, having turned 29 last month. Ocasio-Cortez will also be sworn in alongside 29-year-old Abby Finkenauer, 33-year-old Xochitl Torres Small, 32-year-old Lauren Underwood and Haley Stevens, a 35-year-old AU alum who will represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.
With this new wave of Millennials coming in, the average age of Congress is going to drop by 10 years. It is the first time ever in history that Congress will include two women under the age of 30.
This wave of young people coming in at the state and federal level leads me to believe that there needs to be a greater representation of young people in politics. For the past few decades, we have seen elderly congressmen and women debate about the best way to run our education system.
They do this without even having an understanding of how our modern education system works. For example, older politicians do not know about the growing technology field, as opposed to a younger person who experienced it in their schooling. If there were more representation of young people serving in politics, our education system could improve vastly because it would be shaped by people who understand it.
Our current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, should look to young representatives like Lauren Underwood. Underwood believes that we “should be investing more money, not less in our public education system.” DeVos has been accused of prioritizing school choice, or the ability to use education dollars to attend private or public schools, over making investments in the public system.
We also need young people representing us in politics because it is important for our demographic to be accounted for. This country is built off the foundation of “No taxation without representation.”
Therefore, if I am going to be a law-abiding, tax-paying, citizen of this country, I want to make sure my voice, along with my peers, is being heard. America holds equality to be one of its most important values; therefore it should be seen in its highest forms of political office.
The entirety of politicians does not need to be young people, but they should be fairly represented. People ages 19-34 make up 21 percent of the U.S. population, or just about one-fifth of the country.
So why don’t they make up approximately one-fifth of Congress? Millennials are one of the largest generations in the workforce, yet the average age for a House member in the 115th Congress was 57.8 years old.
With these newly elected officials coming into office in 2019, I feel very hopeful about the impact of young people and the future we have ahead of us. Aside from the actual politicians who got elected, I also saw a large number of my peers advocating for social change and voicing their political opinions.
This trend shouldn’t stop with this election. Young people should not be satisfied with seeing some of their peers being elected, but continue to use their voices to fight for what they think is right and what our country needs moving forward.
Emma Greenberg is a freshman in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.