November 8, 2016:As a young lobbyist working in Washington DC for the last five years on education policies that affect students across the country, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of political discourse every day and get to see first-hand how our democracy functions. While election day can sometimes feel like another normal day at work, this election day was different, and special.
As a young woman in a town mostly run by men, my expectation was that everything would change for the better that day. I began the morning at 7am by sending texts to a few of my girlfriends, “OMG, today is THE DAY women make history!” etc. My feelings of hope and excitement in thinking that Hillary Clinton was going to serve as the first female US President spilled out onto all forms of my social media while permeating into every conversation that day, work and personal–the future was female, the future was bright.
Nothing will ever erase the sheer devastation I felt–the devastation that many of my closest friends, colleagues, and much of the country also felt–in the late hours of November 8, when it became clear that the results were not what I had expected and hoped for. Hopelessness, confusion, anger, and frustration at the Democratic process consumed me for the next several weeks.
“Hopelessness, confusion, anger, and frustration at the Democratic process consumed me for the next several weeks.”
Why didn’t every woman, minority, and young American vote? Why did so many young Americans, particularly young women, choose to sit this one out? Why did some of us vote Trump in? Why did so few of us participate in the Democratic process and fail to take action to ensure we elect policymakers that actually represent our views?
These questions all have a thousand answers and as I tried to rationalize all of them, the only thing that mattered is coping with the position we were in now: Facing a Congress and Administration that was not going to put young americans and young women first. So, what does that mean now, halfway through the current Administration as we head into midterm elections?
There are currently 84 women in the House of Representatives out of the 435 total (18.9 percent), 23 women in the Senate of the 100, and there are still five states in this country that have never elected a female Congresswomen.
How do we, the young women of America, make sure that our Congress is actually representative of us and enacts policies that help us, not hurt us?
November 6, 2018: A chance to elect more females, more young legislators, more people who want to invest in education, the workforce, and our future. It future depends on it. We need fewer policies that police our bodies and limit our access to healthcare, and more policies that promote equal pay and help women attend and complete college.
The stakes are high this year, but for some reason, it seems that many young women still aren’t planning to vote. According to a recent poll conducted by AARP and the Association of Young Americans (AYA), only 51 percent of millennial women surveyed plan to vote in 2018 midterm elections. And the numbers are similar among millennial men —only 60 percent of those surveyed plan to vote this November.
While these numbers seem low, they are actually almost double in comparison to 2014 midterm millennial voter turnout. In 2014, only 23 percent of young people voted in the midterm elections. It appears that the number of millennials planning to vote in a midterm election has doubled in just four short years—something to certainly celebrate.
But is it enough to really create the change that we need? Why aren’t 100 percent of millennial women planning to vote in the 2018 midterms? Perhaps it’s because we’re exhausted and feel like speaking out doesn’t matter because our voices aren’t being heard. Perhaps it’s because we don’t see ourselves as Democrat or Republican (47 percent of millennial women surveyed see themselves as either Democrat-leaning, Republican-leaning, or Independent). Or perhaps it’s because we don’t know how to engage or feel as though we have an association or organization that has our backs in politics.
“If we want change to happen in politics, it’s on us to change the numbers by voting in the midterms this year. But it doesn’t stop at voting. Political engagement means advocacy too.”
That’s where the Association of Young Americans (AYA) comes in—as the first lobbyist for AYA, it is my job to help give you the tools to engage in politics and advocate for what you believe in, no matter what your expertise level is on a range of issues. If we want change to happen in politics, it’s on us to change the numbers by voting in the midterms this year. But it doesn’t stop at voting. Political engagement means advocacy too.
According to the same poll conducted by AARP and the Association of Young Americans (AYA), only 29 percent of millennial women surveyed consider themselves politically engaged.
Let’s be clear: Advocacy is for everyone and can be done from anywhere, at any time. AYA makes it easy. Advocacy means tweeting at your legislators from your phone, it means sending thousands of letters online and signing petitions, it means showing up at your state capital and protesting, it means showing up to Washington DC and meeting your member of Congress, it means voting on every single election day, primaries, midterms, and presidential years—it is truly all of these things, and they all matter.
Unless we want the status quo, we must make our voices heard and ensure change actually happens by electing a new Congress that will speak for us and represent us. No matter what side of the aisle we are on, we must vote and we must participate.
Ladies, I am hopeful once again, let’s take control and make this world a better place for the next generations of women–I’ll see you at the polls November 6 to take back our futures. And, on November 7 and every day forward, I hope you’ll join me in continuing to use your voice and stay politically engaged. Our futures really do depend on it.