With the 2018 midterms kicking off in November, many politicians will either be running for various political positions or defending their current seat. One unlikely group looking to make a big splash is young people, specifically college-age and younger.
From local races to governor seats to Congress itself, the young generation looks to have their voices heard. While some are limited by age restrictions to more local races, the challenge of running for office has not deterred a new generation from stepping into the political light.
While the national races get the limelight, Shauna Shames, an assistant professor at Rutgers University and author of “Out of the Running: Why Millennials Reject Political Careers and Why It Matters” argues when millennials do run, there is evidence that they prefer state and local races. While six teenagers are currently running for the position of Governor in Kansas, garnering national media attention, it is far more likely to see a candidate below the age of 25 in local races running for city council, mayor or state positions.
The injection of youth into the political sphere can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, this can provide a new perspective on issues within society and give a glimpse at what has become important, a trait that many political leaders seem to lose once they have been in office for a few decades. The problem is, it puts inexperienced teenagers in positions of power. One could rightfully ask what qualifications, if any, do these individuals possess? How can they replace officials who have worked twenty years in the public sector when the same amount of time constitutes the younger candidate’s entire lifetime?
Ultimately, there are more positives than negatives to young people running for political office. Any issues of age, inexperience or maturity should be left up to the voters to decide if that individual best represents them. It’s not like all the experience and age of Congress has done anything to help with the gridlock or partisan bickering. All of the maturity hasn’t helped Congress avoid assault, fraud, drunk driving and sexual harassment allegations or charges, among many others. The positives however allow for more diverse thought, the presentation of issues that directly appeal to younger people and a new perspective from a generation who will be directly impacted by public policy.
The United States is supposed to be a representative democracy and to exclude a portion of the population due to issues current politicians seem to have is not representative at all. In the world today where every voice is supposed to matter, why is the current system rigged to exclude those that are “too young”? The system should encourage anyone to run and let the voters sort it out themselves. Sure there may be some bad, but there will be a whole lot of good as well.
– Jordan Drake is a communications junior