Young People Are Key to Democrats' Success in November. Here's What We're Looking For | Opinion

Midterm elections typically spell doom for a president's political party. In 2018, during President Trump's administration, Republicans lost more than 40 House members. In 2010, during President Obama's administration, Democrats lost over 60 House members. Between 1946 to 2018, a president's political party gained House seats only twice after a midterm election: in 1998 and 2002.

The Democrats would be facing an uphill battle in November even without the ongoing economic problems of skyrocketing inflation and gas prices. But it is imperative that Democrats do not surrender yet. Instead, they should focus their efforts in the coming months on delivering for the voters they need to win. And that includes young voters.

Democrats must do much more to get young people excited to vote for them. I'm a member of Generation Z—the third-largest and most diverse and educated generation in America. My peers and I are a key demographic, especially for Democrats. We helped Democrats win the 2018 midterm elections. We helped Democrats win the presidency and both chambers of Congress in 2020. And we can help Democrats win again in 2022.

It will be difficult to get my peers excited to turn out. But it is possible.

It begins with Democrats genuinely listening to what youth are saying. Fundamentally, what young people want is change. But when we look around us, we see a reality that seems to be getting worse.

For the first time, gun violence is the leading cause of death among youth. College tuition is skyrocketing, making access to higher education harder for young people. Civil rights which my generation thought were guaranteed—things like reproductive autonomy—are fading away.

young people are key for Democrats
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: People cross the Brooklyn Bridge demanding police reform after a commemoration to honor the anniversary of George Floyd's death on May 25, 2021, in New York City. Floyd's murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sparked global protest and continues to spur the Black Lives Matter movement. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The direct consequence of all of this is that more of my peers are losing faith in the political process. Compared to 2018, the number of those who believe their vote won't make a difference has increased by almost 15 percent. Nearly 60 percent of young people disapprove of President Biden and Congressional Democrats' performance. When the cards are constantly stacked against us, it becomes hard to maintain confidence in governance and elected officials.

While such numbers aren't optimal headlines for Democrats, it's important to understand that they do not immediately foretell loss in November. Rather, they present a window of opportunity for Democrats to do more than they ever have in investing in young voters. Two things need to happen.

First, Democrats and President Biden must support and pass policies that receive consensus among young people. Legislation that tackles issues like student loan debt, climate change, and prescription drug costs—all of which receive overwhelming support from young people—are good places to begin. More importantly, it would send a message that elected officials care about us and we matter.

Second, Democrats must engage young people on the campaign trail. That should entail everything from campaigning on college campuses to including young voices in discussions and decisions. This will require more time, energy, and resources. But here's the bottom line: Young people need to know Democrats are dedicated to listening to our thoughts and will incorporate us in the political process. There is no way around that other than spending more time, energy, and resources on us.

The good news is that young people are energized and ready to vote in November. 36 percent of young people say they will "definitely" vote in November, according to a recent Harvard Youth Poll. If true, that not only means youth turnout would match that of the 2018 midterm election, but it also suggests that the challenge for Democrats is not necessarily getting young people to vote. It is understanding our concerns and putting in the effort to earn our vote.

Whether or not Democrats hold control of Congress will shape America's future for generations to come. Will we be a nation that makes headway on gun safety, the cost of education and health care? Or will we be more fixed on undoing years of progress on voting rights, women's rights, and marriage equality?

There is no definitive answer. But regardless of the outcome, it is too early for Democrats to give up. Between now and November, Democrats must remain focused, work hard, and demonstrate to millions of young people why they deserve our vote. If they don't, they shouldn't be surprised when history repeats itself and Republicans win.

Victor Shi, a sophomore at UCLA, currently co-hosts the iGen Politics Podcast and is a Gen Z activist. He was elected as the Youngest Delegate for Joe Biden in 2020 and was an organizer on the Biden for President campaign. Follow him on Twitter @Victorshi2020.

The views in this article are the writer's own.