As we head into the holiday season, I am incredibly thankful for the young Americans who leaned into their civic duty during the 2022 midterm elections. A change is coming – a transformational generational political shift is on the horizon – and if we are smart enough to embrace the developing political climate, we will start seeing the country we all deserve.
Generation Z and millennials showed up in force to curtail the “Red Wave” in the midterms. The Biden-Harris Administration and the Democratic Party were bracing for impact when the race was called or Maxwell Alejandro Frost, the March for our Lives activist turned Congressman from Florida’s 10th District.
Congressman-Elect Frost, 25, is the first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress and will set the standard for what is coming next. According to data from the Pew Research Center, Generation Z is the most diverse and trending to be the most well-education generation in the United States and worldwide.
Generation Z’s political sensibilities align with their millennial siblings on various issues, from the economy and social issues to expectations of the role of government. By the time we enter the 2024 presidential election cycle, Gen Z and millennials will be the largest demographic in the electorate, giving me hope.
The Biden-Harris administration came to power bookended by what they referred to as four historic and converging crises – the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, climate change and racial justice – and they have made noteworthy progress in combating them. In part, that could be because of Generation Z.
Its members are far more outspoken than millennials and demand more from the government. They have a sense of urgency because their lives have born witness to government failures, multiple economic downturns, a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, fallout from the racial reckoning of Black Lives Matter and the summer of 2020 and the devasting impacts of climate change on us all.
Young people have watched constitutional rights be stripped away by the Supreme Court, state legislatures systematically target their LGBTQ+ friends, and our country’s inability to do anything meaningful to address the sickness of gun violence. A change is coming.
The research and data coming out of the Edison Research Institute are promising and will result in transformational change, if proven true. While the data is preliminary, Edison reports that 63% of Gen Z and millennial voters ages 18-29 voted for Democrats, while 35% voted for Republicans. Millennials, those from the ages of 30-44, favored Democrats by a 6-point margin. 51% said they voted for Democrats
Young voters’ impact on future elections is palpable. The Republican Party – shaken by the rebuke of their agenda, Trumpism and their deeply unpopular policy choices – will use their limited control of the House of Representatives and state legislatures to push back on this political shift, but in my view, it is too late.
Change is already here. Generation Z and millennials may have stopped the “Red Wave” from crashing us backward, but we cannot take this progress for granted.
In my political circles, there is ongoing discussion and debate about what the Democratic Party needs to do next. The answer is simple. We need to lean into the swell of progress on the horizon. The Democratic Party should embrace the next generation of leaders, champion the policy agenda and issues important to the younger electorate and pass the torch.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi perfectly demonstrated and modeled for the party how this should be done. In a graceful speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. House, Speaker Pelosi stated that “for me the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus.” Other members in House Democratic leadership have also stated publicly that they would be stepping aside to make room for a new generation.
How we manage this generational shift in politics will have the ability to shape the next 50 years. Generation Z can now turn to Rep-Elect Frost as a source of what is possible. As a millennial, I recognize that AOC, The Squad, Katie Porter and the next Democratic Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, will represent the next iteration of the Democratic Party. The service and leadership of the older guard do not go unnoticed, but this new generation is ready.
The United States still faces challenges. Those four converging crises are still with us. But with a commitment to and by embracing the next generation of voters, progress will come to America.
Johnny Boykins is a Democratic strategist and organizer in Pinellas County, a husband, bow tie aficionado, amateur chef and U.S. Coast Guard veteran. He also serves as Director of Outreach with the Pinellas Democratic Party. Learn more at PinellasDemocrats.org.