A Presidential Paradox: How Both Parties Fail The Uber Generation

Democrat^J GOP or 3rd party for Millennials

Through all the news-making, fundraising, organizing, and advertising emanating from the first few innings of the 2016 Presidential campaign, you’d think no opportunity to grab votes would be left behind.

Yet I’ve spotted one massive gap.

Millennials, typically described as the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, will have to make more compromises when it comes to casting their votes than any generation in recent memory. That’s because the field is devoid of their ideal candidate.

To understand why this is so, consider that theirs is a generation at the core of so much disruption. For example:

  • Their preference for video streaming and a la carte TV watching gave rise to Netflix and cable cord cutting.

  • They forced the music business to embrace Spotify and iTunes.

  • Living as I do just outside New York City, I seldom see this cohort standing on a street corner in Manhattan, arm outstretched to hail a yellow cab. Instead, they’re flocking to Uber.

  • They don’t read newspapers or watch broadcast news as much as their parents. Twitter and Flipboard are rising to take their place.

  • When they travel, they’re booking their lodging through Airbnb.

  • Their preference for new ways of thinking extends to social issues.

  • This Gallup poll from 2014, for example, shows that the rise in public acceptance of gay marriage correlates with the maturation of Millennials as a voting bloc.

  • They are the most racially-diverse generation in US history.

That leaves both parties with a big problem. In addition to Republicans and Democrats both having bestowed a looming debt bomb to their generation, neither is ready to offer many Millennials a platform suited to their worldview.

Democrats, for example, would seem to be more likely to appeal to a Millennial’s attitudes on social issues, including race, gender and sexuality. On the other hand, on issues such as the social safety net, education, the service economy, and an open internet, Democrats have aligned themselves with entrenched, centralized interests that defy the Millennials’ hunger for innovation.

The Affordable Care Act, for example, puts more power to manage the healthcare economy under federal control, thereby reducing incentives for states and private entities to innovate. Unions representing teachers and public sector employees understandably will resist any change that might result in layoffs, even if reallocating labor would improve education outcomes and government programs in the long run. Democrats offer no modern day vision for reforming two of the largest costs taxpayers bear: Social Security and Medicare, programs developed over 60 years ago.

Republicans, on the other hand, historically have been friendlier to business and the pursuit of innovation via local governments. Federal welfare reform of the ’90s, for example, was a product of states’ experimentation. On the other hand, their views on gay marriage, affirmative action, and immigration reform has put the GOP on the wrong side of the social issues that matter to many Millennials.

According to the Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation is about as large as Baby Boomers. At some point soon, if not in this presidential cycle, candidates for public office will have to adapt to earn their vote. The ideal candidates likely will embrace experimentation and disruptive innovation to long-standing economic, social, and foreign policy challenges, including poverty, drug abuse, immigration, and defense. In the process, they will break from today’s Democrats. They likely will take more progressive, if not libertarian social views, breaking from today’s Republicans.

Will Democrats or Republicans be the first to blink? If neither one does, look for the rise of a third party to fill the void eventually.

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