When I was the age my kids are now, television networks offered three, barely distinguishable choices. Including Internet video, my kids' options are almost infinite. I walked to a library. My kids download books. I owned a few dozen cassette tapes. Their iPods stream thousands of songs.
A quarter-century ago, editors decided what news I read. My kids are their own editors and publishers. My kids are Millennials, raised in an era of rapid change and boundless amounts of information, choice and customization. Born roughly between 1981 and 2000, the Millennial Generation's life experiences will shape where they live, how they work, what products they buy, how they worship and, of course, how they vote.
My generation had just two options politically "“ Democrats or Republicans, and that made sense to us. To my kids' generation, binary choices are absurd, especially when the choices are bad, which is why the two major parties are in danger of losing the future.
In a must-read study, political scientist Michelle Diggles of the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, created a sociological profile of the Millennial Generation and projected how those attitudes might affect U.S. politics when young voters age and dominate.
Millennials have come of age in a period of increasing availability of information and expansive customization of goods and services. Their experiences have led them to an `a la carte worldview, including in politics. They may be voting for Democrats in wider margins than Republicans, but there's no indication that they have bought the "prix fixe" menu of policy options historically offered by the Democratic Party, nor that brand loyalty to the Party will cement them as Democrats forever. Yet while Republican claims that these voters are winnable in future elections are plausible, they, too, have been asking younger voters to agree to a multi-course tasting menu with limited options. Millennials are pragmatic "“ they want to know what works and are willing to take ideas from each side. They eschew ideological purity tests of the past. In short, they are winnable by both parties, if only policymakers understood and reflected their values.
What Diggles has done is virtually unheard of in politics today: She set aside her ideological preferences and preconceived notions to ruthlessly assess attitudinal data in a political vacuum. Unlike many in Washington who seem to believe that social changes start with politics, Diggles knows the reverse is true: A fast-changing populace, driven by a hard-to-peg rising generation, will change politics in ways we can't fully fathom.