After the midterms that saw Republican wins in the Senate and Democratic wins in the House, Democrats have to be asking a very important question. What will bring a "youth wave" to the polls in 2020?
Although there aren't any final numbers at this point, compared to 2014 the number of young voters increased in 2018. The preliminary figures show a youth-voter increase of 188 percent -- we're talking voters aged 18-29, an age group that includes millennials and Gen Z.
"But let's not give the millennials too much credit," says Fortune's Renae Reints. "This demographic historically has the lowest voter turnout, and while they had the greatest increase in numbers in terms of early voting, they were still the smallest percentage of early voters." Reints, and anyone else writing about this right now, only has access to early voting numbers, probably because of hangups in states like Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. We'll see what the final results show in terms of youth turnout.
But yeah, Reints is right. Millennials cannot complain when they stay home instead of voting. I could go on and on about what the voting stats say about my generation. I'd rather figure out what can get my fellow millennials to the voting booths because, come 2020, I don't want to live in a country with Donald Trump as president for another 4 years. There's a reason why the Oxford English Dictionary says "toxic" is the word of the year for 2018. That reason has the initials D.T.
To beat Donald "Toxic" Trump, Democrats desperately need the youth vote: they need the Millennial vote and the Gen Z vote. Let's face it -- plenty of Baby Boomers are voting Republican. Besides gerrymandering, that's the only reason why the Senate picked up more Republicans in the midterms. True, there are Baby Boomers who haven't been brainwashed by Fox and are voting based on issues. There are Democratic Baby Boomers. But there are Baby Boomers who voted Republican because Republicans know how to manipulate them. That might sound cynical, but it's the truth.
Let's put an end to this, shall we? The advance numbers from the midterms indicate more young people are starting to vote. By 2020, a lot of Millennials will be mature enough to understand voting matters. Plus there will be all those Republicans, and Baby Boomers, who will simply not want another 4 years of Trump. It's time for potential Democratic candidates to understand what will bring out the vote. It comes down to one word: debt.
This is a serious issue that gets at the heart of the Millennial situation. Not only that, it gets at the heart of the American situation: collectively, we owe $1.53 trillion in student-loan debt, which weighs heavily on major life decisions, such as whether to get married. If you marry someone with student-loan debt, you take on that debt, and you can't discharge it through bankruptcy.
Has anyone else thought about the irony of this fact? Our president has manipulated the system by filing for bankruptcy (altogether, his companies have gone bankrupt six times), bilked students out of their money with his for-profit university, and yet Americans can't use bankruptcy to free themselves from student-loan debt. Perhaps if students were able to register for federal student loans as corporate entities this wouldn't be a problem. Has anyone thought about asking Trump to open that loophole?
Millennials aren't just deferring marriage because of debt;they aren't buying homes: between 2005 and 2015, home-ownership rates for people between 18 and 34 dropped 10 percent, and there's still a "continuous uptick" of Millennials living with their parents.
You could argue this is all psychological. Even if people are in debt, they can still tackle it, band together, and take leaps to put themselves in the bracket with married homeowners living the "American Dream." You'd be right. Millennials were psychologically scarred by the Great Recession. We became overly cautious. A smart Democratic presidential candidate will take notes from Bernie Sanders and do their best to offer security against student-loan debt.
However, I'm not naive in assuming a candidate can wave a magic wand, promise to waive federal student-loan debt, and earn a seat in the White House.
This is a two-way street. On one hand, federal student loans are available to 18-year-olds with no creditand these loans are "secured" by taxpayer dollars. In other words, the federal government is acting like any lender would. Lenders like secured loans because they'll get their money back one way or the other. The government is acting like a business and no one is forcing people to use this business' services. Right? Why does everyone have to go to college anyhow, and if they feel they do, why can't they look into another form of financing?
If you're a parent, would you advise your child to take out a secured loan? You might say, "Depends on which type of secured loan you're talking about." Baby Boomers grew up on the notion that a mortgage is a fine idea. Mortgages are secured loans. But housing prices were lower when most Boomers were buying their first homes. After a while, the subprime-mortgage product came along, and boom, the Great Recession.
Everyone can agree that subprimes, with their infamous adjustable interest rates, were a bad idea. Here's the thing: federal student aid is also a bad idea. Who wins? Taxpayers pay for defaults on student loans, debtors ruin their credit, and the federal government still maintains a deficit. It's just a bad product all around.
The right Democratic candidate for president will present a nuanced view. There are plenty of Millennials who blanch at the idea that they shouldn't be responsible for their debt. They know they took out the loans and they're not asking someone else to pay for them.