CT News Junkie | OP-ED | Democrats Need To Get Serious About Bringing Young People Into The Party

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OP-ED | Democrats Need To Get Serious About Bringing Young People Into The Party

by | Nov 12, 2015 10:30am
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2015, Opinion, Millennial Voices

There’s no denying that the 2015 municipal elections were a setback for Connecticut Democrats.

We now have to grapple with the return of Joe Ganim, of course, but we also fell short in recapturing New Britain and Bristol, two of the three largest cities lost to Republicans in 2013. All over the state, Democrats did little better than treading water, scarcely making any progress in weakening the Republicans’ grip on local government. This comes on the heels of Republican gains in 2013 and 2014. Put simply, the trend for Democrats is not good.

There is a way to reverse this trend, however — embrace young people. And I don’t mean pandering to them by making Buzzfeed lists of “17 Times Dan Malloy was Bae” or whatever. I mean giving young people a real stake in our party.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy is perhaps the best example of this. At age 25, Democrats gave him the opportunity to run against a 14-year incumbent state representative, and with the energy and passion of youth, he made the most of it. Not every young candidate will turn out to be Chris Murphy, of course, but none of them will if we don’t give them a shot.

Republicans certainly realize this. Two of the big winners last week are young Republicans with a future: Tim Herbst and Erin Stewart. Herbst, who nearly knocked off longtime state Treasurer Denise Nappier last year, is perhaps the Republicans’ best hope to reclaim the governor’s mansion in 2018. And as for Stewart, Democratic Party insiders are already fretting about the possibility of facing her in a congressional or statewide campaign.

Democrats have their fair share of up-and-comers, too. Ganim’s victory in Bridgeport overshadowed the fact that Hartford voters elected 36-year-old political neophyte Luke Bronin in a landslide. A veteran and Rhodes scholar, Bronin is a dream candidate for Democrats; there’s no limit to how high he could fly in the political arena. His election is great news for the long-term future of the Connecticut Democratic Party.

And Bronin was not the only young Democrat with a future to win this year. Despite the Republican mayoral victory in Bristol, voters re-elected 23-year-old Democratic Councilor Calvin Brown. Brown has now been elected to the Council in back-to-back Republican years, and should be the top recruit to take back the 77th House district in 2016, which Democrats lost last time around.

At the state level, Democrats have a deep bench full of talented young pols. State Senators Mae Flexer and Gary Winfield, and state representatives like David Alexander, Matthew Lesser, Sean Scanlon, and Caroline Simmons give me hope that our party will have strong candidates in the years to come.

But despite Bronin, Brown, and the rest, Democrats are still not doing enough to bring young people into our party. Defenders of the status quo might point to the Republicans and say “We’re doing better than they are,” but this is both false and beside the point. New state Republican Party Chairman JR Romano seems to have made reaching younger voters a greater priority for the Republicans, and Newington’s Max Turgeon has turned the Connecticut High School Republicans into an effective recruitment tool for the party.

State Republicans have done this even as their platform and national candidates become less and less appealing to today’s youth. Young voters are not a significant part of the Republican Party’s coalition — if they’re making inroads with the younger generation, the time to panic is now. In 2010, voters under 30 were the only age group who gave Malloy more than 51 percent, and he lost voters over 44. In a close election, young voters make the difference between victory and defeat for Democrats.

This means Democrats need to get serious about bringing young people into the party. When I talk to my peers, they are passionate and excited about the issues that matter to us, but they are deeply skeptical of the system. This is because we haven’t done enough to show them the important role they can play in making change.

Democrats should be actively seeking young candidates to run for office, or to serve on DTCs. And when a young person shows interest, we as Democrats need to go above and beyond to keep them interested and engaged, and to show them that they have a future. If we don’t do this, one of two things will happen — either young people will go to war with the party establishment, or they will walk away altogether. Either scenario would be a disaster for our shared Democratic values. Connecticut Democrats can prevent this, and reverse recent Republican successes, but only by making room at the table for my generation.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins, 20, is a student at Bates College and a Democratic Town Committee member from West Hartford. He can be reached on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Comments

(8) Archived Comments

posted by: Biff Winnetka | November 12, 2015  12:49pm

“There is a way to reverse this trend, however—embrace young people”.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

You didn’t even CONSIDER that perhaps it is the progressive POLICIES of your party that are repelling voters.  And it speaks LOUDLY to how out of touch and failed your party’s policy’s are when Connecticut voters begin to bail on the Dems.

Ok, so “Embrace the Kiddies” is your strategy in 2015.  What will be your strategy in 2016 when the trend you cite accelerates???

posted by: Greg | November 12, 2015  1:03pm

If I may…

“When I talk to my peers, they are passionate and excited about the issues that matter to us, but they are deeply skeptical of the system.”

I’ll start by pointing out you mentioned -0- issues in this op-ed and the entire screed was purely about the party winning; as if the simple act of winning seats is the be all and end all of the party…which it is.  Perhaps you think issues actually matter, but what really matters is your side winning against the opponent and nothing more. 

They are deeply skeptical of the system because your party is no different than the GOP in terms of how they operate. 
- The D’s take ungodly sums of corporate money despite jawboning about Citizens United.
- The D’s engage in the same revolving door between policymakers and lobbyists, often bring in 7 figures once out of office. (Chris Dodd)
- The D’s engage in the same gerrymandering redistricting you so accuse the GOP of doing
- The D’s dole out political favors to their core donors and supporters and magically get rich while in office.
- The D’s pick their golden children and springboard them into power while maligning home grown talent (Bronin in Hartford. Carpetbagger). 
- The D’s are warmongers right up with the best of the neocons out there.  Obama has officially bombed more countries than GWB. More of the planet is destabilized under the Obama administration than GWB.
- The D’s have done nothing for civil liberties and overall freedom.  D’s support the NSA domestic spying program no questions asked.

The democrats are the same crony corporatists they accuse their GOP opponents of being.  Period.  Young people get this.

” If we don’t do this, one of two things will happen—either young people will go to war with the party establishment, or they will walk away altogether.”

Maybe the “party establishment” is the problem, eh?  A look in the mirror of what you actually stand for is always a good exercise.

Oh, and while you’re railing against municipal GOP governance perhaps you’d like to look at the state budget you and your party have bestowed upon the rest of us simpletons.  One party rule for how many years and Democrat dominance of the legislature for how many years and we’re still in a state of “permanent fiscal crisis”?  Best not to throw rocks whilst living in a glass house…

posted by: ACR | November 12, 2015  4:01pm

ACR

It’ll take a while to recover from Obama.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/13/us/politics/obama-legacy-in-state-offices-a-shrinking-democratic-share.html?_r=0

posted by: Biff Winnetka | November 12, 2015  4:42pm

@Greg +1000!

I expect the author to tap out.

posted by: gutbomb86 | November 12, 2015  6:01pm

gutbomb86

@greg - wow lots of problems with your statements and logic and hypocrisy:

The D’s take ungodly sums of corporate money despite jawboning about Citizens United.

This is called competing on an even playing field. You would criticize your own party for not competing to win. Doesn’t mean they can’t call for Citizens United to be overturned, just like some of the Rs are saying now.

The D’s engage in the same revolving door between policymakers and lobbyists

And you admitted that the Republicans do this too. Human nature is human nature, you and your pals are every bit as at fault if not moreso.

The D’s engage in the same gerrymandering redistricting you so accuse the GOP of doing

We’d all like gerrymandering to end, but suggesting it’s more of a Dem problem than a Repub problem is self-serving on your part. Here.

The D’s dole out political favors to their core donors and supporters and magically get rich while in office.

Let’s balance that out by reminding everyone how Halliburton owned Cheney while he was in office and still does, and how we ended up privatizing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in a great big Republican cash-handout-to-mercenary firms. None of that even entered into your mind when you typed this? Again - human nature.

The D’s pick their golden children and springboard them into power while maligning home grown talent (Bronin in Hartford. Carpetbagger).

Remains to be seen but if you’re so scared of candidates who are Rhodes Scholars you’re probably not looking for real leadership.
 

The D’s are warmongers right up with the best of the neocons out there.  Obama has officially bombed more countries than GWB. More of the planet is destabilized under the Obama administration than GWB.

LOL! Sooo far off the mark. Bush SLASHED taxes and then went on a massive spending spree in two wars without so much as considering how it would be paid for or how to care for them when they got back. Thats destabilizing the world to this day. Obama is still trying to clean the mess. And he has used tech to kill terrorists all over the world with minimal risk to our troops. Win-win.

The D’s have done nothing for civil liberties and overall freedom.  D’s support the NSA domestic spying program no questions asked.

I tend to agree on this but at least, thus far, someone can accurately say that Obama has “kept us safe” at the cost of those privacy issues. Not great on transparency either, but we’re in a different era now and if it was a Republican president you’d be patting him on the back for effective leadership.

Biff tap that if you want

posted by: kiernanmc | November 12, 2015  6:46pm

kiernanmc

Friends, Romans, trolls of the comments section, lend me your ears; this is not a policy column. That should be obvious to anyone with middle school reading comprehension skills. It is taken as a given that electing more Democrats is a good thing. If you don’t agree with that, fine, but complaining about how my column is about electing Democrats is akin to going to a musical and complaining that there was too much singing. I’m a Democrat; as such, I think electing Democrats is a good thing. This piece is not an argument as to why the Democratic Party is great, but rather an analysis of how the Democratic Party can be more successful at winning elections.

posted by: Greg | November 13, 2015  8:52am

Young people aren’t stupid; they’re fed up with what they see as this two-party system that has ruined the country. Contrary to Gut’s characterization of me as a Republican (which I am not) I at least give the GOP credit for being honest about being the corporatist shills they are.  Democrats are hypocrites in this regard; blathering on about the poor, middle class, minorities, etc but still shilling just as loud for the Comcasts and Goldman Sachs’ of the world. 

You say this:
“If we don’t do this, one of two things will happen — either young people will go to war with the party establishment, or they will walk away altogether”

Gee, I wonder why young folks don’t like the party establishment…hmmmm…can’t be the cronyism, the big money donors, regulatory capture, the lobbying revolving door…no, can’t be any of that.

And young people see columns like this where the only point is WINNING, and winning for the sake of winning, not winning for policy or good governance.  Guess what, you can’t win without those young people you speak of, and you can’t win the young people without the party changing who you are, how you operate, and getting it right on policy. Your good ol’ boy network doesn’t work for the next generation.

How is all that winning doing at the state capital these days? Did your precious Democrats fix the budget yet?

posted by: GBear423 | November 13, 2015  11:56am

GBear423

@kiernanmc-  I am pretty sure Greg was addressing the point of your article, to young people your party is no different than the other.  check your reading comp skill, his point was crystal.