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Millennials Could Pave the Way for an Independent Candidate in 2012

by Nick Troiano | Americans Elect

F Posted in: News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: February 10, 2012
Nick Troiano Nick Troiano

The political environment has never been more favorable for an independent presidential candidacy in recent history – and if one is to succeed, Millennial voters may be a large part of the reason why.

First, young people have the most to lose from today’s political dysfunction. For the first time in our history, the youngest generation stands to inherit a country worse off than the one handed down to their parents. A sluggish economy, skyrocketing costs of education and unsustainable budget deficits are a few reasons only 12% of young people believe our country is headed in the right direction, according to a recent poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

Second, Millennials fault both political parties for Washington’s inability to enact any effective solutions to the country’s problems. Only one-third approve of Democrats in Congress and less than a quarter approve of Republicans. A plurality of young voters, like the electorate in general, now identify as independent.

Third, while young people overwhelmingly supported President Obama in 2008 and his message of post-partisanship, they have grown disillusioned by politics as usual: A healthcare bill that passed without a single vote from the minority party. A bipartisan deficit commission established by the president whose recommendations were summarily ignored. A reelection campaign that gives its blessing of limitless donations to affiliated Super PACs. Where is the leadership?

In a normal election cycle, these circumstances would probably result in a decrease of youth turnout at the polls. Young people have already made the calculation that their time is better spent trying to fix the country’s problems by engaging on the community level through volunteer service than through direct political participation. After all, it seems that no matter which party is in charge, nothing seems to change.

But this will not be a normal election cycle. Americans Elect is fundamentally reshaping the 2012 race and giving voters the opportunity to nominate a third candidate for president through the first-ever online convention. By securing a line on the ballot nationwide for the eventual nominee, Americans Elect is removing what has been the largest barrier of entry for independent candidates.

It’s hard to predict what will come of such a dramatic technological and political innovation, but one thing is certain: this is the opportunity for the Millennial generation to take charge of their government and of their future. We’ve seen this story unfold elsewhere in the world – young people leveraging the organizing power of today’s connective technology to achieve fundamental change in political systems that were dominated by a self-serving political establishment.

A three way race in 2012 will prevent an election where one side can win simply by tearing down the other. More competition will give voice to those who have been alienated by today’s polarizing politics and the ideological rigidity of both parties. A third podium in the debates this fall will allow for a serious discussion of issues that really matter to the people.

The Millennial generation is uniquely positioned to make it happen. And we must – because the only way Washington will stop kicking the can down the road is if young people decide to participate in this year’s election and kick back, hard.

Nick Troiano Nick Troiano is the National Campus Director for Americans Elect, and a recent graduate of Georgetown University. He is also a co-founder of myimpact.org and a former United States Senate Intern.

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