Millennials, as of this year, have officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in U.S. history. There are now over 75 million Millennials (those born between 1982-2003), which means this new generation makes up a majority of the voter population.
The question becomes – who will win our vote in 2016? There are three things that must be understood if candidates hope to gain my generation's coveted votes.
1. Don’t talk about us – talk to us.
How many times have you heard politicians say we need to reach “young people” or “Millennials?” They often talk about the next generation instead of speaking directly to us. Politicians make a special trip to the “kids table” when they should realize Millennials are now part of the head table. Candidates wouldn’t get far if they said, “Here is a message for Baby Boomers or Generation X.” Or imagine this, “African Americans or Hispanics – I have a message for them.”
Millennials don’t like to be talked about because we want a president who has a universal authentic message, regardless of what generation or ethnicity they are trying to win. Bottom line, stop saying you need to “reach us” and just start actually doing it.
2. We don’t want to know where we have been – we want to know where we are going.
Obama in 2008 shared where he would take America and what it would look like – it would be filled with hope and it would bring about change. In 2012, his vision was about moving “forward.” Hillary adopted a similar message with her campaign slogan’s arrow pointing forward. Reagan in 1984 released his now famous campaign ad saying, “It is morning again in America.”
Millennials do not want to "revert" back to what we had at the time of our founding fathers over 200 years ago. We want to be part of creating and building something new. This is why words like "restoring," "preserving," "returning" - do not reach the next generation. In turn, we don't want to be the generation that gets rid of anything. We don’t want to fix things, stand against things or shrink the size of government because we are more concerned about what comes next and what the vision will be.
The candidate who will engage America’s largest generation must share a vision of what his or her America will look like. Conservatives and the GOP must learn to take the proven solutions from the past (i.e. constitutional principles) and communicate how those will be applied as innovative solutions for today and tomorrow. In order to win our vote, they must tell us what America WILL look like. Who we WILL become. The kind of nation we WILL be.
3. We don’t care about politics, we care about authenticity.
Social media has created a world where we know intimate details about others’ lives. With social media we now see where you went to lunch, what you did this weekend and what your kid dressed up as for Halloween. So when politicians aren’t running their own social media accounts, we can usually tell. This also means we notice when politicians are using their memorized political talking points and when they are authentically speaking from the heart. We’ve connected with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump for this very reason.
Which candidates will talk to Millennials, communicate their vision for America and do it authentically? Who knows? But the one who does – will win the next generation’s vote.