January 27, 2023

The midterm elections took some time to sort themselves out. But one thing quickly became clear: Gen Z voters are a force to be reckoned with – for both parties. That’s a lesson elected officials must start now – from this year’s lame duck session to next year’s divided government.

These voters are a force to be reckoned with, and they will only grow stronger and more influential as more of them reach voting age.

One of the main reasons the predicted Red Wave did not materialize is higher voter turnout among Gen Z and the youngest Millennial voters. According to polls, voters under the age of 30 turned out at nearly 30 percent in the midterm elections – a historically high rate, surpassed only by their turnout in 2018.

Black youth broke nearly 90 percent for Democrats, as did nearly 70 percent of Latinx youth. These are the highest percentages for Democrats of any ethnic group. Almost 60 percent of white youth also broke the Democrats.

Overall, 63 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 opted for the Democrats and only 35 percent for the Republicans.

Compare that to the Baby Boomers, who became nearly 55 percent Republican. Overall, about 58 percent of whites supported the Republicans. Those who identified women and college graduates broke for Democrats, but not on the fringes approaching the youth vote. Wealthier Americans voted Republicans. Older millennials aged 30 to 44 were split between the parties.

By far the largest margins of winning for Democratic candidates came from voters under the age of 18 to 29.

The future of the electorate should be clear to the leaders of both parties.

But the deeper message is that younger voters are not necessarily loyal to the Democratic Party. They vote on the issues that matter to them – and against right-wing threats to democracy and their civil and human rights. Youth voting organization YVote cites gun control, physical autonomy, LGBTQ rights, immigration, student debt relief, anti-racism and criminal justice reform as top issues for young people.

To the extent that the Democratic Party aligns with these interests, it will enjoy an advantage among young voters.

This is the generation that grew up with the Sandy Hook school massacre and politicized around gun control with the shocking 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida, and more recently the massacre of elementary school children in Uvalde, Texas became.

This is the generation of the Sunrise movement and Greta Thunberg – Gen Zers fighting to stop the climate crisis. These are the dreamers of the nation who came to this country as undocumented children and fight for a path to citizenship in the only country they know as home.

This generation, the most racially and ethnically diverse in history, witnessed the deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and George Floyd at the hands of police. More than one in five of this generation identify as LGBTQ, and that number is expected to increase.

These young voters don’t just vote. They also start running for office themselves — and win.

Maxell Alejandro Frost, a 25-year-old African-Cuba-American, made history as the youngest person sent to Congress, winning in red state Florida on a gun safety agenda.

Joe Vogel made history as a 25-year-old gay, Hispanic, Jewish immigrant elected to the Maryland state legislature. Vogel refused to fund corporate campaigns, echoing Gen Z’s criticism of a capitalist system that puts profit before people and the planet.

Nabeela Syed, also 25, made history as a Hijabi South Asian elected to the Illinois state legislature to fight against racism and hatred in schools and for gender equality and common sense gun control.

Young voters also gave Democrats a decisive edge in such critical swing states as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin.

These voters are a force to be reckoned with, and they will only grow stronger and more influential as more of them reach voting age.

Ultimately, however, elected officials will have to bring about significant changes. With the power of these rising Gen Z voters and candidates, the party that will define the future of America will be the party able to master the issues that Gen Z will lead and vote on.

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