Young people want to be inspired. Be engaged and involved. And make meaningful decisions. But most of all, they want to change the world. The Democratic Party can and should be the vehicle they use to bring that change. 

Millennials match baby boomers as the largest generation in the electorate. Yet, it is estimated that only one in five Millennial voters will vote in 2018. Democrats must earn the support of Millennials.

But we have work to do. Only 4 in 10 young voters identified themselves with the Democratic Party (only slightly better than 3 in 10 for Republicans).  

We have to be honest about the barriers that exist between young people and the Democratic Party: distrust in political leaders, feelings of inconsequence leading to apathy, an ever more crowded digital and media world, and old-fashioned, ineffective modes of organizing.

The DNC needs a tune up. We need to expand the voice of young people in decision making in the party, provide the College Democrats, Young Democrats of America (YDA), and High School Democrats of America with the resources to succeed, build a bench of young candidates, boost engagement with young people by communicating our values, and protect young peoples’ access to the ballot box. 

It will take all of us – elected officials, activists, and rank-and-file Democrats – to give the next generation the tools they need to succeed. Here is how we start. 

A VOICE IN DECISION MAKING

Engaging young people is the key to winning elections across the country. Getting young people engaged at all levels is the cornerstone to an energetic and effective party.

The DNC must:

  1. Ensure youth voices are provided an expanded role in day to day DNC decision-making. 
     
  2. Improve youth representation within the DNC, actively encouraging College Democrats and YDA, young elected officials and other young leaders to seek positions of responsibility in the DNC. 

RESOURCES FOR SUCCESS

The Republican National Committee makes significant investments in youth organizing. During the 2016 cycle, they provided more than $5 million in organizing resources for college and young Republicans. 

The DNC must: 

  1. Expand its support of the College Democrats and YDA, including direct financial assistance. 
     
  2. Hire a full-time Executive Director for the College Democrats and a youth-focused staffer to facilitate work with YDA and other young Democrats. 
     
  3. Provide frequent and accessible trainings on the state and local level to grow chapters and build up the next generation of leaders.
     
  4. Build a fundraising track that allows donors and young people to finance the programs they will implement. 

BUILD A BENCH

We need young candidates running for office at all levels, and we need to recruit them, train them and help them win. 

The DNC must: 

  1. Sponsor DNC-led candidate training programs to help win local and state races, creating diverse qualified candidates ready to run for higher office. 
     
  2. Measure our long-term performance in recruiting diverse candidates to run, and in helping recruited and trained candidates win.  
     
  3. Have prominent surrogates engaging young audiences everywhere – from college or high school speeches, to viral videos – promoting public service and encouraging them to run for office. 

BOOST ENGAGEMENT THROUGH COMMUNICATING OUR VALUES

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It is critical that we meet young people where they are.

We need to revamp our tactics and create content that feels organic to how young people live their lives and to their life stage.

 

TEENS AND GENERATION Z

Social media use is rising and internet use at home is decreasing. We should model our communication to better fit how young people consume information.

The DNC must: 

  1. Expand on the DNC’s existing tools and technology to create content for young people – with and by young people – that’s intended to be consumed on phones and computers and easily shared with friends.
     
  2. Engage young, diverse influencers on critical issues to create explainer videos on everything from access to choice and Planned Parenthood, modern civil rights struggles like BLM and NoDaPL, and the pressing issues they face like college affordability and immigration status.
     
  3. Create a vehicle for young people to talk to each other and build community. Host regular Talk Back Video Conferences with elected officials, rising stars, organizers and artists so they can share their thoughts and ask questions in real time.

MILLENNIALS

In addition to being the largest and most diverse generation in American history, Millennials are taking big life steps and undergoing a transformative series of firsts: first baby, first house, or first time starting a business. The DNC must speak to how the Democratic Party will help Millennials as they engage in the daunting world ahead of them. 

The party must also combat feelings of alienation and apathy, creating an overarching national narrative that focuses on community building.

The DNC must: 

  1. Work with governors and other state elected officials to highlight policies like: housing, healthcare, pay equity, and early childhood education and how they provide better choices and support for young families.
     
  2. Work with local officials and state parties to ensure we have data on the needs of Millennial voters in their state and aid in developing state-specific stories and policies.
     
  3. Work with state parties to build opportunities that foster local action. For instance, most state parties have a Young Democrat of the Year. We should host these up and comers in DC or an electoral battleground, provide training, and deepen their relationship with the party. 

TURNOUT AND VOTING RIGHTS

Keith has used grassroots organizing to transform his moderate-turnout district into the highest performing district in the state, contributing to the wins of other Minnesota Democrats. This grassroots work includes intentional youth-focused organizing on campus as well as organizing in apartment buildings, building a database of over 20,000 multi-unit dwellings. The DNC can replicate these successes.  

The DNC must:

  1. Study and disseminate best practices for effective field organizing – including youth organizing – to candidates on all levels. 
     
  2. Assist with on-the-ground staff to vet polling place and early voting locations on college campuses at a national and state level.
     
  3. Engage in DNC-level planning to protect against voter suppression, including fighting legislation making it harder for students to vote.
     
  4. Engage young people in expanding their rights and opportunities to vote, by giving them the tools to support and organize around legislation for same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, early voting and vote by mail.