When they decide to.
Our world has changed dramatically in the last 15 to 20 years. Thanks to the Internet, the face of Corporate America has changed from oil, automotive, and mega-conglomerates to former tech startups, social media, and green energy. And the Millennial Generation (Gen Y) wields more power than any new generation ever has. So why do still see elections being won by life-long politicians, big business backed bureaucrats, and nobody who represents this change in our nation?
Independent of her ideology, I was hoping to see what Med Whitman would do as governor of California. She’s the former eBay chief executive who set a record by spending $142M (!) of her own money on the election. And she lost. Even though at 54 she falls somewhere around early Gen X or late Boomer, she led eBay, arguable the first major landscape-altering internet company. Possibly Amazon, though Amazon took forever to turn a profit.
Even when Obama was elected, we heard cries of excitement over his youth and understanding of the new generation. Though at 47 and only the 5th youngest U.S. president, he seemed younger than Bill Clinton, who was 46, or maybe even JFK, who was 43 when sworn in. But Obama is (or, rather, was) famous for his addiction to BlackBerry, and during his campaign used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube like no one else before him. But critics say he used those tools as merely platforms to launch his message even further, rather than as true intersection/interaction points with his supporters. And much has been made lately about his post-election social media lapse (article at Fast Company).
I know Gen Y can’t take over the executive branch for a few years (legally), but I’m still not seeing much political success from new business, or from people who seem to understand the changes we’re going through. Every time I see a politician talk about Facebook, I feel like it’s my parents asking me if I still go to raves, or how I can have a Google Voice number and a cell phone number. It’s just plain awkward. I get stupid chills. (Stupid chills: the physical reaction you feel when truly embarrassed for someone else.)
But for all my hope that we’ll see some new faces in politics over the next few years, I read that the under-34 crowd didn’t turn out to vote in this mid-term election like they did for Obama, and that the over-55 crowd did show up, relative to 2008. Some say that’s why the Republicans gained so much. The new guard just didn’t show up to play. It’s like they got what they wanted (Obama) and then moved on to something else. Short-term political attention.
But as I’ve said before, Gen Y is just as large as the Boomers, they’re more mobile, more connected, and more influential to each other. If they wanted to, they could elect anyone in the world. They must not be ready to, I guess. But, alas, it’s only the mid-terms and we have another 2 years to mobilize.