Millennials: Some Politically Engaged, Some Seeking Extra-Credit

Millennials: Some Politically Engaged, Some Seeking Extra-Credit


Lily Mackay, Deputy Editor-in-Chief & Danielle Cullum, Editor-in-Chief
Updated 10:01am 6/29/17

Tonight, the California Millennial Caucus hosted their first Millennial Town Hall, held at Sacramento State University. With 60 - 70 people RSVP’d, the event ended up over room capacity, with some millennials turned away. One would be amiss to assume that the millennials simply showed up for the free pizza. The attendees appeared to be more concerned with substance than niceties - though they appreciated the pizza nonetheless. The event was live-streamed on Facebook so those particularly politically-inclined millennials who were devastated to be losing extra credit were still able to view the event in real time. 

The majority of those in attendance were students, with some young professionals in tow as well. The panel was made up of five Assembly members including three Democrats: Marc Berman, Ian Calderon, and Matt Dababneh; and two Republicans: Heath Flora and Kevin Kiley.  President of Sacramento State, Robert Nelson, opened the event by welcoming the legislators, students, and visitors and calling for an enthusiastic “stingers up” chant. Apparently a chant only Sacramento State alumni will understand. Those who were not in the know were slightly less than enthusiastic, shall we say. 

Assemblyman Ian Calderon, the Co-Chair of the California Millennial Caucus, told of times when he was the only millennial serving in the legislature. He had a goal of getting other millennials elected, “regardless of if they were Republican or Democrat.” The caucus is now eight members strong (and has a definite Democrat majority, but that should surprise no one because this is California). 

Several themes arose as students began voicing their concerns. JT, a fourth year Communications major at Sacramento State who works three part time jobs to pay for her education named: the cost of education, the division among different ethnic groups, and the victim mentality of millennials as three of the biggest problems plaguing millennials. Her solution? Take personal responsibility for your actions, and lead by example. A piece of advice millennials and non-millennials alike would be fit to follow. 

This event was fondly referred to by organizers as a “reverse town hall.” For a portion of the event, legislators moved among tables of attendees and discussed questions projected on a screen, in an effort to solicit more input from attendees. The topics ranged from higher education to affordable housing and the political implications of environmental policies. One table found themselves steeped in conversation about the politicizing of the environment, agreeing that it seemed to be a partisan issue and the conservative approach to climate change was simply denial. The students at the table all felt that the problem was partisan and a lack of proper education on the topic. 

A graduate student at another table expressed her frustration, perhaps one that many millennials can relate to and understand well. She is unable to secure a job in the field she went to school to study, because many employers require several years of experience before hiring. Her personal feeling about the matter was that more employers should take a chance on young professionals. This begs the question: what kind of experience are employers looking for that college graduates are lacking? Is it provided by more schooling, an internship, or a low-level position in that same field? Perhaps one that doesn’t pay rent and loans? What’s a millennial to do?

Following the table talk was a more traditional town hall, where attendees directed their questions to the panel. Questions during this portion ranged from the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare (a topic that prompted Assemblyman Calderon to confidently state that the majority of people were not aware that those were the same thing…sourcing tbd) to the potential abolition of the electoral college. Sacramento State Student Body President, Mia, eager to get involved, asked how millennials can make their voices heard in the capitol. Assemblyman Heath Flora responded by reminding attendees that the legislators represent them, and they need them, constituents, to voice their positions and concerns stating, “It’s your house, we just have the privilege of serving in it.” 

Other attendees spoke of the burden excessive taxes place on people just starting out, especially business owners. One attendee noted the harm this does to our economy, as businesses are being driven out of the state at a rapid pace. Another student then raised concerns with the electoral college, (flashback to November 8, 2016?) asking how California Legislators can advocate for replacing the electoral college with a popular vote. This same student claimed that according to statistical reports by CNN, midwest voters, the voters she identified as the ones responsible for electing our current president, are less educated than voters in states like California. When pressed about what sources she gathers her news from, the attendee noted that sites that end in “.org, .gov, and .edu” hold more credibility in her eyes, but she knows well enough what is and is not, “fake news.” 

We spoke to both the President of the College Republicans, Mason, and the Executive Vice President of the College Democrats, Logan, regarding free speech. Both students felt that Sacramento State was more friendly toward free speech than campuses such as UC Berkeley, which frankly is not a difficult standard to beat. The Executive VP of the College Democrats was more sympathetic toward the school regulating speech, saying it was acceptable “within reason,” though he admitted this is a subjective and difficult to implement standard. No kidding. 

Majority Leader Calderon (the Millennial Caucus co-chair)  was quoted after the event as saying: 

The Millennial Caucus’s kickoff event was a huge success with fantastic turnout from Sacramento State students and community members. The thought-provoking, respectful, and solutions-oriented discussions we had on hot button issues like housing, college affordability, and healthcare reaffirmed my belief that this generation will be able to come together to tackle the challenges we face. It was a tremendous opportunity to have civil conversations amongst peers considering the bitter partisanship afflicting our national discourse. I couldn’t be happier with the turnout, the level of engagement at the event, and eagerly look forward to hosting future events here in Sacramento and around the state.

ssemblyman Kiley (the other co-chair) was also was optimistic about what discussion this event would spark for millennials:

It was a pleasure speaking with the many young and brilliant minds who attended the first Millennial Caucus Town hall last night. 

I had some interesting and insightful conversations about college affordability and the housing crisis. These issues, along with many more we discussed have become some of the most important issues that our generation will have to address in our lifetime.

I was very excited to see so many Millennials engaged in the process and look forward to continuing these conversations in the future.

Assemblyman Marc Berman was pleased to be able to discuss some of the issues affecting millennials:

The challenges facing millennials today are bipartisan in nature, as was evident by the conversations my colleagues and I had with students at Sacramento State University yesterday. Millennials from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly agree that we need to reduce student debt and address housing affordability by building more housing. Most importantly, the millennial generation needs to engage in the civic process so that our voices are heard by elected officials who are making decisions every day that will impact our future.

In conclusion, a successful town hall. 10/10 would go again. Main takeaway: millennials want to be heard. TBD on whether or not the Millennial Caucus will be better at hearing them than previously formed legislative caucuses. So far, so good. Looking forward to the next event where we get to rain our opinions down on people who hear them all day long. 

Stingers up…? 

Follow these authors on Twitter: @lilymackay14  @daniellecullum
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