Millennials get a bad rap. They’re labeled narcissistic, self-absorbed and apathetic. (Just look at their nicknames: the selfie generation, generation me, the unemployables.)
And they’re the least likely generation to turn up at the polls this November.
However, many young Americans do care about politics. They may just show it differently than their parents.
At a recent Black and Brown Vote event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, many of the attendees were active in student politics and protest movements. L. Malik Anderson, a 21-year-old journalism and communications arts major, helped organize the Oct. 12 panel discussion to encourage people his age to register and vote.
“A lot of (young) people are feeling hopeless, like this election won’t make a difference in their lives,” Anderson said.
Sean Medlin, a 23-year-old recent graduate of UW-Madison who hails from Arizona, said that as an African-American, he is motivated to vote in November — mostly out of fear.
“I think that the presidential race is terrifying,” Medlin said, adding that he believes both major party presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, harbor some measure of racism.
“I feel compromised,” he said. “I don’t want to not vote, and I don’t want Trump to win. So I’m voting for Hillary.”
Jessica Franco-Morales, a 21-year-old student activist from Green Bay, expressed a similar sentiment: “I would say people are not enthused about the presidential election — more like agitated and motivated to vote.”
A self-described “older millennial,” panelist Matthew Braunginn, 31, urged the audience to “get over your apathy” and vote in the upcoming election.
“Ya’ll almost got Bernie Sanders — a quasi-socialist, let’s get real about that — nominated,” said Braunginn, a student engagement specialist with the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. “We (millennials) have a lot of power to really push things in a direction. It takes being involved. It takes voting.”
U.S. Census Bureau figures bear that out. As of April, there were an estimated 69.2 million millennials, roughly defined as Americans age 18 to 35, in the U.S. electorate, according to a Pew Research Center study. This group makes up about a third of the voting-age population, matching the baby boomers.
But millennials consistently have the lowest election turnout among all generations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 17.1 percent of 18- to-24-year-olds voted in 2014, compared with 59.4 percent of those 65 and older.
Among likely Wisconsin voters ages 18 to 29, the Oct. 12 Marquette Law School Poll found 46 percent planned to vote for Clinton and 33 percent for Trump but were more likely than other age groups to support third-party candidates. Twelve percent said they planned to vote for neither candidate. Another 6 percent said they planned to vote for Independent Gary Johnson, while 3 percent remained undecided with the election one month away.
Clayton Causey, 30, of Madison, said he is turned off by the negative tenor of the presidential campaign and is not sure whether he will vote. Causey said people his age appear to be turning away from the two-party system, and he expects some will vote for Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
While millennials have the potential to influence upcoming elections — even the fate of political parties — the question is, will they? Here’s what you need to know about millennials and voting.
Millennials are different socially and politically
Millennials are more diverse than any generation before them. According to 2014 census data, 44 percent of them identify as nonwhite.
Elli Denison, director of research for the Center for Generational Kinetics, a Texas-based consulting firm that specializes in generational research, said millennials have grown up with diversity and celebrate it.
Mike Hais, co-author of the book “Millennial Majority: How a New Coalition is Remaking American Politics,” agreed. He said this diversity has led to the generation being more accepting, which affects their political views.
“They tend to be the most socially tolerant generation in America,” Hais said. “Immigration, gay rights and the like, for all these reasons, their attitudes tend to be progressive and tolerant. They really are, in that sense, a very distinctive generation.”
Those distinctions don’t always correlate along party lines, either. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 44 percent of millennials identify as independents, while 28 percent identify as Democrats and 19 percent Republicans.
Hais also called the millennials “the most female-driven generation in American history” thanks to high enrollment numbers for women in college. In 2015, about 11.5 million women were expected to attend colleges and universities, compared with 8.7 million men, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Joan Kuhl, founder of the site WhyMillennialsMatter.com, said the millennial generation is “the most educated generation yet.”
On the personal front, millennials are waiting the longest of any of the grown generations to get married and have their own home. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study and census data on millennials, 32.1 percent lived with their parents, and 57 percent were married by age 30. In comparison, in 1975, 90 percent of 30-year-olds lived on their own, and 89 percent had married.
They vote less often than other generations
Why do so few millennials vote? Some experts on the generation said one of the most prevalent reasons is that millennials tend to move around — a lot.
At some point in their lives, 51 percent of millennials moved for employment, 46 percent moved for or to find a romantic partner, and 44 percent had moved for family, according to a study of 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35 from the moving company Mayflower.
This constant moving around often means re-registering to vote or requesting absentee ballots. However, the 50 states and thousands of counties have different rules, which can lead to confusion.
Some states also passed legislation that seems to target millennials, said Russell Dalton, a political science professor at University of California-Irvine, and author of the book “The Good Citizen: How a Younger Generation is Reshaping American Politics.” This includes forcing people to register in person the first time, shortening registration windows, refusing to accept student ID cards or rejecting certain documents as proof of residency.
“There is a whole set of institutional reforms that if politicians wanted to get young people to vote, they could,” Dalton said. “But politicians are happy with the status quo.”
However, even when states and jurisdictions do make it easy to register and vote, it doesn’t necessarily mean millennials will make it to the polls. Millennials often describe themselves as disillusioned and distrustful of the political system.
According to a 2016 poll by the Harvard University Institute of Politics, 47 percent of millennials feel that America is heading on the wrong track, and 48 percent agree that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing.”
Millennials also lack faith in the traditional two-party system, which is why so many are independent.
Political strategist Luke Macias, CEO of Macias Strategies LLC, said millennials just aren’t as connected to local governments as older generations, so they don’t see the value in voting. But, said Macias, “Baby boomers were apathetic at 18 too,” and he predicted their involvement will grow as they age.
They care about a wide range of issues
Because millennials tend to distrust politicians, they often pay more attention and spend their time on issues rather than parties. Maurice Forbes, the youth vote director for NextGen Climate in Nevada, said he sees this trend with college students.
“I hear a lot from theses campuses across Nevada that ‘I care about these specific issues that are going to be affecting me and less so about a particular candidate that is expressing their views on that,’ ” Forbes said.
But it’s not just two or three main issues that stand out to millennials. They feel passionate about a wide range of issues.
Millennials don’t necessarily consume news and information the same way previous generations did — from the nightly broadcast news or the daily newspaper. But that doesn’t mean millennials don’t care about the world, according to a study by the Media Insight Project.
In fact, the study suggested that millennials’ access to technology and social-media platforms has actually widened their awareness of issues.
Nevertheless, recent national polls have indicated millennials often care most about the same issues other generations do: No. 1 being the economy, including jobs, minimum wage and paid leave, according to a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll.
Money issues also play a big role in their lives, and college affordability and student debt was the second most popular answer. Other top issues included foreign policy and terrorism, health care, guns and climate change, according to the poll.
They can change American politics
Historically, millennials have not shown up to vote. But that does not mean the generation hasn’t influenced political institutions.
The millennial population overtook baby boomers as the largest generation in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Utah, the millennial generation has been larger since at least 2000, according to the Utah Foundation, a public policy research firm.
Salt Lake City is home to the second-highest percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds in the country among major cities — second only to Austin, Texas. And the city’s politics reflect its young population.
The city has long been a left-leaning island in the middle of historically conservative Utah, but the city’s politics are becoming even more progressive — and election data show the liberalism is slowly spreading to nearby counties.
Last year, Salt Lake City elected an openly lesbian mayor, Jackie Biskupski. And this year, the city rallied around Bernie Sanders.
Experts said these changes would not have happened without millennials.
“The place has just become increasingly more progressive, as people from outside of Utah move to Utah,” said Pamela Perlich, the director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
Millennials define citizenship not as voting, “but being concerned about other people,” Dalton said. And they often show that concern by volunteering.
“Millennials are probably the most involved generation in history in causes and nonprofit endeavors and community involvement,” Hais said.
He predicted that when millennials begin to take office, the hyper-partisan nature of politics will shift to something more compromise driven.
“What we see now is terrible gridlock because of that baby boomer division,” Hais said. “They can’t see eye to eye, but millennials will be different. Millennial Democrats and millennial Republicans are closer together.”
ON THE WEB
Information about all of the requirements to register and vote in Wisconsin’s Nov. 8 election is available at www.gab.wi.gov/voters.
Sean Holstege of News21 and Dee J. Hall and Alexandra Arriaga of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism contributed to this report. This report is part of a project on voting rights in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism distributed this report. For more from this collaborative series, see http://wisconsinwatch.org/series/voting-wars-by-news21/
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
This report is part of the project titled “Voting Wars – Rights | Power | Privilege,” produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project by top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
University of Wisconsin-Madison students register to vote on Oct. 12 at the Multicultural Student Center. The registration drive was part of the Black and Brown Vote event aimed at urging millennials to vote in November.
Credit:Alexandra Arriaga/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college.
Q: I know I should save for retirement, but that’s so far away. How do I also save for the things I want sooner, like a house, a vacation or a move to a new city?
A: You’ll see me write about retirement over and over in this column — it comes with the territory as a personal finance writer. Talking retirement gets my planning, strategizing, and, yes, lecturing engines going, because Americans need encouragement. Almost half of families had no retirement account savings in 2013, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of Federal Reserve data.
You’ll need to start saving now if you want your post-work years to be filled with excitement and possibility, not anxiety over how to pay your bills. But while you save, you can also live a varied, satisfying life in your 20s and 30s. Decide on your priorities, make a plan, and be savvy about where you put your money. Smart money management now means more fun stories to tell your grandkids when you’re happily retired later on.
GET YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS ON TRACK
As a 20- or 30-something, you have one big advantage over older folks when saving for retirement: time. The money you earn on your investments has decades to grow, so you can save a little every month without drastically cutting back on other expenses. If you wait to save, you might have to make some tough sacrifices to catch up in your 40s and 50s.
Contribute to a 401(k) if you have one at work, and add enough to match your company’s contributions if they’re offered. Open an individual retirement account if you don’t have a 401(k). Aim to save 10 percent of your gross income for retirement, which can include an employer match.
PRIORITIZE OTHER GOALS
Pick your top nonretirement goals, decide when you want to achieve them, then create a savings plan. You can set up direct deposit at work so part of your paycheck goes straight into your savings account, says Damian Dunn, a financial planner and president of NextGen Financial Life Planning LLC in Auburn, Indiana. You’ll be less likely to spend your money if it’s not easily accessible, he says; federal law limits withdrawals from savings accounts to six per month.
Here’s how to save for the three common goals you mentioned in your question:
- Down payment: Renting works just fine for many 20- and 30-somethings, especially if you want to be able to move easily. But if buying a house is a major dream of yours, start saving as early as you can to get close to the 20 percent down payment most conventional mortgage lenders prefer.
The best place to save depends on how soon you think you’ll buy. An online savings account is the most flexible, but a certificate of deposit, also known as a CD, will offer a higher interest rate if you can wait for four or five years. CDs require you to keep your money locked away at a bank or credit union for a certain amount of time, which will keep you from dipping into your account in the interim.
- Travel: Online savings accounts are also ideal for upcoming trips; some let you set up sub-accounts you can name (say, “Costa Rica Adventure Fund”) to keep you motivated. Consider using a cashback or travel rewards credit card before your trip, especially if it has a sign-up bonus, to get discounted flights or hotel stays. Pay off your balance each month so you don’t pay interest, which is money that could go toward your vacation instead.
- Moving: Your 20s is an ideal time to explore careers and live in different places. But with rent and student loans to pay, you’ll need to save money before you can run away to Los Angeles to pursue your acting dreams. Save at least six months’ worth of necessary expenses so you have a buffer if you can’t find a job right away. Before the move, try making extra money by negotiating down or canceling subscriptions like cable, taking on extra part-time work or socking away tax refunds and bonuses.
A full life is more than just planning for the future, and your postgrad job lets you afford the trips or leather jackets you could only covet when you were in college. You should enjoy those things in the decades before you retire. All you have to do is plan for them.
On the Web
NerdWallet: Which CD Term Length Should You Choose?
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.
The oldest millennials — nearing 20 when airplanes slammed into New York City’s Twin Towers — are old enough to remember the relative economic prosperity of the 1990s and when a different Clinton was running for president.
The nation’s youngest adults — now nearing 20 — find it hard to recall a reality without terrorism and economic worry.
Now millennials have edged out baby boomers as the largest living generation in U.S. history, and more than 75 million of them have come of age.
How they vote on Nov. 8 will shape the political landscape for years to come.
Yet with less than two months to go before Election Day, the values of young Americans whose coming-of-age was bookended by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Great Recession are emerging as an unpredictable grab bag of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.
What they share is a palpable sense of disillusionment.
As part of its Divided America series, The Associated Press spent time with seven millennial voters in five states where the oldest and largest swath of this generation — ages 18 to 35, as defined by the Pew Research Center — could have an outsized influence in November.
They are a uniquely American mosaic, from a black teen in Nevada voting for the first time to a Florida-born son of Latino immigrants to a white Christian couple in Ohio.
Taken individually, these voters illustrate how millennials are challenging pollsters’ expectations based on race, class and background in surprising ways, reacting to what they see as the loss of the American Dream. They are intent on shaping something new and important that reflects their reality — on their own terms.
“Millennials have been described as apathetic, but they’re absolutely not. I think you can see from this election year that they’re not, and that millennials have a very nuanced understanding of the political world,” said Diana Downard, a 26-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter who will vote for Hillary Clinton. “So yeah, I’m proud to be a millennial.”
Just 5 percent of young adults say that America is “greater than it has ever been,” while 52 percent feel the nation is “falling behind” and 24 percent believe the U.S. is “failing,” according to a GenForward poll released this summer.
The first-of-its kind survey of young people between the ages of 18 and 30 was conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Fifty-four percent believe only a few people at the top can get ahead in today’s America and 74 percent say income and wealth distribution are uneven, according to the poll.
Brianna Lawrence, a 21-year-old videographer and eyelash artist from Durham, North Carolina, identifies with those numbers.
She was just 7 on Sept. 11 and the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks is the only time she can remember the nation feeling united, even if only by grief. With $40,000 in student debt, she’s working hard to establish her own cosmetic business after graduating from North Carolina Central University. She plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, but feels America has lost its way.
“My biggest hope for this country is for us to come back together as a community. As a United States of America, to unite together again,” she said.
But millennials know that getting to that place won’t be easy. Many, like Lawrence, are saddled with college debt and have struggled to find jobs.
In Denver, 1,600 miles to the west, Downard also has almost $40,000 in student debt that’s already changed her path. A dual U.S. and Mexican citizen, she feels she can’t afford to work for an overseas organization — one of her dreams — and plans to delay having a family at least 10 years.
“We went to college in pursuit of a better life and really, now, we’re kind of just paralyzed by our student debt,” said Downard, who works for a nonpartisan organization that works to improve youth voter registration. “You can’t even think about those sorts of alternative options.”
In part because of these economic pressures, a 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that — for the first time in more than 130 years — adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living with their parents than with a spouse or partner in their own residence.
And one in four millennials say they might not ever marry, a Pew survey found.
Only 8 percent of young adults feel their household’s financial situation is “very good,” and education and economic growth ranked No. 1 and No. 2 as the issues that will most influence their vote, according to the GenForward poll.
“We might be in a ‘good-ish’ finance situation right now as a country, but I was always taught there’s ups and downs in the finance world and with every up, there’s a down. So we should be preparing for that down to come,” said Brien Tillett, who graduated this spring from a high school just miles from the Las Vegas Strip.
Tillett, who turned 18 in July, was 10 when the recession hit and sucked the wind out of his family. His mother, a single parent, was in a car accident that hospitalized her for three months and, with no safety net, the family struggled.
“It was to the point where I would not ask my mother to go hang out with my friends because I didn’t want her to worry about money,” said Tillett, whose brush with insolvency has deeply influenced his views.
The national debt is his No. 1 concern.
As a young black man, he’s turned off by remarks by Donald Trump that he finds racist and xenophobic, but likes Trump’s aggressive stance on the economy.
“We’re trillions of dollars in debt and that should not be happening,” said Tillett, who started running track at a two-year college in August.
He strongly considered voting for Trump, but will now vote for Clinton because Trump has become “a loose cannon.”
Still, he’s angry about Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
“We have to basically question if we can truly trust her with all of our nation’s secrets,” he said.
Anibal David Cabrera was in high school when Tillett was just a small boy — but he’s part of the same generation.
The son of a Honduran mother and Dominican father, he graduated from college in 2008 as the recession was picking up steam. A finance major, he wanted to work for a hedge fund or bank, but the economic collapse meant jobs had dried up. Eventually Cabrera, now 31 and living in Tampa, Florida, got an accounting job at a small tech firm.
He feels he’s entering the prime of his life a few steps behind where he could have been, through no fault of his own.
A Jeb Bush die-hard in the primaries, he’s now supporting Trump and hopes the business mogul can make good on his promises.
“My biggest hope for the country would be a prosperous economy. That is something my generation has kind of never seen,” Cabrera said. “We never got to experience the rapid growth of the ’80s or the ’90s, and I think my generation would love to see that.”
Shared pain does not lead to shared views among his generation.
Millennial voters’ disdain for traditional party affiliation have made them particularly unpredictable. Half describe themselves as political independents, according to a 2014 Pew Research report — a near-record level of political disaffiliation. As a generation, they tend to be extremely liberal on social questions such as gay marriage, abortion and marijuana legalization. Yet they skew slightly conservative on fiscal policy and are more in line with other generations on gun control and foreign affairs.
Trip Nistico, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder’s law school, is an avid supporter of gun rights who goes to shooting ranges but also supports same-sex marriage. The 26-year-old Texas native voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 — his first presidential election — and Mitt Romney in 2012.
“I’m pretty liberal on social issues. I don’t really think that — on a national level — they’re really as important as some of these other issues we’ve been discussing,” he said.
He’s supporting Trump because his preferred candidate, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, isn’t likely to crack the polls.
Trump remains wildly unpopular among young adults, however, and nearly two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 believe the Republican nominee is racist, according to the GenForward poll. Views of Hillary Clinton also were unfavorable, though not nearly to the same extent.
Many millennials are angry that Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders has withdrawn and are disillusioned with the electoral process.
Forty-two percent of voters under 30 have “hardly any confidence” that the Republican presidential nomination process is fair and 38 percent feel the same about the Democratic process, according to the GenForward poll. The survey was taken before the leak of Democratic National Committee emails that roiled the Democratic Party.
Bill and Kristi Clay, young parents and devout Christians from rural Ohio, offer a portrait of millennials struggling to choose a candidate who matches their values.
They have two sons, 4 and 6, and are adopting a child from the Philippines. They serve meals with their church at inner-city soup kitchens in nearby Columbus and have a mix of political views that, Bill Clay says, comes from following “the lamb, not the donkey or elephant.”
Kristi Clay opposes same-sex marriage and abortion and names those as her top issues this election. Yet the 32-year-old school librarian is still reluctantly leaning toward voting for Clinton. “You have to look at the big picture,” she says.
Bill Clay, meanwhile, shares his wife’s views on the more conservative issues, but they hold what some would consider more liberal views on matters such as immigration.
“If we’re going to try to be Christian-like, and embrace people, I don’t think you can shut the borders to an entire group of people just because of the fear that some of them don’t like us,” said Clay, 33, who voted for Barack Obama in the last two elections but supported Republican Marco Rubio this time.
Yet that strong faith has not helped him find much inspiration in the current candidates, both of whom he sees as self-serving and unwilling to budge on important issues.
“I’m feeling a little pessimistic this year,” he said.
The Clays say they will vote no matter what, but whether their millennial brothers and sisters do the same is an open question.
The millennial vote rose steadily beginning in 2002 and peaked in 2008, with excitement over Obama’s first campaign. In 2012, however, just 45 percent of millennials cast ballots and participation has leveled off or dropped ever since, said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
“They have a somewhat different perspective in terms of politics, “Della Volpe said. “It hasn’t really worked. They haven’t been part of a movement that’s been effective.”
Yet Tillett, the teen in Nevada, exudes youthful idealism as he talks about casting his first vote in a presidential election.
“It means a lot to me personally because I’m making a difference in my life and in the country. My vote does matter,” he said. “It really does.”
Angela Caddell started struggling with her Christianity 14 years ago when she came out as gay. But a gathering at a bar to talk faith over a cold beer once a month is helping her feel more connected to her religion.
“If you’re an atheist you are welcome. …. I’m a lesbian, I’m totally welcome,” said the 32-year-old from nearby Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, at a recent gathering.
“Tonight we’re talking about scapegoating. There is no scapegoating that happens here.”
This event is called “Jesus & Beer” and it’s part of an effort by some Christian groups throughout the country to recruit parishioners, connect with people struggling with faith or provide a relaxed outlet to talk religion.
Call it pint-size salvation.
Caddell heard about the event through Brandon Brown, pastor at CollectiveMKE. He started the gatherings once a month at area bars about 11/2 years ago. He doesn’t have a stand-alone church and knew that his non-traditional gatherings wouldn’t attract social conservatives. About two dozen people attend.
“I think it also completely unsettles everyone’s expectations in that they know what it is to talk about their faith in a church but most people have never done it in a bar so it’s a totally new environment and maybe fresh,” Brown said. “In addition to that, I’ll be honest: a beer or two doesn’t hurt the conversation at all.”
After all, everything goes down better with beer.
While bringing people together to throw one back and talk religion isn’t a new idea, groups have been turning to the non-traditional pub setting to attract younger people such as millennials. According to a Pew Research Center study, the number of U.S. adults who are affiliated with an organized religion dropped from 83 percent in 2007 to 77 percent in 2014, a trend particularly striking in the millennial generation.
That younger group is the focus of a monthly bar event organized by the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, said Emily Burds, the Catholic church’s director of evangelization. Besides a free beer, there’s usually a meet and greet, a speaker and discussion.
About 60 to 70 people come each month to the “Brewing the Faith” gatherings, which Burds sees as a “means to an end.”
“Obviously the end is like greater faith and a relationship with God but also to be connected to a parish community somewhere where they are living,” Burds said.
During the summer they also organize “Theology on Tap,” a lecture series that has spread worldwide after starting with the Archdioceses of Chicago in 1981. It involves bars or restaurants and targets younger people.
Burds said they trained some young adults in mingling skills to make sure everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging — “what every millennial really is searching for,” Burds said.
It worked for James Wronski, 22, a new Milwaukee resident who attended a beer garden event.
“I think this kind of relaxed social atmosphere where you come, you meet people, you drink, you relax and you kind of learn and educate yourself, that’s a big draw to millennials.”
But alcohol certainly isn’t new to Catholicism, with wine being an integral part of the sacrament of Holy Communion, said Rev. John Laurance, associate professor of theology at Marquette University.
“You know one of the Psalms says, ‘God gave wine to cheer up people’s hearts,’ so even the prayer book of the Old Testament sees that this is a gift from God,” Laurance said.
Wisconsin delegate Jason Rae, at 29 years old, is a seasoned veteran of Democratic National Conventions.
At the Philadelphia convention, his fourth, the Milwaukee man is leading the party’s youth council and mobilizing young voters for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m a lifelong Democrat — born and raised,” said Rae, who is the executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
John and Lori Rae early on encouraged their son, who was in kindergarten when he informed them of his political interests and affiliation.
“I told them I wanted to work for Bill Clinton,” Rae recalled during an interview July 27 in the corridor at Wells Fargo Center near the entrance to Section 115, where the Wisconsin delegation is seated.
The Marquette University graduate dates his first political memory to 1996 and “watching the Democratic National Convention in 1996 and Bill Clinton’s speech.”
In that speech in Chicago, Bill Clinton memorably said, “We can only build our bridge to the 21st century if we build it together, and if we’re willing to walk arm-in-arm across that bridge together.”
Rae got on the bridge.
Eight years later, in Boston, he went to the party’s convention to nominate John Kerry.
Each convention is unique to the time, the place, the people and the circumstances, Rae said.
In Boston and Denver, Democrats nominated candidates with the goal of taking back the White House. In Charlotte, Democrats nominated a president they wanted to keep control of the White House. In Philadelphia, they nominated a candidate they want to continue the party’s occupation of the White House.
As a delegate to conventions in Boston, Denver and Charlotte, Rae represented the youth vote and inspired other young people to get involved in party politics.
At the convention in Philadelphia, his task is to inform and inspire young delegates and prepare them for the general election campaign.
“It’s my role. As a DNC member, I chair the youth council,” said Rae, who in 2004 became the youngest person ever elected to the Democratic National Committee.
At night, delegates are spending their time in the Wells Fargo Center arena, listening to speeches.
During the day, delegates are spending their time attending caucus and council meetings at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Delegates were gathering this week for the LGBT, black, Hispanic, AAPI and women’s caucuses, as well as for the ethnic, Native American council, disability, small business, veterans and military families, labor, faith, rural and youth councils.
At the youth council sessions, Rae is presiding over a variety of discussions and welcoming politicians addressing issues of concern to younger voters and how best to rally for the election on Nov. 8.
“The work is to turn out millennials,” Rae, who also leads programs to teach children about the democratic process, said.
Speakers at youth council meetings talked about reforming Wall Street and the criminal justice system, dealing with the student debt crisis, addressing gun violence, expanding and safeguarding LGBT rights, recruiting young candidates, legalizing marijuana and much more.
Attendees said the evening speeches at the DNC are energizing, but they are learning from youth council panelists how they can build an even bigger voting bloc for Democrats.
Rae acknowledged the strong support Bernie Sanders enjoyed among young voters and the protests continuing throughout the convention, even after Sanders’ speech on July 25 calling for unity.
“There was some disappointment,” Rae said. “It’s a grieving process. But at the end of the day, we are strong. We are uniting. And we are strong.”
Early on July 27, Rae said the highlight of the convention had been the roll call to nominate Clinton. “We made history,” he said.
That was before President Barack Obama’s speech, followed by Obama and Clinton embracing onstage. And that was before Clinton’s speech, set for July 28, accepting the nomination.
Nancy Schumacher says she just wanted to do her civic duty, and so she heeded the call to become a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton. But in the year of the angry voter, not even an administrative assistant from Elk River, Minnesota, can escape the outrage.
“Some of the (phone and email) messages called me names. Some of them called Hillary names. And others said I was a stupid bitch and something bad will happen to me,” said Schumacher, a Democratic committee member. “It’s kind of hard to take sometimes.”
Bernie Sanders defied expectations to turn his long-shot presidential bid into a real threat for the Democratic nomination. Now, as his path to the White House becomes all-but-impossible, some of his supporters are lashing out at a system they believe was engineered against them from the start.
While Sanders decries a “rigged” economy, some of his backers see signs of corruption everywhere — even in the party their candidate hopes to lead. Some have turned their frustration on superdelegates, the party insiders whose ability to back either candidate give them an outsized role in picking the nominee.
The superdelegates include public officials: governors, former presidents and even Sanders himself. But they also include people like Schumacher, volunteers who’ve generally stayed behind the scenes.
The Sanders campaign says it doesn’t condone harassment. But Schumacher says she’s received vitriolic phone and email messages from self-identified Sanders backers and doesn’t quite understand how things got so nasty. Eight years ago, she backed Clinton but said she “cheerfully” switched to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. She’d do the same, she said, if Sanders won the popular vote or pledged delegates from state primary elections.
Eight years ago, she backed Clinton but said she “cheerfully” switched to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. She’d do the same, she said, if Sanders won the popular vote or pledged delegates from state primary elections.
“I got five emails on Easter Sunday. I mean, give me a break,” she said.
Barry Goodman, a personal injury lawyer in Detroit, suddenly found his firm’s Yelp business review page besieged by bad ratings.
“You deserve this rating. Why does some random lawyer get more sway than the citizens,” read one comment.
Gus Bickford, the former executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, was taken aback by the threats that flowed into his inbox and onto his Facebook page.
“Someone put up a list of the superdelegates and a person from Rhode Island posted a response that basically said, ‘They should all be assassinated’ and then said ‘I’m only joking,’” recalled Bickford. “With the way people are talking, you never know who’s going to take something like that seriously.”
Bickford said many of the callers were Sanders supporters who asked him to side with the will of the people, even though Clinton narrowly won Massachusetts in March.
Democrats aren’t the only ones facing this kind of barrage: Some Republican delegates say they have also found themselves at the receiving end of death threats and other personal attacks from supporters of GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
Clinton is 91 percent of the way to capturing the nomination, meaning that she can lose every remaining primary by a wide margin and still become the party’s standard-bearer, according to an Associated Press analysis. It also means Sanders would need to flip hundreds of superdelegates to his side to have a shot at the nomination — including many from states that Clinton won.
Though they’ve been part of Democratic presidential elections since 1984, the superdelegates have never been a determining factor. Even in 2008, when several dozen switched to Barack Obama from Clinton, Obama won enough pledged delegates to make superdelegate support largely irrelevant.
Several liberal organizations have circulated petitions asking superdelegates to align their choice with the vote in their state. Even if that happened, Clinton would still likely be the nominee, given her lead in the popular vote.
That leaves Sanders’ most ardent fans — many of them young and new to the political process — looking for someone to blame. Many of Sanders’ millennial voters were swept up by his promise of free college tuition, which was highly unrealistic at best; however, they were too inexperienced to understand the difference between a policy goal and the ability to achieve it.
Their disappointment, along with the vitriolic messaging about Clinton that the political right has promulgated ever since the early 1990s, when Clinton sought to enact universal health care, has left a large number of Sanders supporters of all ages upset about the party’s choice.
A Sanders backer named Spencer Thayer created the “Superdelegate Hit list,” a website to share the contact information of superdelegates so they can be pressed to switch their votes. Thayer later dropped the word “hit” after it attracted criticism.
The name change didn’t reassure Clinton-backing superdelegates.
“It’s not comforting to be on anything that’s called a hit list,” said Wendy Davis, a city commissioner from Rome, Georgia.
In 2007, Davis was tasked with wooing superdelegates for the presidential candidate of former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Now, a superdelegate herself, she was shocked when Sanders supporters accused her of being bribed by Clinton for her support.
“I have been a loyal volunteer for this party. You impugn my integrity and suddenly think there’s something you can say that will draw me to you,” she said. “It’s that a whole bunch of people who haven’t been involved in the details of presidential campaigns started paying attention and suddenly don’t like the rules.”
Lena Dunham is a feminist force of nature. The wunderkind actress/director/writer/producer best known for her ground-breaking TV series Girls has helped young women (and men) come to terms with the agonies and ecstasies of sex, relationships, work, and personal identity. As the eternally conflicted and self-questioning Hannah Horvath, Dunham has served as a lightning rod for female angst alongside her Girls’ castmates — Allison Williams (Marnie Michaels), Jemima Kirke (Jessa Johansson), and Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna Shapiro). Over the years we’ve watched Hannah try to make sense of her dysfunctional relationship with Adam (Adam Driver) while her friends deal with their own challenges of love, lust, and longing.
Soon audiences will get a chance to revel in more adventures in Hannah and her sisters-in-arms’ world as the fifth season of the cult HBO series unfolds. Recently, Dunham confirmed that Girls will come to an end after Season 6 (set for release in 2017) in order to avoid “overstaying our welcome” and not “soften” as many series do over extended runs.
“It’s been very rewarding to have seen this show address issues that are important to me and which are important to women in general,” Dunham says. “I’m also proud that we have such a great and amazing team of women who are part of Girls and have contributed so much while being supportive of each other in an industry that needs to be give more opportunities to women.”
Season 5 of Girls picks up on the more hopeful ending note of Season 4, in which Hannah enters a serious, more adult relationship with her teaching colleague, Fran (Jake Lacey). Over the course of the new season, their romance evolves into a safe haven for Hannah, but it may not be what she wants after so many years of dysfunction with Adam. Meanwhile, Marnie’s marriage may be hitting the skids while Shoshanna deals with the aftermath of her decision to leave her adoring boyfriend Scott (Jason Ritter) and Jessa’s new occupation as a therapist causes her to do some soul-searching while questioning the way she looks at her relationship with the other girls.
The 29-year-old Dunham grew up the daughter of well-known members of the New York arts scene — her mother is famed photographer Laurie Simmons and her father is the artist Carroll Dunham.
Lena Dunham lives in New York City with her long-time boyfriend, musician Jack Antonoff. Said Dunham about her strong female following: “We’ve been very blessed to have the experience of people continuing to engage in the show in a really kind of rabid way.”
Dunham made an appearance at the recent Sundance Film Festival to present her new documentary film, Suited, which she produced. She also made headlines last year when she interviewed former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her email newsletter.
We sat down with Dunham to talk about the final seasons of Girls, as well as what’s next for her and how she’s adapting to being in the media spotlight.
How do you feel about bringing Girls to an end?
When I started working on Girls I was 23 and I conceived it as something that would cover a very specific period in the lives of the characters. It was about figuring things out in your 20s as you become adults and now that I’m about to turn 30 I feel that it’s time the women you see in the series move on just as we need to move on to other projects. … These birds have to fly!
You’ve spoken about wanting to keep the momentum up and not wanting to keep the series going past a sixth season?
It’s important to wrap up the storylines in a way that preserves the original idea and integrity of what I wanted to say about these young women and their experience of getting a job, becoming an adult, and dealing with everything that comes with that time in their lives.
Now that I’m turning 30, it makes sense to bring my 20s to a close and be able to move on to start thinking about and pursuing other projects. I want to do films and write other kinds of stories and as much as I’ve loved Girls it’s the right time to wrap things up.
What are your feelings about your generation of women that comes to sex and relationship?
Women are as confused by sex and the emotions that come with it as ever. Our instincts aren’t helping us when it comes to dealing with men in their twenties who don’t have a deep need or understanding of romantic relationships. I doubt that most men in their 20s are emotionally equipped to handle a serious relationship.
Most films and TV are utterly irrelevant to younger women because they never get at serious issues of self-worth and communication and being able to really talk to guys. We’ve grown up with the distancing effect of Facebook and texting and that often provides a false sense of comfort. I also wanted to present sexual situations in a realistic way and not portray sex as this classically profound or deeply romantic experience. Women can watch this series and think and talk about their own experiences without feeling so awkward about it. That’s why it’s important to break down these taboos and television is the most effective medium to do that.
What do you see down the road for yourself now that you’re about to enter your 30s?
I would like to stay in New York and continue writing and directing. I love the city. It is my home and here is my family. I hope I have children. And I hope over the next ten years I’m going to make a few more movies and write some more books that I will be proud of.
I also hope that there are going to be a lot of interesting surprises. If you had told me at the beginning of my 20s that I would be where I am today, I would never have believed it!
Was fame something that attracted you?
Fame is a by-product. My goal was always to be creative and write stories that are enlightening and compelling in some way. I wanted to talk about women’s lives and the way we engage the world and all the issues and problems young women face. I felt that there hadn’t really been a lot that I’d seen in film and especially on TV that I could relate to and that really spoke to my experience and many young women like me.
You’ve been very critical of the way society judges women’s bodies?
We live in a time in which we are confronted with unrealistic body images that the media is promoting and defining women in terms of those very idealised images.
Women are constantly staring at body images that do not like ours. This creates a lot of problems with regard to how to see ourselves and the guilt and resentment and shame we feel towards our bodies. That’s not only true for women but for men as well. The difference is that men are not judged on their appearances and whether they conform to an ideal the way women are judged.
You’ve been on a running and fitness kick of late, haven’t you?
I decided that it was time to change my habits. I’m the kind of person who would stay in bed and write all day if I could. Running and becoming more active physically is not something I was really anxious to do but once I started running I actually experienced that rush of endorphins that runners talk about. I feel really good after I’ve been running.
I’m naturally very lazy physically so this has been a revelation for me and I have changed my attitude about exercise. I’ve realised that just like you need to use your brain so it doesn’t atrophy so you need to move your body to keep it healthy.
You’ve spoken many times about the kinds of nasty and even vicious comments people have made about your body?
It’s very hurtful. Anyone who goes through high school and has to deal with taunting and insults will understand that. Now most of the abuse that comes my way is on the internet and it’s easier to handle that although it’s never pleasant. But insults about your appearance are always the last resort of someone who can’t find a more intelligent or civilised way to disagree with you. I can’t take it seriously.
What advice would you give young women or teenagers who are often subject to body shaming and being called fat or ugly?
When I was a teenager, I was so confused about how my body was changing and so full of fear that I would say: “You know what? Everything will be fine.” The best thing you can do is to be interested in becoming more aware of who you are and the world around you. You should accept that some days you’re going to like yourself and feel super about who you are and your appearance and on other days you’re going to hate yourself and the way you look.
But don’t get caught up in that and just stay true to who you are and explore life with a lot of hope and passion. The most important thing is to find a way to keep the mind and body in harmony and to find a healthy way to deal with both.
You’ve produced a documentary, Suited, which you brought to Sundance. What can you say about that?
My sister is the subject of the documentary and she is someone who has always had a complex relationship with gender. She’s a gender-non-conforming person born in a woman’s body. … She’s the coolest person I know.
A new study by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies the most wasteful highway projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $24 billion.
The study details how despite massive repair and maintenance backlog and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, state governments continue to spend billions each year on new and wider highways.
The study shows how some of the projects are “outright boondoggles.”
“Many state governments continue to prioritize wasteful highway projects that fail to effectively address congestion while leaving our roads and bridges to crumble,” said John Olivieri, national campaign director for 21st century transportation at the U.S. PIRG and co-author of the report.
“This in turn saddles future generations with massive repair and maintenance backlogs that only grow more painful and expensive to fix the longer we wait to do so,” he noted.
The report says these are examples of waste:
• I-95 Widening, Connecticut, $11.2 billion. Widening the highway across the entire state of Connecticut would do little to solve congestion along one of the nation’s most high-intensity travel corridors, while further investment in rail infrastructure has long been overdue.
• Tampa Bay Express Lanes, Florida, $3.3 billion. State officials admit that a decades-old plan to construct toll lanes would not solve the region’s problems with congestion, while displacing critical community job-training and recreational facilities.
• U.S. 20 widening, Iowa, $286 million. Hundreds of millions of dollars that could pay for much-needed repairs to existing roads are being diverted to widen a road that does not need expansion to handle future traffic.
• Paseo del Volcan extension, New Mexico, $96 million. A major landholder is hoping to get taxpayer funding to build a road that would open thousands of acres of desert to sprawling development.
• State Highway 45 Southwest, Texas, $109 million. Building a new, four-mile, four-lane toll road would increase traffic on one of the most congested highways in Austin and increase water pollution in an environmentally sensitive area critical for recharging an aquifer that provides drinking water to 2 million Texans.
• San Gabriel Valley Route 710 tunnel, California, $3.2 billion to $5.6 billion. State officials are considering the most expensive, most polluting and least effective option for addressing the area’s transportation problems: a double bore tunnel.
• I-70 East widening, Colorado, $58 million. While replacing a crumbling viaduct that needs to be addressed, Colorado proposes wasting millions of dollars widening the road and increasing pollution in the surrounding community.
• I-77 Express Lanes, North Carolina, $647 million. A project that state criteria say does not merit funding is moving forward because a private company is willing to contribute; taxpayers will still be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.
• Puget Sound Gateway, Washington, $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion. The state is proposing to spend billions of dollars on a highway to relieve congestion in an area where traffic has not grown for more than a decade, and where other pressing needs for transportation funding exist.
• State Highway 249 extension, Texas, $337 million to $389 million. The Texas Department of Transportation relies on outdated traffic projections to justify building a 30-mile six-lane highway through an area already suffering from air quality.
• Portsmouth bypass, Ohio, $429 million. Despite roads across Ohio being in dire need of repair, the state Department of Transportation is embarking upon its most expensive project ever: building a new road to bypass a 20,000-person city where driving is decreasing.
• Mon-Fayette Expressway extension, Pennsylvania, $1.7 billion. A new toll road long criticized because it would damage communities is moving forward in an area where residents are calling instead for repairs to existing roads and investment in transit improvements.
Recent federal data show that more than 61,000 bridges or roughly one in 10 are structurally deficient nationwide. While other data show that states are overwhelming investing scarce transportation dollars in expansion rather than repair — collectively spending 20.4 billion (55 percent) expanding 1 percent of the current system, while spending just 16.5 billion (45 percent) repairing and maintaining the other 99 percent.
At the same time, the research shows states are failing to account for changing transportation trends, especially among millennials.
“America’s long-term travel needs are changing, especially among Millennials, who are driving fewer miles, getting driver’s licenses in fewer numbers, and expressing greater preferences to live in areas where they do not need to use a car often,” said Tony Dutzik senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group.
“Despite the fact that millennials are the nation’s largest generation, and the unquestioned consumers of tomorrow’s transportation system, states are failing to adequately respond to these changing trends,” he added.
The study recommends states:
• Adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and bridges;
• Invest in transportation solutions that reduce the need for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects by improving and expanding public transit, biking, and walking options;
• Give priority to funding transportation projects that reduce the number of vehicle-miles people travel each year, thereby also reducing air pollution, carbon-emissions, and future road repair and maintenance needs;
The report also looks back at the 11 highway “boondoggles” identified in 2014, including in Wisconsin.
Since that original report came out, several states revisited plans to expand and build new highways. The Trinity Parkway project in Dallas was revised from a six-lane road to a more limited four-lane road and the proposal to create a double-decker tunnel for I-94 in Milwaukee was postponed for the foreseeable future. Also, the Illiana Expressway, a proposed $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion toll-way intended to stretch from I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana was placed on indefinite hold.
“Investing so heavily in new and wider highways at a time when so much of our existing infrastructure is in terrible disrepair is akin to putting an extension on your house while the roof is leaking. It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Olivieri.
NBCUniversal’s latest effort to target millennials is coming: An online video service focused on comedy that costs $4 a month.
The service, Seeso, will have original content and NBC shows like 30 Rock and The Office, Saturday Night Live, standup and the Monty Python movies. It will be available for most people in January.
NBCUniversal and its owner, cable and Internet giant Comcast, have been trying different ways to get young people’s attention as live TV viewing declines. If Seeso had been born 15 years ago, it would have launched as a cable channel, said Evan Shapiro, executive vice president of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises. But online viewing today is “clearly part of the mainstream,” and to reach comedy nerds, Comcast is launching Seeso as an online subscription service.
Comcast has also launched a YouTube-like video service, Watchable; is trying out an Internet-based basic cable TV alternative that doesn’t require a cable box in some markets; and invested in new media outlets like BuzzFeed and Vox.
But Seeso will have to compete for attention in a crowded market.
“In the past year we keep seeing more and more services coming up, more niche services,” said Glenn Hower, an analyst with market research firm Parks Associates.
There’s Netflix, which has been streaming video for years and has a library with diverse choices, and newer competitors like HBO’s online channel and Dish Network’s Sling, which shows live TV. There are also specialty services such as anime-focused Crunchyroll.
Seeso won’t have ads and viewers can watch about 10 to 15 percent of the available content for free.