Rainbow Rant: Stop lecturing millennials and start supporting our movements

Joy Ellison
Photo by Barbara J. Perenic

With the deadline for voter registration looming on Saturday, Oct. 6, both parties are trying to sign up new voters like they're stockpiling canned goods before a natural disaster.

Wherever I go, I meet earnest volunteers with clipboards. My friends are sharing videos of President Obama urging everyone to vote in the midterm, but especially young people. Millennials like me are a hot demographic, especially for the Democrats.

Have no fear. I'll be voting in the midterm. I understand the stakes; Brett Kavanaugh, a man accused of multiple sexual assaults who also doesn't understand the difference between contraception and an abortion, could become a Supreme Court justice. Two million households could lose SNAP assistance if the proposed Farm Bill passes. Voting is not going to bring about systematic change, but two more years of a Republican majority will be devastating for the most vulnerable in our society.

I know the outcome of the midterm will impact my life. I'm not sure, however, if the political establishment really understands what is at stake for me and other young people.

For all of their attempts to get out the millennial vote, the Democrats aren't so keen on the participation of millennials in the political process in any way besides voting. The Fight for 15 Campaign has been organizing for years to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour — an urgent issue for young people. On a national level, the Democrats have done almost nothing to support its efforts.

Similarly, young people are clamoring for affordable higher education and student loan forgiveness to no avail.

Worse, Democrat party support for the Black Lives Matter movement has been limited at best. There is much hypocrisy in politicians urging young people to vote while pursuing criminal legal policies that disproportionately impact black people and rob them of their franchise. If you missed that irony, then you're paying less attention than many young people.

Young people have been derided for supporting alternative candidates like left-wing Democrats, the Yes We Can slate and socialist parties. Even when young people are working hard to effect change through voting, we can't seem to get much respect.

Millennials don't need a guilt-trip. We are already politically active, and we're acting out of an understanding that older people should heed: It takes more than voting to change an oppressive system.

Queer and trans people know this truth deeply. At times when neither party fought for our interests, queer and trans people created new ways to effect change. We “zapped” politicians, held die-ins, built underground networks and took care of each other. These tactics are just as important today as they have been in the past.

Instead of lecturing us to vote, politicians should start supporting the struggles of young people. You can bet I'll be voting in November, but I won't be stopping there. Building a movement for justice requires so much more.