Gen Z is done with our two-party system — and will force change

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Gen Z is politically homeless — and increasingly so. In just a year, 2020’s record-breaking young voter engagement has plummeted astronomically. This year, the California recall election saw a 48 percent drop in young turnout as compared to 2020, and the governor’s race in Virginia also experienced a 62 percent slump in voters under 30.

This comes as Gen Z’s faith in President Biden and the Democratic Party’s effectiveness has faltered. They report the largest generational drop in approval of Biden’s performance, tumbling 20 percent since June to a mere 43 percent last month. We appear to be growing politically apathetic — and that should come as no surprise.

Gen Z came of age in the lesser-of-two-evils era of American politics. The first major political event many of us were old enough to understand was the election of 2016, when we watched our families tear each other apart over politics at the Thanksgiving table. While older Americans experienced a slow-slide into divisiveness, a disjointed America is the only one Gen Z has ever known — and, frankly, many of us are fed up.

With roughly half of Gen Z registered as independents, my contemporaries are dumping the partisan system in droves, and we’re looking for alternatives. The third party options before us, however, are uninspiring to say the least. The two largest are the Libertarian Party, which attracted a meager 1 percent of the popular vote in 2020, and the progressive Green Party, which couldn’t even pull in a third of a percent. For dynamic young voters, these lethargic and ineffective parties are far from a logical fit.

Gen Z’s faith in President Biden and the Democratic party has faltered. The governor’s race in Virginia, which Terry McAuliffe (left) lost to GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin, saw a 62 percent slump in voters under 30.
Gen Z’s faith in President Biden and the Democratic party has faltered. The governor’s race in Virginia, which Terry McAuliffe (left) lost to GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin, saw a 62 percent slump in voters under 30.
AP

That’s where former presidential and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang would like to step in. Last month, he launched the Forward Party with the slogan, “Not Left. Not Right. Forward,” with a platform that endorses various alterations to our democracy’s status quo, including ranked-choice votingindependent redistricting commissionsaccessible and secure voting, and open primaries to increase voter engagement in choosing candidates.

“I personally feel terrible that we left your generation such a disaster,” Yang told me in a recent phone interview. “I get why young people are becoming apathetic. You look up and say, ‘This system is not designed to work for me or my generation. Why should I have faith in this?’ And the answer is that you shouldn’t. If I were a sensible young person today, I would feel there isn’t a place for me politically.”

Yang, 46, wants to modernize policies to keep up in the digital age by establishing a Department of Technologyprotect personal data as a property right, and even formally endorse cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, which promises to be particularly popular with young voters who make up a staggering majority of crypto buyers.

“The plan is to animate those who are fed up — which is most of us at this point — and to point out that the system is rigged,” he said. “The Forward Party is unifying independents, libertarians, disaffected Democrats and disaffected Republicans who want to make a process change that will allow new points of view to be heard.”

Last month, Andrew Yang launched the Forward Party in an effort to attract voters sick of the two-party system.
Last month, Andrew Yang launched the Forward Party in an effort to attract voters sick of the two-party system.
AFP via Getty Images

The Forward Party’s economic platform, however, has proven quite controversial. Policies include handouts of money in the form of “democracy dollars” for donations to political candidates and a $1,000 monthly universal basic income, which has drawn a wide array of criticism. While many Americans see UBI as better suited to a socialist state than the United States, it’s a clear point of generational dissonance. More than two-thirds of Gen Z hold a favorable view of the policy, at a two-to-one rate over older Americans.

While Yang’s vision is definitely bold and perhaps utopian, it just may gain traction among a generation desperate for change. Gen Z’s mounting voting power and general disaffection are going to shake things up and future third party alternatives will likely meet their demands in the coming years.

“I’d say this to a young person trying to figure out where to go: Do you really think that the Democratic or Republican Party will be the vehicle that’s going to change things for your generation, or do you think it’s going to be a new upstart party that changes the game?” Yang asked. “If you think that it’s the latter, then join us because we’re making common cause with everyone who’s fed up with the status quo.”

Rikki Schlott is a 21-year-old student at NYU.



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