With Bernie Sanders' Support, Millennials Seek Representation in Politics
In Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 5 of the Constitution, Americans under age 35 are prohibited from running for president. Now, more than 200 years since the document’s creation, disgruntled millennials—who have changed the world with successful companies and innovation but don’t see themselves represented in government—are petitioning to do away with the outdated law.
“Millennials make up some of the most progressive, innovative, intelligent and successful people in our country,” said Adrienne Cuschieri Grooms, a senior brand manager for the rum brand Captain Morgan. “Why shouldn’t they be able to be president of the United States?”
As evidence that young people are experienced and engaged, the #UNDER35POTUS campaign cites such notable millennials—those between 18 and 35 years old—as 32-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, multibillionaire CEO of Facebook; 34-year-old Ben Lerer, CEO of Thrillist Media Group; and Tiffany Pham, 29, founder and CEO of publishing platform Mogul.
In the campaign video produced by Captain Morgan and digital comedy network Jash, 25-year-old Erin Schrode, the youngest woman to run for Congress in the 2016 election, said, “We are architecting the industries of today and tomorrow. Who better to lead the policy?”
Millennials now match baby boomers as the largest voting-age group in America, but their lack of representation in the political arena is notable.
“We have a huge problem with representation,” Shrode said. “There is no one under 30 serving in our federal government [Senate or House] right now. There has never, in the history of our country, been a woman under 30 elected. We need to have our voices represented in federal government.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders echoes her concerns.
“For a variety of reasons, the needs of young people are absolutely not represented in terms of the high cost of college, student debts, in terms of climate change, in terms of racism and sexism and homophobia,” Sanders said in the campaign video. “No, young people are not adequately represented.”
Young people get it because the stakes are higher, Sanders said. They have to live with the consequences of any policies that are implemented. They “understand that if we don’t turn things around economically, their generation, for the first time in American history, will have a lower standard of living than their parents.”
“They’re saying we can do much better,” Sanders said in an April episode of “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”
Unless millennials step up and get elected on a local, state or federal level, they are unlikely to see their issues addressed by those who grew up in a different era.
Millennials are unique, said 34-year-old Lindsey Horvath, former mayor of West Hollywood, Calif. “We’re not buying houses as much, we’re not buying cars, we’re starting families later if we’re starting them at all. Those in power don’t really understand what that kind of reality means.”
Across the country, young politicians—many of whom have only voted in one presidential election—are coming onto the scene with promises of bringing a fresh perspective.
“A lot of people didn’t think I had the life experience to be a legislator, but it doesn’t require experience per se,” Aundré Bumgardner, 22, a Republican who won a seat in Connecticut’s House of Representatives in 2014, told The Huffington Post. “Mostly it requires listening unequivocally to others and the art of negotiation.”
But age requirements have prevented young, qualified candidates from taking office in many states.
In 2014, then-24-year-old Daniel Hernandez Jr. was too young—by 13 days—to be sworn in as a senator in Arizona, though he and his experience with various campaigns and commissions were favored by voters.
“I have more experience with legislation than a lot of people running who are in their 40s,” Hernandez told Slate. “It’s been a really kind of interesting experience for me to listen to the argument that young people don’t have experience when I’ve been doing this for years.”
can we add a provision to the constitution saying you not only must be 35 to run for president, but also mentally 35?
— blaine (@bmattho) October 22, 2016
— William Troop (@worldsoccerguy) October 27, 2016
— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) October 27, 2016
With more than 1,000 supporters, the #UNDER35POTUS petition is thousands of signatures shy of being ready to deliver to the White House. The goal is to encourage President Obama to “call on Congress to address the age requirement necessary to hold presidential office.”
Serving in federal office comes with higher age requirements than those for most state legislatures: 30 years for the Senate and 25 years for the House of Representatives. Of 435 House members, only 27 are under 40. The youngest members of the House and Senate are 32 and 42 respectively.
These age requirements were decided upon in the 18th century because they were believed to indicate a man’s maturity, though some find these numbers arbitrary. “You must fix upon Some Period in Life, when the Understanding and Will of Men in general is fit to be trusted by the Public,” John Adams wrote in a 1776 letter.
“Under current law, an 18-year-old is legally qualified to govern millions of people in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. But 18-year-olds are barred from being elected to Congress at all—it would be too risky, the Constitution presupposes, to let someone so young represent, say, Wyoming, a state with a population of about 500,000,” writes Slate’s Osita Nwanevu.
Watch the #UNDER35POTUS campaign’s short documentary below.
—Posted by KiMi Robinson
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the #UNDER35POTUS petition needed 1,500 supporters to deliver to the White House. The petition needs 100,000 signatures for the petition to go to the White House. The correction has been made in the story.