US Election 2016 - Do Millennials Hold the Key?

The real story of this next election cycle will be that of a "generational war" and the passing of the torch to the next generation... Although they have not been as reliable a voting block as the seniors or boomers, their involvement in the electoral process was part of the reason that Barack Obama won in 2008.

Once again I attended the White House Correspondents Dinner and according to White House estimates there were 2,700 attendees most vying for their moment in the limelight.

At this less star-studded and a bit more serious Spring Gala two sobering thoughts dominated the evening's "off the record" conversations as well as the official "entertainment".

As we applauded the real star of the evening, Barack Obama, we collectively came to the realisation that for this greying world leader it would be the last time he would be holding court as the nation's top Democrat at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Although Obama will preside over one more WHCD, by this time next year the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee will be the shining star of the Democratic Party - whoever that may be.

The other topic of the evening's speculation was who would win the White House in just 18 months.

'Never be too sure' - my motto!

At a similar moment in the run-up to the 2008 election, I wrote my thoughts in a Sky News Blog entitled 'Hillary v Rudy: The Main Event'.... Enter Barack Obama and all bets were off!

While there seems to be a growing number of possible candidates interested in vying for the top spot, my revised list keeps growing.

For the Democrats, those who may even consider challenging the most dominant, and some say pre-ordained, Hillary Clinton include Joe Biden (VP and Fmr Senator DE), Martin O'Malley (Fmr Gov MD), Jim Webb (Fmr Senator VA), Bernie Sanders (Sen VT), Brian Schweitzer, (Fmr Gov Montana) and there is still talk of Elizabeth Warren (Sen MA), Lincoln Chafee (Fmr Gov RI), Andrew Cuomo (Gov NY), Mark Warner (Sen VA) - and the list continues to grow!

For the Republicans at the moment the possible contenders are Jeb Bush (Fmr Gov FL), Chris Christie (Gov NJ), Rand Paul (Sen KY), Marco Rubio (Sen FL), Ted Cruz (Sen TX), Paul Ryan (Rep WI), Ben Carson (surgeon), Rick Perry (Fmr Gov TX), Bobby Jindal (Gov LA), Scott Walker (Gov WI), Mike Huckabee (Fmr Gov AR), John Kasich ( Gov OH), Lindsey Graham (Sen SC), Carly Fiorina (Fmr head of HP), Rick Santorum (Fmr Sen PA), Michael Bloomberg (Fmr Mayor NYC), Donald Trump (businessman) and yes possibly Mitt Romney (Fmr Gov MA and 2012 GOP Presidential Candidate). This list also keeps on growing!

Had enough? Hard to keep track?

Perhaps we should take the advice of former House Speaker and winner of the South Carolina Republican Primary in 2012 with 40% of the votes, Newt Gingrich when faced with the daunting task of seizing up the overwhelming number of potential Republican Nominees for 2016 - don't worry about the numbers, the voters will have no trouble narrowing down the field.

The Democrats will hold their national convention the week of 25 July in Philadelphia, the 'City of Brotherly Love' while the GOP will put their best faces forward the week before in Cleveland.

The long primary process has always been a challenge for both Democrats and Republicans since it gives the extreme elements of both parties far too much influence on the selection of their party's nominee.

As a consequence, Mitt Romney, to appease the real conservative wing of his party, had to go so far to the right he seemed uncomfortable in his own suit during the debates and his opponent Barack Obama skilfully let him know it.

Hillary Clinton, who seems so far out in front will have a similar challenge in the months to come.

Her task will be to ward off left-wing progressives the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in an effort to prove once again that she is the "champion" for all people, including the down-trodden.

In the final analysis, the most critical questions for all the candidates both Democratic and Republican alike aside from - Am I raising enough obscene amounts of cash from individuals and entities I would otherwise not be caught dead even talking with? - are the following:

1. Am I passionate enough and do I have enough fire in the belly to capture the hearts, minds and imagination of the American people?

2. Are the American people and the potential voter even paying any attention?

3. Am I the person the American people are interested in seeing and hearing from for the next four years?

4. Am I the person the American people are interested in seeing on the world stage representing them and protecting them for the next four years?

5. Do I have any new ideas?

6. Can I not totally screw up and get caught doing so on someone's iPhone?

7. Is what I stand for and what I have to offer relevant to the new crop of voters emerging since Obama's first overwhelming "Yes I Can" victory in 2008?

If you, Dear Presidential Candidate, can answer a rousing YES! to all of the above questions, you might have a crack at becoming the next President of the United States.

That is if you really and truly understand question number seven.

The real story of this next election cycle will be that of a "generational war" and the passing of the torch to the next generation.

Up till now the largest group of America's potential voters has been the infamous and most despised "baby boomers" - I've always hated that term - those born between 1946 and 1964. This has been the largest and richest segment of the voting age population and the audience that most politicians courted - along with the senior citizens of course.

As members of the World War II "greatest generation" are dwindling - like it or not 'Dead Heads' - baby boomers are taking their place as the "new senior set" and their priorities are shifting.

Those of this maturing generation who actually read cumbersome old news papers and get their daily dose of the news on actual "TV sets" have been the target of savvy advertisers who for decades understand this changing phenomenon only too well.

Just think of how cleverly the pharmaceutical industry has targeted the national evening news hour audience and convinced those who still watch TV news just how many diseases they may have or might be getting before the end of the broadcast.

Just this year the "millennial generation" has surpassed the "baby boomers" in pure size.

Although they have not been as reliable a voting block as the seniors or boomers, their involvement in the electoral process was part of the reason that Barack Obama won in 2008.

This generation grew up in tough economic times where a good education was not a guarantee of a good job or a successful future.

They think and live differently from previous generations.

Many do not own or even think about owning cars or TVs.

They are wizards of social media, the good, the bad and the ugly - "It is all relevant when speaking truth to power."

Because of the anaemic and slowly recovering US economy, they are often forced to stay home or return home to live with their parents until they can find a job that would allow them to go it alone.

Millennials are not dumb or slackers. They are extremely bright, entrepreneurial and socially aware.

Like the boomers they feel they have inherited a mess and would like to make some real changes.

This potentially very powerful group of young Americans can in fact have a major impact on this upcoming presidential election cycle.

If they feel that real change is hopeless, they will stay home and the older generations with all their problems will rule the day... That day being 8 November, 2016.

If they feel they have an opportunity to affect real change and put their mark on history, with the right push from the candidates, they can make a difference in their own lives and the country's future.

President Kennedy was fond of saying:

"For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'hold office'; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfil those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve."

A noble thought, indeed. And don't forget to vote, seniors, boomers, Gen Xers and millennials!

Our future depends on it.


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