MSU Freshman Hopes Spur National Political Debate

Posted by Blake Wright on October 09, 2014 at 1:00 PM

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By Maureen Groppe, Gannett Washington Bureau | Lansing State Journal - 9/18/2014 

The millenials -- 18- to 33-year-olds -- are the first group in modern U.S. history to have higher levels of student debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than the two generations before them had at the same age.

They're less likely to identify with a particular political party and they doubt traditional safety nets such as Social Security will survive by the time they reach retirement.

 

"I see millennials as a generation that (grew) up in the recession. We grew up with a lot of different hardships. So I think we bring almost a weariness," Campbell said. "We're done trying to fight each other. We're ready to make some compromises."

 

The national organization was started in November 2012 and now has chapters on 40 college campuses in 20 states and Washington, D.C. The group has received support from the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., which helped it create an "agenda for generational equity" which was released this summer.

 

"This partnership is really about engaging America's youth in our national debate," said Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

 

The agenda includes maintaining a "fair and adequate social safety net;" increasing national investments in education, workforce development and infrastructure; and helping to "heal" the political system.

 

Campbell said that Common Sense Action's emphasis on working across party lines is very important to her.

 

"I feel like a lot of people will say, 'Congress can't get anything done because they're too strictly partisan,'" she said. "And then I say, CSA is about coming together for those issues that we can solve, that don't need to be strictly partisan."

 

Campbell leans toward the Democratic side of the political spectrum while half of millennials describe themselves as political independents.

 

Growing up in Mount Pleasant, Campbell's interest in politics was sparked early on as she listened to conversations between her dad and his two brothers - an independent, a Democrat and a Republican.

 

"That was always fun to watch," she said. "I've always been around it and definitely wanted to jump into the conversation and do something."

 

During Campbell's senior year in high school, the student who started a Common Sense Action chapter at the University of Michigan spoke to Campbell's government class.

 

Campbell was hooked and reached out to one of the national founders about creating a chapter at MSU. 

 

Now a freshman in at the East Lansing university's James Madison College - the public affairs college -- she has a good home base to get the chapter off the ground. And she has had plenty of help from her executive committee.

 

A top priority is registering voters and passing out information about candidates for this fall's election.

 

"We need to vote in large enough numbers so our politicians understand that we will hold them accountable for investing in millennial economic mobility and advancing generationally fair policy," said Sam Gilman, a Brown University student and president and cofounder of the national group.

 

Only 6 percent of millennials expect to receive full Social Security benefits when they retire, according to a Pew Research survey taken earlier this year. Half expect to get nothing.

 

Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, has said the survey results don't necessarily mean there will be a generational war between millennials and older Americans.

 

Other Pew research shows a relatively low level of generational tension, possibly in part because of how many Americans are living in multi-generational households. And Pew found that today's young adults get along better with their parents than older adults did when they were young.

 

"These good vibrations across the generations are notable because they flourish at a time when young and old in America don't look, vote or think alike," Taylor wrote earlier this year.

 

Campbell said she's excited by the possibilities of working together to make policy changes because "millennials are not the apathetic generation."

 

"We're the generation that's going to come together and fix it for ourselves and for everybody else," she said.