In 1977, New York City elected Edward Irving Koch, a U.S. Congressman from New York’s 18th district, to the mayor’s office. His election to the highest office in the nation’s largest city would foretell this country’s overwhelming shift to the right of the political spectrum. Now, in 2013, New York City may be foretelling another political shift in the demographics of the United States, this time, to the left. Just last Tuesday, the citizens of New York City elected Bill de Blasio as the Democratic candidate for mayor.
As recently as a month ago, it seemed that Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council, was the frontrunner for the mayor’s office. Her abundance of experience running the city and her pragmatic political views made her not only Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s logical successor, but also his ideological heir apparent. For a city that had elected Bloomberg for three terms, it seemed like a recipe for success.
However, over the next month, Bill de Blasio came in, guns blazing, with his populist liberal views. He proclaimed that he would fight for progressive rights and values and touted his support for programs such as universal pre-kindergarten for all New York City children, paid for by increased taxes on the rich. De Blasio’s passion for left wing values, along with missteps by some of his competitors, allowed him to gain the upper hand on a crucial voting bloc: the Millennials.
Millennials are a generation consisting of people born in the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s. As many readers will note, that effectively includes the entire student body of Boston College, including this writer. Research has increasingly shown that the Millennial generation is growing overwhelmingly liberal, in stark contrast to earlier generations. According to a Pew Survey released in 2010, Millennials favor liberal values by a margin of fourteen percentage points, nearly double the margin of the other age groups surveyed. In fact, in the New York City primary, De Blasio won thirty-nine percent of the Millennial vote in a field of five candidates. That was twelve percentage points over his closest competitor, William Thompson Jr., the current City Comptroller.
Furthermore, while New York City's mayoral hopefuls feel the pain now, it may be the Republican Party that suffers in the long run. In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials composed twenty percent of voters. In the 2012 presidential election, that figure rose to twenty-five percent. And in the upcoming presidential election, there are predictions that the proportion of Millennial voters will rise to one-third of all voters. Over the next fifteen years, experts predict that Millennials will make up nearly forty percent of the voting population. This is a significant handicap for a party already losing the rising Hispanic vote due to a refusal to reform the immigration system. And with the political infighting going on between Republican leadership and the Tea Party, the death knell may be tolling for the Grand Old Party.
Already the effects of this trend may be taking root in the Boston mayoral race. In a debate hosted by Boston.com, the site asked three candidates to discuss issues that involved college students. Community Organizer Bill Walczak discussed improving the housing process for Boston area students so that landlords supply affordable, high quality housing and treat their tenants with respect. City Councilor Felix Arroyo suggested extending hours for the T so that students could have transportation to accommodate student activities. Arroyo then went on to make a personal statement encouraging students to vote because the next mayor will make decisions that impact the lives of tens of thousands of college students in the area.
The Boston Mayoral Primary will be held on September 24th and the Mayoral Election is scheduled for November 5th. It is time for the Millennial Generation to make its mark on government.