Even in a Bad News Election, Young Progressives Win

Watching the news last week, you'd think the midterm elections brought only bad news for those of us who care about progressive values. While there is a great deal to be concerned about, there is also an important success story coming out of the midterms that has largely been overlooked: the role of young progressives who won their elections in every part of the country.

Despite misleading headlines and the usual predictions about young people sitting out the election, in reality, young people were actively engaged this cycle. After nationwide, youth-led get out the vote efforts, at least 10 million young people voted on Tuesday. The estimated youth share of the electorate (13 percent) actually increased from the 2010 midterms.

As exciting is what we saw at the state and local levels, where many young progressive leaders ran for office and won their elections in increasing numbers.

The Young Elected Officials Network -- the only national network for young progressive leaders at all levels of office, which I direct and am a part of -- witnessed a stunning success rate among our members. In an election year characterized by conservative gains, by our current counts 86 percent of the young elected officials up for election in our network won their races.

We also saw wins among young people who have not held office before. From Michigan to Arizona to South Dakota to Georgia, seven of the nine alumni of our leadership development program who ran for office this year won their elections. Three of them had never run before. We invested our resources and support in developing these young leaders at an early stage, and they later invested their time and energy in the public service of running for office.

After this election, those of us in the progressive movement can sulk, or we can look to, and learn from, the bright spots. For me, 2014 provides a clear example of what can happen when we as a movement focus on our young people. After receiving guidance from progressive leaders, support from their peers, and practical training from seasoned professionals, these diverse young people connected with and listened to their communities, were inspired to run for office on progressive platforms, and won. Across the board.

With progress on a number of pressing issues stalled at the national level, state and local leaders have never been more critical to progressive policy gains. Increasingly, young people are taking the lead in that work. And voters are ready for it. They want a new and more courageous model of leadership. They want to see new ideas, new energy, and an end to gridlock. Let's look to this new generation of progressive leaders to show us the way.