Don't Underestimate the Power of the Youth Vote

Young Americans sent a powerful message on November 6: do not underestimate us. In 2008, young people turned out in record numbers to support then-Senator Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. The GOP counted on this as being an anomaly and assumed that we would all quietly step back out of the political spotlight in 2012. But that didn't happen. In fact, Americans under 30 turned out in even greater numbers than they did in 2008, and they overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.

We are constantly told that our generation is the future of our country, but this statement suggests that our voice does not matter now. It puts our interests and needs on a shelf to be dealt with at a later date. We should come back in a few years, when we can really make a difference. The parties will listen then. This is where the Republicans went wrong, and it may cost them an entire generation of voters.

The president made a concentrated effort to reach out to youth voters in 2008, and he made our interests a priority during his first four years in office. From giving 3.1 million young people access to health care to increasing funding for Pell grants and focusing on college affordability, President Obama has repeatedly let our generation know that he has our back. We returned the favor on Election Day.

Until the Republican Party starts taking the needs of our generation seriously, they're going to keep losing. At least 49 percent of young Americans showed up at the polls this year. Without the votes of individuals between the ages of 18 and 29, swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida would have turned from blue to red, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

We are a generation of multitaskers, the children of the information age. Young Americans across the country wrote letters to our local newspapers, called our neighbors, registered our peers to vote, and knocked on doors, all while balancing work, academics, our collegiate social lives, and blooming careers.

We not only worked tirelessly for our president, but for candidates in other crucial races across the country. We knew the president needed support from Congress down to state legislatures to enact the forward thinking policies that our generation cares about. We made over 100,000 calls for Elizabeth Warren, enlisted our friends to volunteer for state legislative races, traveled to Wisconsin to knock on doors in support of Tammy Baldwin, and worked the polls for progressive congressional candidates throughout the country.

We identified the candidates that support our agenda. We worked tirelessly for them. We voted for them. And they won.

Election Day may be over, but our work is far from finished. Young Americans know that our country's prosperity does not just depend on the outcome of an election, but on the work we put into creating a solid foundation for our future. This means getting involved at every level, from student government to city council. Our voices will be heard at every level of government, as more young people enter public service. The GOP may have ignored our generation in this election year, but they won't have that option as we move our country forward.