Teens are marching, they’re screaming at the top of their lungs demanding action and justice, and they’re trying to cut through the “BS” of our political discourse in the process. These teenagers are driven by anger, driven by fear, and, in the case of the Stoneman Douglas survivors, they’re driven by grief and outrage that they lost friends in yet another American mass shooting.
On Wednesday night, CNN hosted a live town hall event featuring some of the students from Stoneman Douglas, as well as faculty members, the families of some of those who were killed, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R), and Congressman Ted Deutch (D). But despite the polish of the officials in attendance, the teenagers (as well as the family members and faculty) absolutely owned that stage while dunking on people who make a living dodging tough questions and reframing debates to suit their talking points. The whole thing made something very clear: teenagers are ready, willing, and able to take the reigns of this country. We just need to put them on TV regularly to make it happen.
Teenagers have more riding on the trajectory of this country then our 71-year-old president does or members of Congress — whose average age hovers around 60 — do. America’s penchant for reckless borrowing, our inattention to environmental crisis, and our willingness to go to war at the drop of a hat are just a few of the things that should concern teens because those are the debts and f*ck-ups that they’ll have to pay for with their money and their lives, long after our elder ruling class has dusted out. And yet, despite that, teenagers are often written off, talked down to, or blamed. And they certainly don’t have an equitable seat at the table in the press when it comes to holding politicians accountable or asking them questions.
Politicians assume they can get away with ignoring young voters because statistics show that millennials (in the 18-29 age range) don’t vote at the same rate as other older groups, only casting approximately 50% of the votes that they could have in 2016 (which was a slight improvement over 2012). But according to youth activist experts, these potential voters aren’t apathetic, they just need a seat at the table and to feel like they’re being heard.