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Americans under the age of 45 will comprise more than half of the voting populous in the 2024 presidential election. This means millennials and Generation Z will have more pull than ever in determining the makeup of American politics. In 2024, young voters will be more politically engaged than before, according to The Washington Post, making it the biggest election year for young voices ever. Despite this, neither Republicans nor Democrats have chosen to prioritize Gen Z’s political aspirations. There is a chasm between the candidates contending for spots on Capitol Hill and many of the voters whom they are meant to represent. And in some cases, representatives are outright ignorant of our priorities, preferring to shut us up rather than listen.

Presidential candidate debates, which are meant to make the public aware of candidates’ platforms, echo this issue. Thus far, only the Republican Party has held debates, which took place on Aug. 23, Sept. 27 and Nov. 8. Without the presence of GOP frontrunner former U.S. President Donald Trump, who has skipped all the debates so far, these mocks of debates were lackluster. GOP candidates such as former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were featured in these trivial debates, and their stances included digs at younger voters. These jabs reemphasize how out of touch all our representatives are and just how disastrous that could make the 2024 presidential elections. Imagine an election where an entire voting bloc feels unheard.

Take Vivek Ramaswamy, a candidate who boasts being a millennial yet endorses raising the voting age from 18 to 25. He emphasized that young Americans need to “earn” their right to vote, demonstrating his unconstitutional belief of voting as a privilege, not a right.

“There’s more to life than the aimless passage of time,” Ramaswamy claimed during the first Republican debate.

Apparently, Gen Z has not lived long enough to have anything substantive to contribute to the politics governing our world. While Ramaswamy’s critiques may seem unfounded and crazed, he pushes forward an ideology that further gaps generations in the United States and damages Gen Z voters. We are now straining to find a candidate who, at the very least, has our generation in mind.

Looking left won’t help us either. U.S. President Joe Biden has been appealing poorly to the left-leaning younger voting bloc and clearly is only toting inclusivity of their values on the surface. During the 2020 presidential election, for instance, Biden identified addressing climate change and the environment as one of his broad goals during his presidency and listed passing the Green New Deal as a step. Biden was successful in allocating billions of dollars in funding toward fighting climate change.

But Biden’s record in advocating for clean energy use is not, in fact, squeaky clean. In March, he approved the Willow project, an oil drilling plan in Alaska. Oil drilling paired with climate change funds don’t mix well. Willow, if completed, will release 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere yearly. But nothing money won’t fix, right, Biden? Wrong. The Willow carbon emissions alone jumble the delicate path to global temperature consistency, and those are not the only disastrous environmental effects. In Alaska, 532 acres of wetlands, 619 acres of polar bear habitats and more than 17,000 acres of bird habitats will be demolished with Willow.

“The anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy,” Ramaswamy said during the first GOP debate.

Biden prides himself and his presidency for being pro-climate change solutions, but somehow, his actions align with Ramaswamy’s words. Instead of letting the refusal of Willow douse an economic furnace, he allowed it to burn. By approving the Willow project, Biden demonstrated how he preached alignment with young people’s views but could not follow through when it came to actions.

Nearly 60% of voters aged 18 to 29 believe that action against climate change is crucial, even so important that slowing economic growth may be worth the disposal of policy protecting the environment. That statistic is across party lines. However, nearly all mainstream 2024 presidential candidates, including Biden, Trump, Haley and DeSantis, favor economic growth over climate change action. Some may be more reluctant to say it, but actions always speak louder than campaign promises. 

Gen Z voters are left with nowhere to turn. We are undeniably more in touch with social issues, such as gender identity and systemic racism. As the two-party system squishes our votes into boxes, many are reluctant to opt for third-party candidates that could potentially swing the presidential election in unfavorable ways. Compared to 50% of millennials and 40% of Gen X, 59% of Gen Z believe that there should be more options than simply the man and woman binary on items like online forms.

Hearing Ramaswamy assert that being transgender is a “deluded and mentally deranged state” and Haley adamant that transgender athletes are “the women’s issue of our time” only drives that separation further. Sadly, to turn back to our current political governance and see that Biden has not been able to protect transgender people as he pledged during his campaign endorses our hopelessness. Now, 20 states have passed restrictions on gender-affirming care for both teenagers and adults; 44% of American transgender persons live in a state where their identity rights are being slashed.

There are countless other examples of the isolation of Gen Z voters. While those who lean Democratic may be more prone to feeling it, politicians are leaning away from the perspectives and concerns affecting all young people. Ramaswamy threatens to raise the voting age for all under 25, not just Democrats. DeSantis cut educational programs that could be getting all teenagers into college, not just Democrats. Biden sold Alaska — and our climate — off to oil drillers. This will affect all of the younger generations, not one political party or another. Gen Z is the most diverse, vibrant voting bloc America has ever seen. But the policies we live under and vote for don’t work for us. Representatives either don’t understand Gen Z or they simply don’t care. The rift between Gen Z, a soon-to-be massive force in elections, and the actual people representing us is wide open, and it will take work from both sides to mend this disconnect.

Many are too wise to vote for a no-name third-party candidate, knowing that it will only pull away votes from the narrow race between a Republican and Democratic contender. But 2024 will be the first presidential election that many members of Gen Z will participate in — including myself — and the candidates need to straighten their stories: While many candidates claim to be antagonistic only toward their opposing political party, it feels as though they are solely facing off against us. Voting locally and voting young is a great first step. Politics are not a top-down system: Once the younger generation can get our footing, we can spring up to the debate stage, hopefully making those political conversations more worthwhile than the old folks up there now.

Ellie Fivas (24Ox) is from Cleveland, Tennessee.


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Ellie Fivas is from Cleveland, Tennessee, and is double-majoring in political science and English & Creative Writing. Outside of the Wheel, she serves on the Student Government Association, edits for the Oxford Phoenix literary magazine and writes for the Emory Political Review. In her free time, you can find her reading historical fiction, enjoying the outdoors or doing crossword puzzles.