We're approaching one of the biggest generational shifts Congress has ever seen.
Boomers are in control, but for how long? Gen X and Millennials are about to make their mark on Washington.
Gen X is Rising Fast.
Xers will almost certainly win a majority in the House in 2018 and in the Senate by 2024. During the 1990s, The Atlantic proposed that Xers had adopted “political apathy as a way of life.” But it’s not apathy we see in this new generation of leaders. It’s realism and a Reagan-ish longing for smaller, more efficient government. At work and in government Xers generally assume smaller is better. After all, these are they guys who created the 2-pizza rule.*
Here's what to expect.
• As leaders, Xers will look for the workable over the ideal. They'll make tough choices and take the necessary risks to keep moving forward. Ideology won't matter as much as progress. Xers will be better at compromise than Boomers are.
• With Gen Xers in power, Congress will be more centrist and productive.
Congress? Not Yet. But Millennials Own the Polls.
Meanwhile, Millennials are waiting their turn. Of the 435 seats in the House, only 13 are held by Millennials. Thirteen. There are no Millennial senators. Their influence simply isn’t there yet, but that's not true at the polls. Their large numbers give Millennials tremendous power when they choose to use it. Millennials were a major factor in Obama’s first election, and they pushed Bernie Sanders to unexpected prominence in 2016. When they decide to vote, Millennials are a juggernaut.
What should we expect from Ms?
• Only 38% of Millennials are affiliated with a political party. Most say they are independent. For Millennials, it’s not about parties or being liberal or conservative. It's about causes. This group may never identify along party lines like Boomers did, but give them a cause they love, and they'll rock the polls.
• When Millennials don't vote, it doesn't mean they don't want to change things. It just means they have chosen business over government as their tool for solving social problems. They'd like to see government solve big problems. They just haven't seen that yet.
• Millennials want government to do more, not less, to help people. For example, a majority of Millennials say the federal government should be responsible for making sure all people have health coverage. That makes Millennials populists--populists with massive numbers and tech skills. This will be interesting.
What do you think will happen with X and Ms at the helm? Join the conversation! Tweet us at @AmyLynchGenEdge and don’t forget to add your #generation!
Amy Lynch is a generations researcher, author and consultant. She has spoken to 100s of groups from MTV and Comcast to Boeing, J&J and the staff of the US Senate. Contact Amy about your next conference.
*Amazon's Jeff Bezos came up with the 2-pizza rule to improve productivity in meetings. It goes like this. Never have a meeting where two pizzas cannot feed the entire group.