More than a month after the 2022 Midterm Election, and one week after the special Georgia run-off election, it is becoming increasingly clear that this was an unprecedented election. For the first time since 1934, back when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, the president’s political party not only held their Senate seats but expanded them. Although Republicans will control the House, it will only be by a few votes — yet another extraordinary feat for a midterm election cycle, given that the president’s political party loses, on average, 20 or more House seats.
There’s been much talk about the importance of the youth vote in shaping the outcome of this election and for good reason. Politically-engaged members of Gen Z—and even those in the national media space and elected officials now—have attributed Democrats’ success in the midterm election to young voters. No matter how one slices it, young voters showed up—particularly in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona—and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. Quite literally, young voters prevented a red wave from happening, something that both parties must never forget.
But young people did not just turn out and vote. They participated in other ways, too. For instance, take the data compiled by the organization Run for Something, which recruits and mobilizes young people to run for office. Up and down the ballot, a historic number of young people put their names on the ballot and ran for office. People like Sam Lawrence, a sophomore at Miami University in Ohio, who ran to be Ohio’s youngest State Representative, and Ray Reed, who ran for U.S. Congress in Missouri, showed the entire nation that young people are not waiting for older generations to solve the issues front and center in our lives. Instead, we are taking action and running for elected positions.
Most fundamentally, seeing young people run for office normalizes the idea that they can, indeed, serve in leadership positions. For a generation that often gets overlooked in politics, this last election cycle showed that younger generations belong in politics just as much—if not more—than older ones. And while not every young person who ran for office won, many were successful in their efforts. They will be critical not only in inspiring young people across the country to get involved, but also pushing back against Republicans and addressing the issues that impact young people.
Starting on the federal level, Maxwell Frost from Florida is set to become the first Gen Z member of Congress. Over the last several weeks, Congressman-elect Frost has been engaging in new-member orientation. It’s clear that he will be an essential voice in Congress – both in defending fundamental rights and bringing a new perspective on often overlooked and forgotten issues.
During this lame-duck session, Republicans are showing young people their true colors. Take, for instance, the recent vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would federally protect same-sex and interracial marriage. Although the bill passed the House last week and is awaiting President Biden’s signature, 169 House Republicans voted against the bill — running directly against the interests of young people. And presumably, once Republicans take control in the new year, they will continue doing so.
But that’s why the value of having someone like Maxwell Frost, who understands young people because he is a young person himself, in Congress can’t be overstated. To start, Congressman-elect Frost will not be afraid to call out Republicans for all they are doing to make the lives of young people worse. And, unlike older elected officials, soon-to-be Congressman Frost’s words will resonate with younger people more because we view him as one of our peers. He shares our values and is our voice. He’ll be in the “room where it happens” and that’s a first for Gen Z.
The buck doesn’t stop there, though. Beyond calling out Republicans, Congressman-elect Frost has already shown that his unique experiences as a young person in politics will equip him with a unique perspective to raise attention and introduce legislation about issues that might otherwise be forgotten. For instance, last week, Congressman-elect Frost shared the following experience on Twitter: Just applied to an apartment in DC where I told the guy that my credit was really bad. He said I’d be fine. Got denied, lost the apartment, and the application fee.” He continues, “This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money.”
Ultimately, the experiences of many young peoplein politics simply don’t apply to the majority of elected officials who are older and already have resources and money. In that way, Congressman-elect Frost sees things that his other colleagues do not, allowing him to introduce legislation that wouldn’t normally be brought to the House floor for debate.
In addition to bringing new ideas to the floor, Congressman-elect Frost will be a key vote for Democrats against the backdrop of a Republican-controlled House. If Republicans intend to follow through on things like instituting what would effectively be a nationwide abortion ban or limiting contraception use, Congressman-elect Frost will be a critical voice and vote in keeping such a reality from happening.
Above all else, having young people like Maxwell Frost at the highest levels of government serves an important civics function too. For young people across the country, who may be uninterested in politics because they find it unrelatable or they don’t see adequate representation, Congressman-elect Frost changes the entire equation. Now, young people can look at the highest level of government and see one of their own. They will see someone who they undertsand on a personal level—someone who lives through many of the same experiences and gives them the attention they deserve. In other words, it permits young people to get involved and, eventually, run for office.
Fortunately, Congressman-elect Frost isn’t the only young person who won office this past election cycle. On the state and local levels, numerous young people beat their opponents. Take, for example, Nabeela Syed of Illinois, who will be the first Gen Z member of the Illinois State Legislature or Joe Vogel, who will be a delegate in Maryland. Just like Congressman-elect Frost at the federal level, the voices of young people in state and local offices will be equally powerful — in how they talk about issues, what issues they prioritize, as well as their impact on young people’s political engagement.
Make no mistake: Republicans in Congress and across the country have shown that they don’t care about young people or our lives. They would rather hold onto power and please figures like Donald Trump than listen to young people and act on our concerns. Luckily, though, there’s a growing number of young people throughout America who are running for and winning office. No matter what Republicans try to do, those young people will call them out for what they do and will actually govern. There’s nothing that can and will stop them. Gen Z has arrived and we should all find comfort in that.