Of all the polling that has come out regarding Americans’ eagerness for a third candidate in the Presidential race, one figure stands out: a whopping 91% of Millennials (here considered as voters under 29) want a third candidate on the ballot.
Ninety-one percent: those types of figures don’t come easily. In fact, it’s even higher than the 81 percent of Millennials who want more flexibility in choosing their work hours and the 88 percent who want a more social, collegial environment at work, according to MTV’s “No Collar Jobs” survey. Millennials, who have grown up with the financial crisis and a sluggish economy with often limited opportunities see that there is something very wrong with our current political and economic system and don’t understand why our political leaders can’t work to fix it.
The push for a third candidate is already strong with 58 percent of polled voters dissatisfied with the current group of Presidential candidate and 65 percent willing to support a candidate other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. With the Millennials so strongly demanding change, the case becomes overwhelming. Voters this year have sought new leadership, but for the system to have offered up two candidates who are viewed unfavorably by over half the electorate shows that a series of divisive, nasty primaries have not satisfied the desire not merely for change, but for effective, positive change. Trump’s unfavorables are becoming better known; as for Clinton, even 49 percent of women view her unfavorably. This is a political environment ripe for change and waiting for someone to seize the opportunity.
Here’s where the Millennials come in and why they are so important.
There’s been a huge spate of articles in the business press in the last several years about the impact of Millennials, a tech-enabled generation with very different expectations for work, on the workforce. All around the country, businesses are adapting to the needs and desires of their Millennial employees. Companies are redesigning office spaces. One design company notes that “[p]erimeter offices are disappearing, floor plans are opening up, and trendy breakout areas and cafés are replacing the rigid, closed layouts of the past.” (Does this sound like a good analogy to the current political system?) Even law firms are joining the trend.
And it’s not just where they work, but how they work: old, rigid performance management systems are changing in favor of more frequent conversations and more honest, regular feedback (exactly what Americans are not getting from their political leadership right now).
American business has recognized the importance of Millennials and the need to resdesign old, tired systems. And the political system should be next. If even General Electric – a company founded in the nineteenth century – can manage to end its “rank and yank” performance management system under pressure from younger workers, then purpose the two major political parties might start thinking of themselves as dinosaurs – and make necessary changes before the asteroid hits.
But they haven’t so far in 2016. So in this very fluid political environment in which voters are showing impatience with structures and politicians that do not improve their daily lives, what if there were a third candidate? It almost doesn’t matter who that person is, so long as he or she is seen to be a person of integrity, a fresh face with a record of accomplishment who will actually listen to ordinary people and act on their concerns.
So imagine someone like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska – born in 1972, a youthful father who previously served as a college president and is thus familiar with the concerns of younger Americans (and their parents). A health care expert, he has also worked on agriculture and homeland security issues. Perhaps most important in this highly charged year, he was among the first in Congress to take a strong stand against Donald Trump, declaring him unfit for the White House, not least because of Trump’s shocking hesitation to condemn the Ku Klux Klan.
Polls between the two current (and highly disliked) candidates show a tight race. A third candidate would shake up the race. And wouldn’t it be something if an energized youth vote helped tip the outcome this year?
If we want to turn voters’ frustration and anger with the current system into something constructive, a third candidate is the best way forward. Prospective candidates, are you listening? The opportunity is there – and the time is now.