As the 6th District race plays out before us on television, the phone and mailbox, we see a clash of generations. Jon Ossoff, a 30 year-old millennial vs. Karen Handel, a 55 year-old baby boomer. My guess is the 6th District, home to Newt, Johnny, and Tom, is still solidly God and Country and that Karen Handel will soon be on her way to Washington.
Georgia’s 6th District, anchored by East Cobb, is a place where conservative values have flourished. Dobbins Air Force Base and Lockheed remind people every day that our Air Force is second to none and protects our way of life and our national interests all over the world.
Evangelical and Catholic churches, prominent non-profits and civic clubs are on every corner it seems. And Cobb and Fulton counties are home to the largest voting block of GOP in the state.
Sure, the culture is changing, and young people are expressing their views. But can a place as conservative as Georgia’s 6th District change this quickly? I don’t think so.
Before I was elected to the Georgia Public Service Commission, I worked with millennials everyday. When I started TeenPact in 1994 at the Georgia Capitol, my mission was to develop a passion for citizenship and justice in today’s youth.
Since then, tens of thousands of students, mostly millennials, from ages 8 to 18 have spent a week or more at their state capitol in 42 states in this youth program I started. They have met governors, state senators, state reps, media, and even interviewed lobbyists—to see how it all works. They’ve hopefully come home to tell their parents that anyone could serve in a state legislature. And that was exactly my goal: to make politics, public policy and journalism understandable, even attainable, and to remind them, that faith, family and liberty are paramount to the American way of life.
As these millennials grow up, have families and start pay ing taxes, the GOP Platform of smaller government and lower taxes looks better and better.
Why is this important? Because millenials, those born between 1980 and 1994, make up the age demographic between 23 and 37 today, a very large block of voters totaling almost 83 million. Half of millennials are now parents and their views on life are evolving. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is one of those.
Compare millennials to the group coming behind them—Gen Z. These kids born 1995 to 2012 are at 73 million, and while often mistaken for millennials, are very different.
According to generational expert David Stillman, millennials brought up by baby boomers learned that if everyone pitches in, we can all win. Gen Z'ers were brought up by Gen X'ers who hate the idea of participation trophies for Little League. They prefer to work independently rather than to collaborate, and they favor the vanishing posts of Snapchat instead of the millennials’ Instagram public posts for all to see.
Millennials are old enough to remember life before smart phones and a wi-fi cloud, but Gen Zers are tech savvy and digital junkies. Gen Zers live and work online, and their politics are being shaped digitally as well.
So where will these two voting blocs take our country? Can they make an impact in Georgia’s 6thDistrict election?
I believe that politics is downstream from culture, that elected officials are merely a reflection of the electorate most of the time. Therefore, the values and priorities of these two generations will determine how public policy in the United States is shaped over the next 40 years.
Their views on family, marriage, the workplace, privacy, healthcare, and religion will shape state and federal laws for years to come.
When I see students at University of California Berkeley setting fires, breaking glass, and rioting over a campus speaker, it reminds me what is at stake. When I see these two demographics trending away from church and religion, I wonder what new values are displacing those held by their parents and grandparents. And when I realize that these two generations have been raised in a sexually charged culture where anything goes and abortion has become a form of birth control, I wonder where that might lead us as a society.
Like everyone reading this, I have my set of values and opinions on how I want the Georgia and America of the future to look. But it is the schools, universities, churches, peer groups, media, and especially the parents that will shape the citizens and voters of the future. Our civilization in the United States is built on the bedrock of liberty, religious freedom, and the pursuit of the American dream.
That is a message that the 6th District has believed for decades now, and Karen Handel is reminding voters why that matters. This race will go to Handel, the baby boomer, with her core conservative 6th District values, and her record of competence and service excellence.