David and Jack Cahn: When Millennials Rule

Jun 7, 2016 by


An Interview with David and Jack Cahn: When Millennials Rule

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) First of all, tell our readers about yourselves and your book.

We are identical twins from New York City (you can try to guess which twin is which!). We first got interested in politics in high school, when we were recruited to knock on doors and make calls for a local congressional campaign. We had a great time doing that, so much so that decided to spend the following four years traveling all across the country – from Kentucky, to Minnesota, to Illinois – as national circuit debaters and leaders of the Junior State. This formative experience taught us a tremendous amount about public policy and gave us a front row seats as young people began forming their political opinions

Starting in 2012, we began sharing our experiences on the Huffington Post and digging deeper into where millennials are leading America in terms of public policy. Quickly, the evidence began to mount that millennial voters are neither Democrats nor Republicans – there are reinventing political engagement to meet their own needs. That’s when the media started to obsess over millennials and we decided to write When Millennials Rule. The book is the culmination of our journey all across America and talking with more than 10,000 young people about the “millennial platform.” It’s the first manifesto about what young people believe and why.

2) From what I hear there are a bunch of contradictions these millennials have – tell us about one.

Yes, definitely, that’s a narrative we hear a lot. The media tends to think our views are incoherent. For example, a majority of young people supports the Keystone Pipeline, but opposes hydraulic fracking. Traditionally, politicians either support command and control style regulations (Democrats) or deny global warming (Republicans). So people get really confused when millennials don’t fall into either camp. They call it a contradiction.

It turns out, when it comes to environmental policy, young voters prefer market-oriented policies. They believe global warming is real – but they want jobs. So they take policies from both sides and develop nuanced views that are able to balance their needs and desires.  Michelle Diggles, a senior policy advisor at the think tank Third Way, calls this an “a la carte” worldview as compared with the “pre fixe” menus offered by Democrats and Republicans. She nailed it.

3) Let’s talk gun control- there seems to be this thing called the Constitution- while on the other hand, you have mentally ill people shooting up movie theatres, killing children in public schools-. How do these millenials reconcile these things?

Gun control is another good example. Liberals respond to these events and they say, let’s take away guns. The bill that everyone on the left likes to throw around is the federal assault weapons ban. Democrats say that banning military-grade weapons will reduce shootings. But like you say, there’s this thing called the Constitution. And lots of young people recognize that – so much so, that they oppose gun bans by the largest margin of any demographic. Most people don’t know that. In fact, two thirds of millennials have considered owning a gun in the future.

Now on the flip side, millennials are caught in the crossfire of gun violence. One in five millennials has seen a shooting and gun violence is a leading cause of death for 18-29 year-olds. So millennials want to stop criminals from getting guns. They say that they want “reasonable restrictions” on gun ownership. We should implement universal background checks, pass laws that ban former criminals/mentally ill individuals from buying weapons, and crack down on illegal gun dealers. For millennial voters, they key is cracking down on crime without violating the Constitution.

4) Their goals, and objectives—are they realistic- rational, reasonable or illogical?

We call them “radical realists.” The thesis of our book is that young people unify around common sense solutions to challenging political questions. Their radical in the sense that they take personal responsibility for addressing tough political challenges, but realistic in that they favor compromise over partisan warfare.

This is a really good thing. We’re optimistic that young people are going to usher in an era of reform. Just like young people have replaced hotels with AirBNB, television with Netflix, and taxis with Uber, they are going to redefine politics in a positive way. Young voters are going to force politicians to start having more practical conversations – about how we can work together to make America a safer and more prosperous nation.

5) In perusing your press release- I keep thinking “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” Does this describe the millennials?

Yes, but that’s a good thing. The Boomer mindset is, either you are a Democrat or a Republican. Either you’re for gun control, or you’re against gun control. Boomers are confused by millennials because we think we can do both – we can have our cake and eat it too, so to speak. But I think we can! We can be the most pro-gun generation in America and the most pro-gun reform. Those are compatible views. Guns aren’t bad, but we need to stop criminals from getting access to them. There’s nothing contradictory about that.

6) Illegal aliens, illegal immigrants—what seems to be their stance or are they ” wishy washy ” about that also?

No, there’s really not that much nuance here. Millennials are definitely in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. In a large part, this is due to demographics. Public schools today are majority minority. 81% of young people support a pathway to citizenship. That doesn’t mean young people want open borders. A full 62 percent of young people believes that stronger border protection should either be America’s top immigration priority, or an equal priority to creating a “path to citizenship.”

7) Money—do they have any inkling as to what a budget is- and what happens when you are spending more than you are taking in?

This is a fair question and I want to give you the fair answer – which is no. Outside of the policy types, people don’t really talk about budgets or their consequences. Is this a bad thing? Probably. It means young people don’t answer take into consideration the full budgetary impacts of their decisions. The same can be said for most Democrats and Republicans, though, so I’m not sure there’s anything distinguishing millennials from Boomers here. The big difference is probably on where government spending should go, not on how much of it there should be.

8) Are the vast majority of millenials, Demoncrat, Republican, Liberal, conservative or do they not affiliate with any person or party ?

Half of all young people identify as being politically independent. The rest are divided between Democrats and Republicans. Millennials reject political parties as a means of change – many young people, even those who do affiliate with parties, believe that political parties are impediments to political change, not the solution. This makes millennials swing voters capable of being kingmakers in close races, especially now that millennials are the biggest voting block in America. It also means that politicians are going to start having to talk about real policy to win millennial votes; naked appeals to ideology won’t cut it anymore.

9) Upcoming election—another 4 years of stagnant economic growth? Or a fresh start on dealing with problems from another perspective—OR how do the millenials see it?

Millennials see this election as a choice between two evils. Hillary is the anti-millennial candidate. Millennials value authenticity, optimism and tolerance of diversity. Hillary embodies none of these core values. On the flip side, Trump is a loose cannon; he marginalizes Muslims, Hispanics, and blacks. This rhetoric is a deal-breaker for many millennials who will not vote for a racist candidate. At the end of the day, we think millennials – liberal and conservative – are going to begrudgingly vote for Hillary Clinton.

10) What have I neglected to ask?

I think you covered all the bases. Thanks for inviting us to interview today! Your readers can learn more about our book at WhenMillennialsRule.com.

The photo was taken by Isabella Cuan.

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