Op-Ed: Why Millennials Can Make a Difference by Joining the New Kentucky Project
If the 2015 and 2016 political climate in Kentucky and elsewhere in the country has taught us anything, it’s that people are tired of the status quo. They want someone -- or some party -- to stop the political posturing and partisan bickering, to be honest with them, and to propose realistic solutions to the important issues facing our families and our communities.
Beginning with Gov. Matt Bevin and later with presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, support for these iconoclastic candidates show that many Kentuckians have become fatigued by the two-party system and everything for which it stands.
This fatigue exists on both sides of the aisle, whether it’s Mitch McConnell’s leadership of the Kentucky Republican Party or political nepotism that has helped create a generation of a two-family dynasties in the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Recent studies have shown that Kentucky is one of the worst states in the nation for Millennials. In a study that looked at accessibility of resources typically important to young people -- such as jobs, affordable housing and tuition, quality nightlife and easily accessible Internet – Kentucky ranked 42 out of 50 states.
With more than 48 percent of Millennials now identifying themselves as Independents, a new generation of leaders seem poised to abandon the traditional two-party system, which many people think has led to the political gridlock in Washington and Frankfort. Now is the time for the newest generation of voters to their voices heard by making important changes to the political system on a grassroots level.
However, there are obstacles to overcome. While Millennials are roughly equal to Baby Boomers in terms of voting eligible in the United States, Millennials don’t turn out to vote. Only 46 percent of Millennials eligible to vote turn out to vote compared to 69 percent of eligible Baby Boomers who vote. How can the next generation of leaders lead when they don’t turn out to vote?
The New Kentucky Project -- a new nonprofit organization founded by former State Auditor Adam Edelen and Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones and announced to the public last week -- hopes to reverse that trend. NKP seeks to move Kentucky forward and modernize our state through a variety of different policy initiatives by building consensus through discussion and education regardless of party affiliation.
If we want to attract young talent to Kentucky and keep our best and brightest from fleeing our state, we must move forward with a new paradigm. The New Kentucky Project is a chance for Millennials – and the many other Kentuckians who are disgusted with the current political reality -- to have our voices heard in Frankfort. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left, in the middle, or on right side of political aisle, what matters most is that we find a way to work together to make Kentucky the best version of itself.
It is my hope that the New Kentucky Project will bring much needed new life and energy to our Commonwealth. NKP board members and county coordinators consist primarily of young men and women who are both politically engaged but personally enraged by what we see happening in our state and our country. We truly believe that we can set aside partisan politics and ideological differences and work together to make serious changes in our state.
We recognize the importance of open dialogue – among people of all political persuasions and various walks of life –if we are to make serious improvements in our communities. We want to make a difference for the right reason, not for a paycheck.
Our goal is to engage people in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties in this effort. If Millennials will participate in the New Kentucky Project, we can bring about real change in our communities and in our state. Wouldn’t be great if Kentucky could be a national leader in some area for once?
Kevin Burton, the Boone County coordinator for the New Kentucky Project, is managing member of Election Strategy Group, LLC.
Photos: Matt Jones and Adam Edelen, founders of the New Kentucky Project (via Facebook)