By Maxwell Tani / Business Insider
Democrats are launching an outside group seeking to help address economic challenges facing millennials who have become disconnected from politics.
On Wednesday, Democratic leaders announced the formation of the Future Forum Foundation in hopes of bolstering the work of the House Future Forum caucus, a group of the youngest Democratic members of Congress.
The nonprofit group, chaired by former Rep. Patrick Murphy of Florida, will research the changing nature of work in the so-called gig-economy as well as the thorny issues posed by automation, artificial intelligence, and the growing burden of student debt.
The organization is intended to serve a series of roles — part research group, part informal hub between businesses and Democratic legislators in Congress.
The foundation has begun talks with organizations and businesses to advocate public policies and business practices that provide financial stability for young Americans.
Murphy said the foundation would help strengthen the existing House caucus, which he believes is a source of fresh leadership in the party, by studying economic issues facing millennials and in some cases developing progressive, center-left, and bipartisan policies that can appeal directly to young Americans.
“I think a big part of what needs to happen across the board is we need some fresh blood, we need people, new energy,” Murphy told Business Insider.
“I think groups like this will help — new leaders will rise from this. When there is new blood and new leadership I think some folks will come from this group.”
The foundation is hosting its kickoff event Wednesday in Washington, DC, bringing together 20 businesses that employ and serve a largely millennial audience.
Many younger Democratic politicians have been keenly aware of the growing disillusionment with political parties among young voters who largely vote Democratic but are unreliable at the ballot box and approach Democratic candidates warily.
According to the US Census Bureau, in the 2016 election, people ages 18 to 29 voted at a slightly higher rate than they did in 2012, though young voters still voted at lower rates than any other age cohort.
But while President Barack Obama won 60% of millennials to Mitt Romney’s 37% in 2012, Hillary Clinton won 55% of millennial voters to Donald Trump’s 37%, meaning roughly one in 10 voted for third-party candidates like Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, or other write-in candidates.
Also last year, nearly as many millennials identified as nonpartisan as those who identified as Democrats.
The House Future Forum caucus has ramped up its activity of late, with some Democrats grumbling that part of the party’s problem may lie in its lack of credentialed young leaders.
Formed in 2014, the 26-member House Future Forum added several members to its ranks following the 2016 election and, according to its chair, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, launched a separate campaign arm earlier this year to back Future Forum candidates for reelection.
Swalwell said the caucus had visited tech incubators, breweries, community colleges, and other locations where millennials tend to congregate in 40 cities, meeting with students and new employees and millennial-focused businesses with the goal of identifying issues facing young Americans.
“This Swiss army knife is getting more and more tools to help young people,” Swalwell said of the new foundation. “That shows that young leaders are on the rise in and out of Congress.”
Members of the caucus said the move could help bolster the Future Forum’s agenda by providing better information, data, and private-sector connections and examples for lawmakers without the time or resources to get that themselves.
“The research arm is critically important,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida said. “We need the best information, the best data we have on an issue.”
Since Patrick Murphy’s loss in November, some Democrats have speculated about his political future. He has continued raising money for his political action campaign despite no concrete plans to seek another office — he told Business Insider he would be dedicating a significant portion of his time to getting the foundation started and hiring a staff.
Members were pleased with Murphy’s leadership, and several said they were pleased to see him involved in politics again.
“I loved working with Patrick here — he had a lot of good ideas and things to share,” Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas said. “I’d like to see him get back into the role of being a representative, whether it’s in the House, Senate, or the governor’s mansion in Florida, or wherever that may be.”
Attempting to engage millennials in politics and develop policy solutions that will motivate young voters has been one source of Democratic energy in the months since Trump’s victory.
Earlier this month, two Silicon Valley billionaires, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus, launched Win The Future, a group geared toward pushing primarily Democratic lawmakers to aggressively pursue millennial-friendly policy positions.
And while the effort exposed the danger of pandering to young voters after it immediately sparked a firestorm of criticism in various media outlets and on social media, House Democrats are hoping that having additional outside support can help bring the caucus’ work increased attention.
To reach young Americans, Veasey said, “we need to get even more exposure.” He continued: “Being able to reach out to these millennials has been great, but we don’t have the resources nor the time to do as much as we can, and I think that really getting more members of Congress engaged, getting more people to reach out to millennials on their terms is very important.”
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