Young People Need to Run for Office (But Need a Few Fixes First)
In recent weeks, The country has turned its focus on the Kansas Gubernatorial Race. The state of Kansas currently has no age limit for candidates for gubernatorial candidates and in this election cycle, six teenargers are using that loophole to their advantage. Six teenagers, some not even old enough to vote, are running for governor of Kansas; if one is victorious he would be the youngest governor in the United States. At first glance, this seems comical. Given that in most states a sixteen year old can’t run, very few are taking the issue seriously. The candidates, however, do not believe their lofty goal is by any means a joke. Current candidate Joseph Tutera, age 16, strongly believes in his mission to run for Governor claiming on his website “the incumbents in the government have not done what’s needed, and that’s why I am running.” The mission of many of these young candidates seems to be a simple one: inspire young people to get involved in politics. There still remain some major roadblocks for these determined teenage candidates.
In Kansas, one has to have voted in the last Gubernatorial election, which was 2014, in order to participate in the debates. Since none of the candidates are 18 and thus not able to vote, they will not be able to participate in any of the debates which republican candidate Tyler Ruzich, age 17, says is incredibly unfair. “The Republican Party, when it comes to young people, is in crisis,” says Ruzich, who is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and party reform. When asked where the motivation comes from for these young teens to run, their answers differ. Candidate Aaron Coleman, on his Facebook page says “we (young people) need to not start the fire, but be the firefighters” in a video relaying the main points of his campaign. When asked about his inspiration to run for public office Coleman referenced how the former satirical presidential candidate DeezNuts, encouraged him to seek a bid for the Gubernatorial race. “ Our generation is really getting screwed over so bad,” says Coleman when asked about his position on youth issues. Although all of these teens have ambitious goals, they receive limited respect from in-state politicians, the press, and voters and there are two reasons for that: a lack of professionalism and experience.
In America’s modern political stage, we are seeing that anyone can truly run for office; take a look at the oval office if an example does not come to mind immediately. Young people in America should and must run for office, but they must do it with the same level of maturity and commitment as any other adult candidate running. The issue with many young people seeking bids is not due to their age, but due to the sheer lack of professionalism, experience, and at times commitment to the office they intend to serve. If one cannot vote in an election yet run for office, there is a fundamental flaw in the system of government since one making decisions is not representing the voting populace. Although lowering the age to run to 18 is logical given if one can vote, one should be able to serve, there are many valid questions to be asked about experience especially when none of these candidates running have finished high school.
There are many questions which need to be asked about the level of sincerity these individuals have about commiting to elected office. Given that Aaron Coleman referenced his inspiration came from a fake candidate from the 2016 election and his campaign site is quite unpolished, there seems to be very little legitimacy which can be expected from him as a candidate. There is something to be said about the importance of professionalism, and many of these teens simply do not carry themselves in such a manner. Although many young people in politics use this sort of role as a publicity stunt, there are many young politicians in the millenial and generation Z age demographic who are truly shaking things up. Whether it be in the North Carolina General Assembly with young leaders like Chaz Beasley leading the charge on forming committees to discuss youth issues, to Representative Joe Kennedy III giving the Democratic rebuttal for the State of the Union Address, there are young people who are changing the game of politics in this country. Joking about the office like many of these teens running in Kansas,however, is not a positive image for millenials and young people given that there is a lack of key experience and professional mannerism which is portrayed.
Although Americans following the Kansas Gubernatorial race can see the sheer humor in those running, there is also a fundamental flaw in the institutions which allow people to be taken less seriously if they consider running for office. In the state of Kansas, not only are there no age restrictions on running for office, but one can register their dog to run for office, which was attempted. A teenager from Lancaster, Pennsylvania entered the race in Kansas after a man entered his dog Angus into the race because it was permitted by state law. These are fundamental flaws within not only the legal system of the state but with the nature of how lax political races have become today. Races continue to have less experience, more humor and satire, and less focus on problems affecting citizens. Ultimately, if a change is made in the institutional and legal structure, there will be limited issues with uncommitted candidates running for office.
At a point where our government has gone off the rails, it is time for many smart and talented young people to take the reigns of American politics. The most important issue which young candidates must focus on is building a strong sense of professionalism, developing a well thought out platform which provides solutions to real problems, and ensuring they bring some level of experience to the table. Along with this, state institutions and laws must be updated to ensure that all basis’ are covered including being able to vote in elections before putting in a bid for running for office. Millenials have a pivotal role to play in American politics; now is not the time to throw in the towel on talented, young individuals because of an anomaly.