Swalwell Leading Democratic Effort to Reach Younger Voters
Rep. Eric Swalwell is leading a House Democratic group that will reach out to voters of his generation to get them more interested and active in the political process.
Swalwell, 34, heads the Future Forum. Eleven House Democrats under age 40 have been invited to participate. The new group was announced by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It will work out of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
According to Swalwell, younger people, who have not been voting in big numbers, don’t necessarily believe that politics is irrelevant. So many young people don’t feel invested in the political process or think it matters whether they get involved. We need to make sure that changes now, for the future of our country, states Swalwell.
“They look at congressional gridlock, and ask, ‘Why participate?’ My job is try to engage them, try to hear their voices, and work collaboratively with them,” said Swalwell.
Swalwell told The Independent that the group wants to listen to all younger people, not just Democrats. It is a generation that some call “millenials,” but Swalwell disagrees with that label.
“Millenials is not a name that we gave ourselves. We are a problem-solving generation. Trying to avoid a label is more our spirit,” said Swalwell. In coming up with the new name for his outreach group, he commented, “We’re gonna kind of crowdsource it among the members.
The emphasis for Future Forum is not so much on an age, as it is a mind-set, said Swalwell. The younger generation’s big issues include student loan debt, and finding a way to be entrepreneurs. The Forum will be listening to all concerns.
Student loan debts are weighing down people, said Swalwell. “They may take the first job offered to pay off the loan. It may not be the best job, or their passion. They may have to take a risk on starting a new business. Carrying a student loan debt affects buying a first home, getting married, having kids,” explained Swalwell.
Swalwell added that he owes $100,000 in student loan debt. He graduated from college, and attended law school. “I want to make sure that we are providing access (to college) to people who are qualified. They are working as hard as they can. I wake up in the morning thinking about my own debt,” said Swalwell.
Ways to solve the problem include government loans at the lowest possible interest rate, and free tuition in community colleges, an idea that President Obama put forth in his State of the Union message, said Swalwell.
Free community college would be important for many people, said Swalwell. Work force employees worry about their jobs. It’s important for them to upgrade their skills. The same is true for people in mid-career who see a need to improve themselves.
As Obama suggested, tax deductions for community colleges and grants for them could help make community college tuition-free, said Swalwell.
Swalwell will be looking at job incubators as a way to help create entrepreneurs. He has visited Innovate Pleasanton, which was launched last year to incubate new tech businesses. Swalwell is planning to visit New York, Boston and San Francisco tech incubators.