Gen Z's Advice for Future American Presidential Candidates

Op-ed

2020 has been a train racing off the rails. From the Coronavirus outbreak to the presidential election, this year did not let us catch a breath.

Maybe it was the endless quarantine or President Trump's mishandling of Black Lives Matter protests and the virus; either way, Gen Z (those of us under the age of 23), took over the stage and drowned the Trump administration with their massive protests for all different kinds of social issues.

Gen Z's Take on Politics

One of the most notable feats Gen Z achieved this year was when a number of K-Pop fans and other teens on TikTok signed up for a Trump rally without showing up, leaving hundreds of seats empty and a hungry press to entertain. Then, we were introduced to the spotlight—as the most outspoken and connected generation.

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Gen Z will soon become a prominent force for the presidential voting population, and their support would surely influence the voting landscape of America. So how exactly does a presidential candidate capture the hearts of millions of Gen Z?

I believe there are two key features that Gen Z wants in their presidents.

The first is genuineness, the sincere desire to fix pressing issues. Another is the willingness to take what we say seriously and turn those into actions.

On Bernie Sanders

An adored presidential candidate by Gen Z is Bernie Sanders.

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His unwavering political stand on important issues like racism, free education, and equal rights, is what made him stand apart from the other candidates in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections. Instead of conforming to what was politically correct, he fought hard for what he believed in despite the discouragements. I believe photos of him getting arrested during the 1963 civil rights movement and his bills from the beginning of his political career scream genuineness.

A Bernie supporter from Albany, New York, said, “Bernie spoke about his policies in a passionate and unbridled way that really gave an essence of trustworthiness like he wasn't putting up any sort of front that so many politicians do.”

On Joe Biden

A sharp contrast, in my opinion, would be Joe Biden, the current President-Elect who notoriously wrote the 1994 crime bill that targeted and harmed the black community.

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It was a politically strategic thing to do back then. But, as the political climate changed, he switched his opinion swiftly to conform to the new politically correct public sentiment; the age of equal rights for all.

If Gen Z voters have these two candidates (Bernie Sanders vs. Joe Biden) placed in front of them, who do you think they would vote for?

I believe they would favor Sanders more because his actions over the years show a heartwarming sincerity and dedication to his causes.

A Gen Z Bernie supporter from Emma Willard School, an all-girls private boarding school in New York, said, “I think it shouldn't just be about appealing to voters. A person running for president should have a genuine desire and plan to fix pressing issues.”

Another issue for Gen Z voters is that they feel like politicians are not taking them seriously unless it's an urgent time when they need to appeal to younger voters. It creates a disillusionment that they think their presidential candidate doesn't care about them which impacts the younger voters' turnout rate.

On AOC

Another politician adored by Gen Z is AOC, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gen Z often recognizes that she is one of the few politicians these days who are willing to talk to them instead of talk at them.

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When a youth activist group named the Sunrise Movement went to talk to Nancy Pelosi in the House about climate change in 2018, AOC joined the protesters and eventually laid the groundwork for The Green New Deal. She later proposed the bill with Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, which calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy.

The bill doesn't just help with climate change but tackles and helps with societal problems like economic inequality and racial injustice.

AOC's bill gave the Republican Party months of headaches, and she became Fox New’s favorite criticism topic. Still, she gained a considerable amount of attention from Gen Z and Millennials. After seeing too many white male politicians who are only sweet talkers with no actions, it is refreshing for Gen Z to have a minority congresswoman who listened to them.

Although she is not planning to run for president at the moment, her actions reflected so much sincerity and seriousness towards Gen Z's voices that it will earn her overwhelming Gen Z support if she ever decides to run.

An Open Letter

So dear future U.S. presidential candidates, you shouldn't have to worry about Gen Z votes if your political footsteps over the years show actual sincerity and dedication towards causes like climate change, systematic racism, or immigration reform.

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You've already got us.

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Jenny Rong

Jenny Rong is a junior from Hong Kong who studies in New York. She loves to advocate for marginalized groups through writing. She enjoys spending her time finding new music, painting, and binge-watching Netflix.