I have been singing the praises of Millennials (First Globals) for over a decade because I strongly believe their major contribution will be to change and redirect the political debate from its current gridlock and hyperpartisanship to one of meaningful dialogue, creative play, and consensus decision making.

This powerful age cohort which is already close in size to the 78 million Baby Boomers (Woodstockers) has come of age in a United States that no longer seems capable of resolving structural problems to our economy, budget deficit spending, and a new role for the United States as a superpower. To them, government can be a good force but it is unsustainable. And to them, they see a future of mounting public debt compounded by the enormous private debt they have accumulated. But they also see a Washington DC that simply doesn’t work because of ideological parties and powerful interests that block real change.

 No less a figure than the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, warned of the dangers of factions in our public polity. It was his vision for the new Constitution that helped define a national community, where previously there had been just a loose coalition of states. There was no way to prevent special interests and the cultural/regional/economic coalitions that jelled into competing political parties, but the one thing that held the country together was, at least for some, the concept of a national community, a common interest. That has been a steady thread throughout our history and it has only broken down once in over two hundred years – the Civil War.

Today, the two parties are each dominated by ideologies that are both worn-out and mutually exclusive. The Democrats are locked in New Deal/Great Society liberalism which, while admirable for its heart and soul, is not fiscally sustainable. The Republicans are likewise caught up in outdated ideas (tax breaks for corporations, trickle-down economics) that simply do not address the needs of today. The GOP has nearly cleansed themselves of moderation and are dominated by wings of conservatism that not only don’t square with public opinion but are at war with each other. Meanwhile, the Democrats seem hell-bent on splitting between Neo-Populists and Wall Street moderates. Most importantly, where once there was a small area of concentricity of these two opposing circles (think Arthur Vandenberg, Everett Dirksen, Bob Michel, Bob Dole and Howard Baker on the right; Ted Kennedy, George Mitchell, Tip O’Neill, Mike Mansfield on the left), the concept of national community is almost gone. Purity over compromise and legislative success defines our two parties.

Enter the First Globals. As Joan Snyder Kohl and I have written in our book, First Globals: Understanding, Managing, and Unleashing the Potential of the Millennial Generation, this is a group that refreshingly:

n  Does not dislike government but does not see it as the solution of first resort

n  Has a strong streak of libertarianism while they passionately seek global and community channels for their volunteerism

n  Does not yell and scream but, instead favors rational and calm debate on issues

n  Believes in the ballot box

 Above all, they seek consensus- driven solutions and are impatient with ideological-driven obstruction and vertical-driven impasse. They are also notable for not yelling but looking for engagement that is quiet, rational, and results-oriented (as opposed to gotcha obstructionism from both sides).

First Globals are the antidote to the current gridlock and to the current players who dominate that world. This is not good news for either political party, although it is worse for the Republicans. Recent polling of First Globals by Zogby Analytics reveals the path forward they are likely to take. Back in the early 1970s, French intellectual Jean-Francois Revel wrote a bestseller about the 1968 European and American revolutionaries entitled Without Marx or Jesus. I think we are seeing a new group of First Globals as present-day revolutionaries who will proceed without Democrats and Republicans, without liberals or conservatives.

Even with a decline in support and enthusiasm among First Globals for President Obama, they are significantly more inclined to identify with the Democratic Party over the Republicans overall and on key issues. They are the only age cohort in our Zogby polls that provide a majority who identify themselves as Democrats (53%) and the lowest percentage who call themselves Republican. On several key issues tested, they tend to stake out a more progressive/liberal position than other age cohorts and are generally least likely to identify with the conservative/very conservative position. By 40% to 27%, they say they are on the left side of the spectrum on a safety net for the poor. By 38% to 26% they are more left than right on expanding health insurance to the uninsured. Only 33% take the conservative position on the death penalty and 35% are with the Right on immigration reform.  They are overwhelmingly liberal on gay marriage and pre-marital sex, yet evenly balanced on both the rights of gun owners and abortion.

There is a streak of libertarianism, the part of them that fears government intrusion into their private lives and opposes fiscal unsustainability, yet they are in favor of a government that can (and does) do good things. This is an age cohort who grew up with volunteerism and community service – something drummed into them by their parents and often mandated by their schools.

I think the old liberal/conservative dichotomy is simply irrelevant to them. They see it as stagnation and postponement of major decisions, while they are geared toward solving problems. It also does not work for them because they see a lack of a broader community interest in favor of ideological purity. Government does not mean the devil to them because it is necessary. It also doesn’t mean that government gets a free ride to spend. Government is ineffective because it is too complex, too much a labyrinth that fails to address crises in a streamlined, efficient manner.

We posed two statements to all voters in a recent poll.

Which comes closer to describing your overall philosophy on governing?


Statement A - the primary emphasis is on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the

power of government. The preference is for civil liberties with a limited government under the rule of law and an attitude of laissez-faire of the government toward the conduct

of private business. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, that government governs best which governs least. Statement

B - it strongly emphasizes the role of the community in defining and shaping individuals. Instead of individual uniqueness, the preference is to talk of where individuals share common values, moral culture, and commitments to each other. Government should protect positive rights like a guaranteed public education, a safe and secure environment, and the rule of law - but the real focus is less on passing laws and more on community members' responsibilities to each other.




First Globals




Statement A (Libertarian)






Statement B (Communitarian)







I think this is the debate of the future, the political and ideological legacy of First Globals. These are softer ideologies that have crossover potential. This is the First Globals’ conversation: an even balance between a genuine libertarianism that favors the individual’s rights across the board vs. the rights of the community to live in safety, security, fairness, and opportunity.  And this is the message for both existing parties – provide room for both and the willingness to calmly debate and compromise, or face extinction.