It’s Not Democratic Policies That Are Lacking; It’s Their Narrative


The narratives that politicians craft affect how their constituents vote. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Members of Gen Z are dissatisfied with today’s politicians. It is not because the youth are ambivalent about the country’s current state of affairs. Rather, it is quite the opposite. Around 68% of Gen Z adults consume news from social media weekly. This dissatisfaction with politicians isn’t caused by a lack of concern for politics, as members of Gen Z have participated in and helped lead many political movements, such as the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, March for Our Lives movement in 2018 and numerous climate change protests. Gen Z voted at historic levels during the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election. According to the Harvard Youth, around 40% of Gen Z voters are expected to vote in this week’s midterms, and a majority want to retain a democratic congress. Yet Gen Z voters gave President Biden a 39% approval rating. So, if Gen Z is more liberal, why are they dissatisfied with a Democratic government?

The answer lies in how we perceive the world’s current state. When watching the news or scrolling through social media, the state of the nation appears broken. Roe v. Wade was overturned, which reversed the rights of millions of young women throughout the country. The cost of living has dramatically risen throughout the country, making everything more difficult for the lives of millions. The war in Ukraine has further exacerbated global instability. COVID-19 still lurks in everyone’s subconscious. “Trumpism” seems to be as popular as ever and has now morphed into an election-denying form. Don’t forget the climate crisis, mass shootings and a seemingly unending list of problems. 

These issues have been talked about endlessly by members of Gen Z, yet many feel that nothing has been done to change them. I witness this sentiment whenever I speak to my friends about President Joe Biden. I don’t think I have ever heard him receive more than faint-hearted praise during these conversations. Peers will say he’s too old and doesn’t do enough on issues currently affecting the country. Although this is an anecdotal story, I believe it speaks to something much deeper. 

One of the most powerful tools in politics is narrative. The narratives that politicians, media sources and even ourselves create about elections affect how we vote. When Biden was running for president in 2020, he called it “a battle for the soul of the nation.” He made the narrative of voting for him equal to a vote against former president Donald Trump. 

Yet, simultaneously, Biden robbed himself of the opportunity to express to Gen Z why his platform was worth voting for. Gen Z did exactly what Biden suggested: voted for him and justified it as a vote against Trump. It is a shame that Biden did not do more to promote his platform to youth, since it was described at the time by prominent Justice Democrat Waleed Shahid as “the most progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in the modern history of the party.” 

Since Biden was elected, the Democrats have passed laws such as the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Gun Reform Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. Hidden beneath these bland names are policies that dramatically reduced child hunger, ended the boyfriend loophole and will reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 41% by 2030. Though all these plans have been enacted, the narrative that Gen Z still believes is that Biden is old and ineffective. As a result, most members of Gen Z remain dissatisfied with the Democrats.

When members of Gen Z are made aware of the laws that democrats have passed, it is likely that they overwhelmingly support them. Gen Z is excited by the big ideas that politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represent. The problem isn’t that Democrats like Biden don’t have big ideas. It’s that they are bad at communicating these ideas to Gen Z. Democrats need to make a more aggressive attempt to control the narrative and get rid of the “sleepy Joe” story. If Democrats want to do well in future elections, they will have to try to reach out to Gen Z properly and give them an exciting narrative to vote for. 

Evan McManus, FCRH ’25, is a political science major from Dover, Mass.