Millennials are on the MAP

October 29, 2021

The President & CEO of the Millennial Action Project, an organization aimed at connecting leaders from both political parties, Layla Zaidane speaks with hosts Anna Musky-Goldwin and Michael Kristoff to discuss the organization’s mission and accomplishments.

The President & CEO of the Millennial Action Project, an organization aimed at connecting leaders from both political parties, Layla Zaidane speaks with hosts Anna Musky-Goldwin and Michael Kristoff to discuss the organization’s mission and accomplishments. As the daughter of Moroccan immigrant parents, Zaidane became passionate about public service from a young age. She recalls her visits to Morocco as what encouraged her to engage with different cultures and learn from those who had different ideas and beliefs. Zaidane regards the terror attacks of 9/11 to be a catalyst in reimagining her identity, and led to her eventual career at MAP, in a position where she navigates across difference and institutional engagement. 9/11 possessed a particular uniqueness in the millennial psyche, perhaps most likely because it marked a beginning of consciousness for global and political affairs.

Another such shared generational experience is the Great Recession of the late 2000s. Zaidane even explains how the economic crisis was what caused her to enter such political work, since she was unable to then obtain a job in international politics as she’d once intended. 

The Congressional Future Caucus (CFC), says Zaidane, “seeks to capitalize on this shared generational identity.” Despite having different upbringings and perspectives, generational identity carries the power to unite policymakers across the aisle. The CFC encourages members to build relationships not built on ideological grounds, but generational ones, before training them to build coalitions, tackle issues, and ultimately pass legislation that seeks to solve problems that will affect young people. Younger lawmakers have a personal interest in such long-term legislation, because they themselves will live to see the consequences of its implementation. 

Zaidane breaks down Congress’s methods of solving problems as a “cable versus Netflix” analogy. Young politicians are looking for a “Netflix”-style of solutions, wherein they are innovatively able to pick and choose where different aspects of solutions will come from. This becomes increasingly important as “Independent” becomes a growing political affiliation in the United States. And with new voters from an even younger generation, Gen Z, who are more comfortable with not labeling ideas, post-partisan solutions gain even more traction.

A great example of an issue they prioritize being reflected in young lawmakers is climate change. In both the Congressional Future Caucus and the State Future Caucus Network, it is no longer considered to be a partisan issue to insist that action is needed on behalf of curbing climate change. In fact, four years ago, conservative Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Miami launched the Climate Solutions Caucus. It was dubbed a “Noah’s Ark” caucus because in order to join, members of Congress needed another member across the aisle to join with them. This opened an important line of communication that allowed the drafting of bipartisan legislation related to climate change. 

Of course, there is also the question of how bipartisan groups tackle issues that have a reputation of dividing Congress members across party lines. Zaidane explains the importance of trust in such situations. MAP’s goals are to help Congress members recognize their shared interests and open lines of communication and trust. For example, she says, we can look at the State Future Caucus of Arkansas, a majority conservative state. Rising numbers of teen pregnancies led Rep. Aaron Pilkington, MAP’s  Arkansas Future Caucus Co-chair, to pass a bill allowing teens access to contraceptives. Rep. Pilkington’s Democratic counterpart in the Future Caucus, Rep. Jamie Scott, voted in favor of the bill. Here, instead of arguing about decision of abortion, legislators worked together to target the cause of the issue. 

Also mentioned in the podcast was the record number of women who are now in office, in both political parties. Zaidane affirms that female political leaders embody the efforts towards consensus and are more willing to negotiate to see results. They do also tend to pay more attention to minority voices, an important aspect of working within a democracy. The obstacles that women face in obtaining these roles, she says, will only be brought down more as more women join political leadership positions. On a very positive note, millennials becoming involved in such positions have risen 266% in the past election cycle. Zaidane says that MAP’s next steps are encouraging these people to stay in their positions, helping them through work that can often be overwhelming and relentless. 

Zaidane concludes the podcast with her belief that the biggest challenge that the United States faces is “balancing the need for long term problem solving with the urgency of the problems that need to be addressed today.” This means fostering a culture that is empathetic and inclusive of different perspectives while acknowledging that some policy issues need to be addressed immediately in order to invest in a better future for younger generations. Sustaining this movement and building momentum are key parts of coming up with solutions to this challenge in the long run. 

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Rep. Sara Jacobs


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