The Pew Research Center released a new survey on millennials this week, which showed that 50 percent of the much maligned generation considers itself politically independent.
That's a reductive way to look at their political leanings -- millennials are also much more likely to support a progressive treatment of economic and social issues. Sixty percent of millennials voted for Obama in 2012. But, if Republican candidates started talking in a way that resonated with millennials, the data seem to suggest that they'd be willing to change up their voting patterns a bit.
And both parties have tried very hard to sound, well, millennial from time to time. In fact, based on the Sunlight Foundation's database of House and Senate floor debate transcripts, legislators have been trying to do their best hipster impressions for over a decade, with limited success.
Although members of Congress have often used some of the words most affiliated with people aged 18-32 (there is limited evidence that millennials use these words), it's clear from how they deploy them that they don't quite get it yet. Best start reading the New York Times' Sunday Styles section in earnest and try again if you want to peel the stereotypical twentysomething away from their complete disinterest in both political parties. Here is a sample of times our elected officials tried to look hip (or accidentally partook in millennial folk customs).
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), June 28, 2007: "Mike Queen, a local metal worker who is trying to grow his artisanal blacksmithing business, agrees. 'I'm enthused about it,' says Queen, who employs several people laid off from local plants. 'It's good for the community. There's so many small towns in the country that seem like they're dying.'"
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), June 21, 2010: In honor of the city's 100th anniversary, community leaders have organized a parade, a beard contest, a street dance, and many other fun and exciting events.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), July 6, 2011: "In 1989, Mustard Seed Market relocated to a much larger space, which included a 60 seat restaurant and an even larger selection of natural foods. Responding to customers’ requests, the Nabors added a new fresh seafood case, an antibiotic-and-cage-free poultry case, and a small meat department. In 1992, they began offering a Monday night educational program, which consisted of cooking classes and lectures related to natural health."
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), June 24, 2010: "People will call me whatever they want to call me."
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), "September 29, 2009: My office was able to get in touch with him using Facebook, a networking website, and inform him of the plans to make his idea a reality with this resolution. He is very supportive of this legislation."
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), June 6, 2006: "riding exclusively fixed-gear bicycles"
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), February 29, 2012: "President Obama has traded in the hardhat-and-lunch-bucket heritage of the Democratic Party for a hipster fedora and a double-skim latte.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), January 26, 2005: "No comic has been able to duplicate the comfortable format that Carson emitted to his audiences nightly. As Harold Meyerson puts it, he was the 'country boy who had become the urban hipster.'”
Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), July 20, 2011: "One Christmas, Leslie Henderson bought her husband, Mark, a home brew kit. The two engineers started brewing beer and eventually turned their hobby into a business."
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), September 13, 2013: "Do I need to go on Instagram to keep up with what’s happening in this law?"
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), March 6, 2013: "That takes me back to another modern day poet by the name of Jay-Z from one of the songs he wrote: It’s funny what seven days can change, it was all good just a week ago. I don’t know if it was all good a week ago, but I can tell everyone that things have changed."
Jeggings have yet to be mentioned on the Senate or House floor. More the pity.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), September 19, 2013: "Go into a school cafeteria in Maine these days and you're likely to see kids happily gobbling up kale instead of French fries. In between classes, they're tending to the school garden. On the weekends, they're introducing their parents to the local farmers market."
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), May 15, 2012: "There is waste out the kazoo when you ask us to do that."
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), April 14, 2010: "But we have sweetheart deals out the kazoo."
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), October 4, 2007: "They are given a number, and they have requests out the kazoo from individual members."
(Revelation: Sen. Tom Coburn says "out the kazoo" a lot.)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), March 22, 2007: "They are not being marketed to monocle-wearing, sports-car driving plutocrats."
Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nevada), April 26, 2006: "Unconventional to the end, Fanny took her doctors’ advice last month to start using medical marijuana so she would get 'the munchies' and eat to bulk up her thin frame.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Everyday:
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), May 24, 2013: "Using the newfound power of social media, I could create a Facebook Page about the unjustness that Senator from Maryland wanted to thrust upon the American people. I could raise even more awareness by creating a Reddit page, then a Twitter, and even a MySpace."
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), December 18, 2012: "Remember Friendster or MySpace?"
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), June 7, 2002: "Particia Barela Rivera, or 'PBR' as she is affectionately known to her friends, is clearly a dedicated public servant.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), February 13, 2007: NMFS defined an Insignificance Threshold in regulations and estimated this threshold level as 10 percent of the 'Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level.'"
Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), July 19, 2013: "As a physicist and someone who started a business in my parents’ basement that manufactures over half the theater lighting equipment in the United States and provides hundreds of jobs in the Midwest, I know firsthand the importance of STEM education and driving our Nation’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new companies, and new industries."
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), June 17, 2013: "To make a long story short, I ended up walking 1,000 miles across Tennessee over 6 months in a red-and-black plaid shirt, followed by a group of four University of Tennessee band members in a flatbed truck. And several times a day we would get up on the truck and play in Alexander’s washboard band. Doug put all that on television, and I won the election."
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Georgia), April 18, 2012: "I could put a huge tax on plaid shirts so we never have any more plaid shirts. That is what happens with the Tax Code."
Quinoa (and Kale)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), July 9, 2013: "John’s creation, a quinoa 'risotto' with shrimp and kale was selected from over 1,300 recipes evaluated by a panel of judges, which included representatives from the First Lady’s Let’s Move!, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education, DC Central Kitchen, and two student graduates of the Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters Program."
State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami), March 4, 2014:
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), August 1, 2011: "This bill, Mr. Speaker, provides significant relief for small-batch manufacturers.
Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), May 21, 2003: "We have 21 B-1s, and we now have a small batch of 21 B-2 aircraft, our stealth aircraft."
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Nevada), January 8, 2014: "We learned on New Year’s Eve that the popular social communication platform Snapchat was also hacked, a breach of about 4.6 million user names with their corresponding phone numbers."
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y), September 8, 2005: "In the words of a prolific, poetic philosopher, Kanye West, 'How could you be so heartless?'"
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia), September 8, 2005: "His name is Kanye West. He has been on the cover of all these national magazines talking about how he is the most brilliant new hip-hop, rap artist, Kanye West."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) July 7, 2012, : "This important legislation designates 319,000 acres of public lands in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, and Yolo Counties as the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area, or NCA. The area is a haven for hiking, camping, rafting, and horseback riding, and is home to a diverse array of wildlife including black bears and bald eagles."
Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.), September 13, 2000: "The tight-knit communities in counties like Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Tehama and Yolo instill a strong sense of family values that will carry on through future generations."
You've probably never heard of it.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), March 17, 2009: "You’ve probably never heard of it. You have to look it up on a map to find it."