Ben Goddard at The Hill comments on the current generation gap in politics. His discussion reminds us of the coalition-based, yet impatient methodology Millennials use to solve problems.

They have not generally gotten involved with candidates or issues because “Millennials perceive politics as a polarized debate with no options for compromise or nuance,” in the words of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. They don’t want to be limited by political party affiliation. They care about issues important to their “community” and will work with anyone who can get something done.

But [Millennials] are impatient. That is why so many seemed to drift away from President Barack Obama as the healthcare debate dragged on and partisanship in Washington got out of hand. For nearly a year and a half their parents’ and grandparents’ generations argued over what — to many — seemed like petty details. They tuned out not because they didn’t care but because they were bored.

Now that there actually is a healthcare bill, it will be fascinating to see if they are willing to re-engage. The Obama campaign showed how to communicate with and motivate this generation in 2008. Re-engaging them will be crucial to the president’s reelection and, arguably, to Democrats’ congressional future. There are 44 million Millennials eligible to vote, which is about 20 percent of the electorate. Most of them are independents — at least in their voting patterns. Recent polls show independents drifting away from the Republican Party as a result of the angry debate in Washington. The Millennials could lead that bloc of voters back into the Obama/Democrat fold if the president can show that together, they are making a difference. Millennials make up a big community confident in their ability to make change and willing to get involved if the president and congressional Democrats send them the right pithy message: Yes, we did.

Goddard’s assessment is the first I have encountered that accurately captures the Millennials’ move away from Democrats this year. It’s not that they are becoming conservative. It’s that they are looking at an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress — a Congress they have more of a stake in than any other in recent history, given their turnout rate in 2006 and 2008 — and seeing few issues of theirs discussed in a substantive manner. When the focus is on bitter, personal debates — personality rather than the problem itself — any notion that representatives and senators might be interested in problem-solving is out the door.

And now we get to why that impacts our country. The obvious answer is rooted in that generational pact seen in American society for centuries — that each generation is responsible for ensuring that the torch it passes to a new generation burns brighter. We know that the life-long adoption of civic habits like voting are dependent on youth engagement. The more a young person votes when he or she is first eligible, the more he/she will continue to vote later in life. Furthermore, from a large-D Democratic perspective, given the obvious electoral benefits of adding a large, engaged, liberal generation to the voting rolls, the Democrats should be thinking of everything they can do to appeal to young people. In V.O. Key’s terms, the PIG (Party-in-Government) must mind the PIE (Party-in-Electorate), designing ways to better communicate the process so that it doesn’t interfere with young voters’ appreciation of the policy output. Easier said than done, but it must be done.

Bottom line: if we fail to engage a group of young people who are interested in being engaged, we’re not only letting them down, we’re letting our nation down.