It’s no secret that Colorado Democrats didn’t have the best legislative session.

For months, Coloradans watched as the state’s majority party took to battling not only across the aisle but within itself. The infighting wasn’t pretty. Forget attacks behind closed doors — that’s politics of the past. This session’s debacles happened in plain sight and in no uncertain terms.

Now that the session has closed, some Democrats are attempting damage control. Such efforts are fruitless. Those paying attention know that Republicans were only partly to blame for sinking this session’s most important bills. This time, Democrats delivered the deadliest blows.

Among the heaviest policy losses were efforts toward encouraging affordable housing, rental protections and gun safety. There was also a subversive loss for climate change in the form of unreasonable omission. These losses will not be equally felt by all Coloradans.

Those in political circles often speak of progressive or liberal policy as merely representing one end of the political spectrum, as if to suggest there is no specific group of people attached to the ideas. But that’s not exactly true. Surveys consistently show that progressive policy is most heavily backed by voters in younger generations, specifically by millennials like me, and Gen Z is close on our heels.

Liberal values are also more closely aligned with members of marginalized groups, which makes sense given millennials and Gen Z are the most diverse generations in history. Combined with the very nature of the word progressive, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that such values more generally reflect the needs of the next generations.

In this light, and given that millennials are now the largest demographic in America, a rebuttal of progressive ideology is not so much a rejection of one part of the political spectrum so much as a covert dismissal of younger, more diverse generations. Put more bluntly, Colorado Democrats didn’t simply reject progressive ideology, they outright ignored millennials and Gen Z — the largest growing demographics of their constituency.

Looking back at the topics cut this session, the generational angle tracks. While affordable housing, gun safety, rental protections and climate change can impact anyone of any age, these issues far more heavily impact younger generations. 

By and large, we’re the ones struggling to break into housing markets and paying too much in rent. We’re the ones who survived school shootings and are now subjecting our kids to them at a record-breaking pace. We’re the ones who will still be alive when climate change fully wreaks havoc on our water supply, infrastructure and wellbeing. Not Boomers. Not even really Gen X.

On the one hand, it’s normal for every generation to face unique challenges, and these are just some of ours. But what’s not normal is for neither political party to seem particularly interested in courting us. Worse, the generations above us in both parties seem intent on keeping a near-literal death grip on control of our nation’s policy, a move that isn’t good for anyone in the long run — not that they’ll be around to see it.

Millennials and Gen Z are past ready for serious change, and we need state leaders who are ready to make it happen. We need swifter action on climate change and gun safety; not out of petty interest, out of survival. We need affordable housing and upward economic mobility; not out of greed, out of the ability to retire. And yes, as the most diverse generations ever, we need more meaningful actions on social justice and equity so we can all thrive together.

Perhaps so far it’s been easy for Democrats to take our votes for granted. Republicans jumped the shark; where else would we go? But an anti-Trump agenda won’t work forever.

Although party swapping is less common, especially later in life, there’s an exception: disenfranchised voters. Even if swapping to the Republican Party isn’t an option, we all know what can happen when voters stop turning out. Increasingly I hear voters my age turning away from both parties.

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For millennials and Gen Z, our most impressionable time is now. Unlike past generations, trends show we’re not becoming more conservative as we age, perhaps because we never got what we needed. Now, we’re old enough to pay attention and are outperforming prior generations in voting numbers age-for-age. 

So, Colorado Democrats, is ignoring us really what you want to do? We know what Republicans have done to us, but we will also remember what Democrats haven’t done for us. After years of waiting for it to be our turn, we’re ready for action. Are you with us? If so, next session, prove it.

Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Trish can be found on Twitter @trish_zornio

Trish Zornio

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Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Trish can be found on Twitter @trish_zornio