A Cedar Rapids community leader who ran for governor is launching a new effort to encourage younger Iowans to participate in politics.
Christian Fong says The Iowa Dream Project is targeting Iowans who’re considered Millennials or part of Generation X. “The goal of the project is twofold. One, it’s just to get young people involved and engaged. I think every Iowan of any age will look and say, ‘Iowa’s going to be a better place when our young people are involved and engaged in making their communities better,'” Fong says. “But secondly it’s about making the tone something that is inviting to the next generation.”
Fong intends for The Iowa Dream Project to foster discussion about ideas and solutions rather than to be a new place for finger-pointing. “I think the next generation often looks at kind of the mean-spirited kind of slogan shouting that masquerades as political discussion and they despise it,” Fong says. “They want nothing to do with it.”
Today’s “Tea Party” rallies are a bit of a turnoff to most young people, according to Fong. “You don’t even have to understand the issue to be able to hurl a slogan at the other side. It’s not respectful. It’s not honoring your peers. It’s not ideas-based. It’s really not what the next generation is looking for,” Fong says. “Whether it’s a political movement, a political party or a candidate — if they want to win the next generation, they’re going to have to say, ‘In five or 10 years, this is what we want Iowa to be and these are the specific steps we’re going to have to take to get there.'”
Fong is organizing a statewide meeting in the fall, but Fong says most of the activities of this new group will take place on-line. “Because that’s where the next generation is used to organizing,” Fong says.
Fong cites research which shows 27 percent of Iowans between the ages of 18 and 45 showed up to vote in 2006 and he wants this new group to encourage younger Iowans to vote. Fong, who is 32 years old, is part of Generation X. He says partisan labels are something of a “foreign concept” to his generation and those who are part of “Generation Y” — who are also called “Millennials” because they came of age at the turn of the millennium.
“The Iowa Dream Project is a nonpartisan platform,” he says. “Even though I ran as a Republican for governor, this is nonpartisan. This is inviting younger Iowans — Gen X and Millenials — of all backgrounds, of all ideologies to come get involved in the discussion. Now, it is going to have a conservative flavor to it, but it’s nonpartisan.”
Half of Iowa’s population is part of “Generation X” — born after 1961 — or part of the “Millennials” — born sometime after the mid-1970s. Fong says he wants the Iowa Dream Project to get those “next generation” Iowans to “interrupt their expectations” about what Iowa will look like in the future.