And they are unlikely to change their voting habits just because you've made such an eloquent argument for saner restrictions on firearms.
Don't get me wrong: It's not that they don't see you, hear you and feel your pain. They're people, too — parents, many of them — and they have been as moved as all the rest of us have by your passion, your raw grief and your determination to make schools and other public places safer.
The politicians have not been fooled by fringe extremists and conspiracy theorists who insist that you are witless pawns, or even performers paid to exploit this moment on behalf of cynical political interests. They know you are sincere, that your arguments are as reasonable as they are impassioned, and that there will be hell to pay if you go to the polls this November, or in November 2020, convinced that the incumbents are not paying attention to you.
But they're betting that when it comes down to mobilizing your peers to vote, you'll fail.
And history is on their side.
Demographers have been telling politicians for at least a decade that young voters are coming for them with torches and pitchforks.
My generation — the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1965 — reached the zenith of its voting power 14 years ago, when George W. Bush beat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, and has been declining ever since.
By 2016, millennial voters — defined as those between 18 and 35 — made up 31 percent of the population eligible to vote, pulling even with boomers and dwarfing both the so-called Silent Generation (71 or older-plus), which is 12 percent of the voting pool, and Generation X (36-51 years old), which accounts for roughly 25 percent.
The millennials' electoral potential will only increase as students of Douglas High School and their contemporaries turn 18.
But potential is not the same as potency — and millennials have yet to show any inclination to exploit their emerging demographic advantage. When it comes to actually casting a ballot, they're far less likely to participate than their elders.
In 2012, when Barack Obama won re-election, only 46 percent of millennials turned out, compared to 72 percent of those 71 and older. Millennial turnout jumped to 49 percent in the 2016 general election, but still lagged electoral participation by boomers (69 percent), Generation Xers (63 percent) and Silent Generation voters (70 percent). Still wonder why lawmakers pay more attention to Medicare than student debt?
In fact, presidents, members of Congress and state legislators are acutely aware of this discrepancy between demographic trends and voting behavior. It's the reason they are forever selling the nation's seed corn — i.e., reducing investment in higher education, basic research, alternative energy — to provide tax cuts for the older voters who so reliably show up for them on Election Day. Why would any incumbent lawmakers concerned about re-election vote to fob trillions of dollars in debt to the next generation of taxpayers if they believed those taxpayers were actually paying attention?
It's not that politicians don't sympathize with the students speaking out in Washington, Tallahassee and Lansing, or even that they disagree with their message. It's just that they don't fear young voters the way they fear deep-pocketed groups like the National Rifle Association, the fossil fuel industry and the American Association of Retired Persons, who have the resources to recruit and bankroll primary opponents to challenge incumbents who balk at doing their bidding.
There's no shortage of theories to explain why young people are less likely to vote, and few are flattering. Some speculate that millennials who have never had to wait in line to register for classes, order concert tickets or buy toilet paper simply don't have the patience to stand in line on Election Day, or even to contact their city clerk for an absentee ballot. (I suspect this explains legislators' reluctance to authorize digital balloting far better than their expressed concerns about voter fraud and cyber-security.)
More sympathetic analysts say that younger voters have concluded that their participation is less impactful in a age of unrestrained gerrymandering and special interest spending.
But millennial voters don't need a good reason to earn the continued neglect of their elected representatives; all they need to do is maintain their habit of sitting on the sidelines.
But there's a glimmer of hope, because it turns out that converting spectators into voters doesn't take a whole lot. Research suggests that simply asking young people whether they intend to vote substantially increases the likelihood that they will. This suggests a little peer pressure could go a long way next November.
So far, though, experience teaches that politicians who express support for young voters' priorities on the campaign trail but subordinate them to the interests of older voters in office have little to fear.
I hope their confidence is misplaced, and that this time, they've miscalculated. And I hope that what happens this August and this November scares them in a way this week's impassioned rhetoric and televised demonstrations simply cannot.
Brian Dickerson is the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press. You may contact him at [email protected]