Monday, September 22, 2008

Generation Next: Youth Organizing Beyond the Election

I'm thrilled to welcome ya'll back from the weekend with this month's post from GWP regular Courtney Martin. Please do check out the questions Courtney leaves us with at the end, and feel free to share links in comments. Courtney is doing some amazing work on youth and political engagement (hint hint: her next book) and any links you post will be of great interest to us all! -GWP

Generation Next

By Courtney Martin

In such a tight presidential race, it’s not surprising that pundits are suddenly stuck on looking for the demographic that could have the biggest influence on the outcome in November. One of the key groups that the media is finally analyzing in a sophisticated way is the youth vote. Yes, we are more complex than just “the youth go CRAZY for Obama.”

The Nation’s Peter Dreier just published a piece with the following framing:

Democratic Party strategists believe that in key swing states, a dramatic increase in turnout among young voters--and African-Americans--can be the key to victory for both Obama and the party's candidates for Congress. Campus activists, meanwhile, view the Obama campaign as a means to catalyze a new progressive youth movement among the Millennial (18- to 29-year-old) generation that they hope, unlike the political crusades of the 1960s youth rebellion, will be part of a broader, multigenerational coalition.

Dreier also worked in the following critical stats:

After steady declines in turnout since 1972, young voters reversed the trend in the 2004 presidential and 2006 mid-term elections. In Democratic primaries and caucuses, the number of young voters increased from 1.1 million to 4.9 million. (In contrast, Republican primaries attracted only 1.8 million youth voters.) A Harvard study found that compared to the 2004 primaries, the youth vote quadrupled in the Tennessee primary and almost tripled in Iowa, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

Really critical food for thought. I thought I’d leave you all with some questions that the mass media has consistently failed to ask, and that even Dreier (who generally does a great overview, didn’t touch on in depth):

-How is the progressive movement doing in building a youth movement that can last for years to come, not just jumping on the Obama band wagon?
-Is the progressive youth movement being funded adequately? (I asked and answered this one in my recent column at the American Prospect.)
-What issues are most important to youth? (Answer: the same ones that are important to “the old folks”: the economy, the war, and healthcare.)
-How are young women responding to Palin? Michelle Obama?
-How are voter mobilization organizations targeting non-college enrolled youth? (Too often the media acts as if the majority of 18-28 year olds are enrolled in school, which is actually not the case.)

Please leave links to places that are answering these questions adequately in the comments section, if you run across them! Let’s hold our media accountable to explore these issues before it becomes too late to address every last little obstacle between Obama/Biden and the White House.

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