Progressive youth: Please don’t walk away
You can’t always get what you want. Let’s get what we need.
To: Progressive 18–29 voters
From: A pragmatic older Democrat
Re: Voting this November
Like Senator Bernie Sanders, you may be irked with the Democrats’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the win for Joe Biden.
You may hate the compromises to win Senator Joe Manchin’s support that reflects his West Virginia constituency and many Democratic moderates.
Your frustration is understandable. The $1.5 trillion package falls short on many important issues: Family and medical leave. Child tax credits. Green New Deal. Drug prices. Taxing corporations and billionaires. It even helps the climate-killing fossil fuel industry!
Senator Sanders complained, “It’s better than nothing.” But it’s not enough. Half a loaf isn’t the progress you demand and deserve.
So it might be tempting to give up and sit out the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats betrayed you once again. Why bother voting?
After all, even with your great passion and activism, Washington still doesn’t hear and heed the voice of progressive youth. Even Democrats and so-called liberals consistently fail to do the right thing for the planet, for the poor, marginalized and vulnerable, and for the struggle you face with college costs, student loans and housing.
You’re often unfairly blamed for failing to vote.
They say it proves you’re all sound and fury signifying nothing much. Just because the 18–29 turnout is always significantly lower than every other age group.
Critics site how even during the historic 2020 turnout against Trump’s reelection to end his reign of hate, Covid denial and deaths, and destruction of democracy, only 51.4% of 18–29 voters cast ballots while 76% of 65–74 voters managed do so.
Your over-50% vote was celebrated as a powerful youth tidal wave like it’s a participation trophy.
In the 2021 Virginia state elections, a dry run for the 2022 Congressional midterms, only 19% of the 18–29 voted. Republicans swept, installing a Trumpish governor and returning the state from blue to red. Many young voters said they were turned off by Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe because he was old, white and moderate.
Youth clearly have good reasons for not voting.
Democratic candidates aren’t progressive enough. They’re clueless Boomers who can’t communicate very well on social media platforms where youth get their information. They don’t inspire youth or speak to their needs. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been huge disappointments; you expected more from the first female Black and South Asian vice president.
Also, youth tend to move a lot. You can’t vote where you go to college. You lack the voting experience or candidate information, even though you constantly look at your phones. Democrats fail to make a “meaningful investment in youth outreach,” a youth vote advocate wrote in Newsweek.
We all understand, even if some of our excuses for you are pandering and condescending.
But now more than ever, Democrats need your vote.
The people you care about need your vote.
The nation, the planet and our future as a democracy — your future — need your vote.
If the Trump-dominated Republicans retake Congress this fall, all of the progress you’ve fought for — that we’ve all fought for — will not only halt, it’ll be reversed. Not just for years, but centuries.
Republicans are planning to party like it’s 1619 or 1699 or 1899 or 1969 when white men ruled nations, women and people of color. And punished anyone who challenged their hierarchy and hegemony.
If you don’t vote, all your activism will be for naught.
The BLM movement will be for naught.
All the marches for women’s rights and freedom of choice will be for naught.
The impeachments and defeat of Trump, and the courageous J6 hearings and judges holding Trump accountable for his crimes, will be for naught.
If you don’t vote, everything you care about will be for naught.
Does your vote really matter?
Ask the remarkable people of Kansas.
Progressives, moderates, independents and even some Republicans turned out in historic droves to overwhelmingly defeat a state constitutional amendment that would have stripped Kansans of more than abortion rights, but freedom from fascist government. Which will triumph this fall if you don’t vote.
Ask not what voting can do for you — ask how not voting can hurt you and your country.
Not voting is why our nation — and progress — are under dangerous threat today.
Not voting let Republicans gerrymander districts for minority rule and suppress the vote.
Not voting empowered Trump’s MAGAs, J6 “patriots” and Fox News followers to run our country when many, as we’ve seen, cannot run their own lives.
Not voting let Republicans use the filibuster to block majority rule.
Not voting put Trump in power and keeps him in power.
Not voting led to the 6–3 conservative Supreme Court majority that overturned Roe with Dobbs and is champing at the bit to strip other personal and privacy rights.
Not voting has allowed Republicans to lie, cheat and steal for power. Triumphantly, without remorse. Politics is just a game. To the victors go the spoils.
Progressive youth: Be victors.
Victory starts with voting. Let’s see your turnout in November above 70% and beat the Boomers you’re fighting.
Everything you care about is at stake.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.