Where’s the ‘youth vote’ when we need it?
It’s classic chicken/egg:
Youth don’t vote because they don’t get what they want.
But youth don’t get what they want because they don’t vote.
“Youth don’t vote?!?! What?! They’re a powerful voting bloc! We need to give them free college and cancel their student loans!
“Most young people in the United States don’t vote,” the normally youth-grubbing New York Times flatly stated heading into the 2020 election.
Look at the last few elections.
In 2016, when decent Democrat Hillary Clinton was up against deplorable Republican Donald Trump, a majority (54 percent) of voters under 30 sat out.
In the 2018 midterms, in the depths of Trump’s reign of horror, 64 percent of under-30 voters said eh, whatever, and stayed home.
In the 2020 election to finally cancel the bigoted, misogynist Trump, our powerful youth far exceeded expectations by voting at a whopping 51.4 percent.
But celebrating that half of Millennials and Gen Z bothered to vote in an election that by their righteous thunder they cared deeply about is akin to a participation trophy. Especially when 76 percent of voters aged 65–74 turned out.
The 2020 youth turnout was the lowest of all age groups — as it usually is.
Now take the 2021 Virginia state elections.
Republican Glenn Youngkin’s Trumpish campaign wasn’t just a run for governor. It was a dry run for Republicans to retake the whole of Congress this year. And the White House in 2024 for complete dystopian control of our government.
Youngkin — now being talked about as a presidential contender — won election with promises to censor teachers and libraries, criminalize reproductive choice, and otherwise pander to Dark Age “Christians” and other backwards, hateful, ignorant Fox-duped Trump insurrectionist MAGAs.
“The Virginia election was seen by many as a potential early indicator of voter participation heading into the 2022 midterm cycle,” a Tufts University study said.
The 56 percent total voter turnout was the highest of any Virginia gubernatorial election in 24 years. Yet the 18–29 vote fell to 27 percent from 34 percent from the previous state race in 2017. Some 48 percent of youth who voted in 2020 didn’t in 2021, the Tufts study found.
Meanwhile, the older, whiter, less educated, rural Trump-supporting Southwest Virginia vote surged, turning the pivotal electoral commonwealth from blue back to red. Statewide, the over-75 turnout increased by 59 percent from 2017.
We give youth a lot of excuses for not voting:
· Democratic candidates aren’t progressive enough. They’re old. They don’t inspire youth or speak to their needs, like Youngkin’s Democratic Boomer opponent, Terry McAuliffe, failed to do.
· Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — the first female Black and South Asian vice president — have been huge disappointments to progressives, a small, privileged minority of Americans who are “very liberal, highly educated and majority White,” as the neutral Pew Research assessed.
· Voting is a hassle, it’s boring, complicated, and takes time out of busy life. (Even though blue states made voting simpler and easier.) (And somehow two-income parents with stressful jobs, kids to raise and send to college, and homes to tend manage to vote a lot more. So do befuddled Boomers with their bad backs, knees, eyesight and tech stupidity.)
· Youth move a lot. They can’t vote where they go to college. They’re wicked smart but voting absentee is wicked hard.
· Young people don’t have enough voting experience or candidate information. (Even though they know everything and are glued to their phones and social media, and candidates spend millions trying to reach them there).
· Democrats fail to make a “meaningful investment in youth outreach,” a youth vote advocate wrote in Newsweek. (Why would they, when mining other age groups is a far better investment?)
· Youth are disillusioned. Democracy is a sham. Voting is stupid. Politics are meh.
In other words, when youth don’t vote, it’s everyone’s fault but theirs and America’s problem to solve.
Frankly, I’m a little insulted for them — it’s a little coddling and patronizing, there there, pat on the head, you’re doing your best.
I’m also a little insulted by them.
Not just by the ageist, OK Boomer, snorting condescension of the generation that raised, funded and suffered them. Mostly by the sense of entitlement. As in, what have you done for me lately?
“We Don’t Owe the Democratic Party Anything,” a youngish progressive declares in a recent Medium post. “If they want our votes, they better earn it.”
Seems Democrats have a lot of youth vote earning to do before November.
“Democrats promised voting rights legislation,” the writer says. “They promised cancellation of at least some student loan debt. They promised to make the child tax credit permanent. They promised police reform. They promised medicare and medicaid expansion. They promised a $15 minimum wage. They promised universal pre-k. They promised paid maternity leave. They promised to raise taxes on the wealthy corporations.”
And yet, “They didn’t deliver on a single one of those promises.”
Above all, Democrats failed to protect abortion rights.
Why did Democrats fail these expectations?
Moral failure? Corporate capitalist corruption? Being less enlightened than our amazing youth?
Perhaps. But also back to this:
Most young people in the United States don’t vote.
Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” Sensible Democrats mine votes where the most votes are, which is not young progressives but the adult middle class of moderates.
Democrats could be controlling the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, and many red states — and deliver what progressive youth want — if the youth all backed their voices with votes.
So, what’s it going to be, my fellow Americans?
Take your ball and go home in a snit? And hurt us all by letting Republicans take complete control?
Or vote at least as much as your reviled Boomers?
I’m hoping you will.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.