Will George Floyd protesters vote out Trump?
Compare two numbers:
1. Hundreds of thousands. Americans who have joined the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter/racial justice protests in cities across the country.
2. 79,000. Votes in swing states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan that let Donald Trump eke out his 2016 Electoral College edge, overwhelming the three million other Americans who voted against him.
I’m bad at math, but it seems the throngs demonstrating for racial justice, building on Trump’s bottom-dwelling disapproval ratings, should be able to rescue America from his reign of deceit, indecency, division, destruction, desecration and denigration of democracy.
If — big if — the protest turnout leads to voter turnout.
If not, we’ll have four more years of Red Hat hate, #WhiteLivesMatter, and blue blood complicity.
Turning out the protest vote should be a no-brainer.
And praise to the NAACP and other groups registering voters at the demonstrations. Praise to the true patriots who are fighting last-ditch anti-democratic GOP voter fraud by suppression. Praise most to protesters who are determined to put their money where their mouths are by voting.
Special praise to Barack Obama for using his unity pulpit to speak out, including posting here on Medium, “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” beseeching youth to turn their passion into action at the polls.
But as an OK Boomer who by dint of age is politically clueless, I’m worried. Many young voters dismiss voting as a power tool and by implication, Obama as a tool of white power by saying voting is a solution.
“As nationwide demonstrations continue to simmer,” The New York Times reported on June 6, (“Young Protesters Say Voting Isn’t Enough. Will They Do It Anyway?”) “interviews with millennial and Generation Z protesters and activists across racial lines reflect a steady suspicion about the value and effectiveness of voting alone. Their disillusionment threatens to perpetuate a consistent generational gap in election turnout, hinting at a key challenge facing Joseph R. Biden Jr.”
Political nihilism, scoffing at the primary tool of democracy, seems like the worst excuse for the sad record of 18–29 voter turnout:
· Historically, the youth vote places last behind older cohorts.
· In 2016, as Trump was creeping up on Hillary Clinton, 46% of youth voted, which sounds good, but far below their 65+ elders at 70.9%.
· In 2018, an urgent referendum on Trump’s nasty, insulting, racist, divisive, autocratic, nationalist, xenophobic, and misogynistic record that fueled the Democratic takeover of the House, the record-breaking youth turnout in a midyear election was still in the low 30s, again below every other age group.
· In the 2020 Democratic primaries to defeat Trump, the awesome sound and fury for Bernie signified nothing as youth turnout fell to 10–15%, while Boomers turned out at 60%.
In his primary defeat, Sanders conceded that it’s hard to get his base to vote, but pledged to support Biden in 2020 more vigorously than he did Clinton in 2016. His former spokeswoman, however, signaled her higher virtue by declaring she could not back Biden. In effect, as Twitter critics charged, this empowers Bernie’s base to stay home, aiding Trump’s voter suppression and abetting his reelection.
As Kendi and other youth defenders have explained, “Voter registration rules are often confusing — and people under 30 change their address more than twice as often as people over 30, forcing young people to navigate the confusing registration process.”
Kendi called for several leading voting reforms: A single, nationwide registration process that allows voters to easily update residency when they move; automatic voter registration; same-day registration; and even allowing 16-year-olds to preregister to vote or actually vote.
Also, why not expand online voting using highly secure block-chain technology, and require high school civics (shocking that it’s not already) that teaches the voting process and importance?
Good thoughts, but too late to defeat Trump.
Moreover, since people over 30 somehow seem abler to overcome the registration and voting hurdles, it’s tempting to ageistly suggest that “younger Americans are more unreliable, lazy, cynical, self-absorbed or apathetic about politics,” as Kendi describes and then dismisses.
Some OK Boomers might also churlishly wonder: Is this just more helicopter coddling of Millennials and Gen Z? Why is voting too confusing for college students? Especially those demanding government-paid college and student loan relief? If they’re so digitally savvy, why can’t they Google how and where to vote if they really care? And if they stay home because Biden’s old, isn’t that ageist?
If they’re so woke, why won’t they vote?
More relevant to the George Floyd uprising, why can’t young protesters honor people who fought and died for the right to vote by voting?
Is there really any legitimate reason not to vote in this election when good versus evil couldn’t be sharper and clearer? Is nihilism ever a good reason for anything?
Even more dangerously, if youth voter turnout doesn’t match the youth protest turnout, don’t they risk undermining the whole crucial cause? Aren’t they handing Trump and his Fox state media, MAGA base and complicit Republicans more reasons to sneer, jeer and dismiss the protests as nothing more than liberal socialist Antifa rioting mobs that hate whites, law and order, and America?
Yes, I’m begging the young protesters:
As we rally and mourn for George Floyd, the most powerful way to pay our respects is by amassing at the polls and voting Trump and his ilk out of office.
Compared with risking rubber bullets, pepper spray and spreading the pandemic, voting is an easy act of courage that creates at least a “tiny ripple of hope,” to quote Dr. King, that combined with millions can “build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.”
I really hope our youth get that and not only turn out but help to get out the vote.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.