DATE: 9/17/2004 01:55:00 PM
"Youth Vote" Nonsense - Like National Review's Jonah Goldberg, I'm no fan of the entire "youth voter" movement. Every presidential election, organizations crop up in an attempt to increase the so-called "youth vote." Judging from the marketing techniques of MTV's "Choose or Lose" and "PunkVoter," those who are in charge of such organizations seem to regard the youth vote as a group with short attention spans who are easily impressed by flashy graphics, loud music and leftist politics.
It was with some amusement that I visited my hometown paper today and saw the following story: "Group strives to boost youth turnout at polls." (Full disclosure: I went to college with the reporter who wrote this story and he's a great guy). The story was unintentionally hilarious.
Their very name suggests they're a tough crowd.Their posters, which feature the Statue of Liberty brandishing a baseball bat, erase any remaining doubt.
But members of the League of Pissed Off Voters, despite the group's provocative name, say they are more concerned than angry about the state of the youth political movement."The League of Pissed-Off Voters?" The very name suggests a level of self-righteous immaturity that's inappropriate for discussions of policy proposals and the future of the country. Of course, that's assuming these people actually care about issues.
"No one's paying attention to us," said Hannah Kates-Goldman, a 19-year-old from Bangor who was one of about 30 people to gather around a table at Pat's Pizza to listen to the group's organizers and, of course, eat some pie.
"People need to have the feeling that the people representing them are listening to them," she said.This election has two major candidates. One is talking about four months in his life that occured over 30 years ago, and is promising to keep spending government money on failed programs. The other has cast a vision for the future that was directed right at those who are in Ms. Kates-Goldman's demographic group. So why the whining? The article doesn't say.
The article goes on to describe an agreement to create a voter's guide for youth voters. Of course, this assumes that youth voters are a homogenous group who will all agree on the issues. I wonder what ideological stance the voter's guide will take? Hmmm...
Later in the article, we find a quote by a professor who thinks he knows what the youth of today are thinking.
Jim Melcher, a political scientist at the University of Maine at Farmington, said war - this time in Iraq - could again be an issue that would bring more young voters to the polls in 2004.
"There's some anxiety about jobs, but people are paying attention to the war," Melcher said, predicting the issue, among young voters anyway, likely would favor Democrat John Kerry.It seems Professor Melcher is living in the same decade in which John Kerry has based his campaign. From what I've seen of the "youth vote," young adults vary widely on their opinions of the war, just like everyone else. The idea that somehow, youth will agree on this specific issue is ridiculous. It sounds to me like the good professor is indulging in a little bit of stereotyping.
"It's a wild card, though," Melcher added. "There could be young people out there with buddies serving in Iraq thinking they need to support the president."Catch that? "Young people...thinking they need to support the president." Such people are obviously brainwashed. Heck, this professor feels sorry for the poor wretches - thinking they need to support this obviously illegal and unjustifiable war just because their "buddies" are serving in the war. Having worked in academia, I can tell you that such offhand condescension toward conservatives is routine. The professor probably didn't even realize what he was saying.
So what exactly are the political leanings of this group?
The league, which has 70 chapters in the 16 swing states, is officially non-partisan, but tends to lean to the left, listing among its allies such groups as America Coming Together and America Votes, both of which have been publicly critical of Bush.
At its last meeting, the Portland branch endorsed Kerry as well as the defeat of the so-called Palesky tax cap that will appear on the Maine ballot.Oh, they're liberal and affiliated with Bush-haters? No kidding. I wonder, though, why they bother with the pretense of non-partisanship.
While Kates-Goldman said she would be voting for Kerry, albeit somewhat reluctantly, her 19-year-old friend Thom Barrows said he was dissatisfied with all the candidates - including independent Ralph Nader - and would vote only in the local elections.
"They don't represent anything I stand for," Barrows said.So the girl who complained at the beginning of being ignored is voting for the one guy guaranteed to ignore her in favor of older people and special interest groups with more money. Youth politics working against youth concerns! Way to go!
Then there's Mr. Barrows. One shudders to think what he must believe, since none of the major candidates represent "anything" he stands for, not even Nader. I suppose it's good that he's voting for local candidates.
I know I'm being harsh on these well-meaning people, but this sort of thing really irritates me. This is what happens when identity politics trumps reasonable debate, and when people are encouraged to think of one set of beliefs as more "cool" than another. If these "youth voter" groups spent half a second analyzing the platforms of the major candidates, they would see that the Republicans are the forward-looking party in this election and the Democrats don't want to change a single thing.
Of course, it won't happen, because youth voter groups are not about ideology - they're a modern political machine. Instead of unions or minorities, these machines are trying to turn out youth to vote for the Democrats. I'm hoping members of my generation are smart enough to realize we're being used by those who desperately want to cling to power and vote against their pathetic attempts to co-opt our demographics for their political ends.
I can't say I'm overly optimistic, though.