Framing of the Youth Vote (or Lack Thereof) In November

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Well, here we go again.

The New York Times published a story today out of Colorado looking at whether or not young voters could be turning away from the Democratic ranks — two years after serving as one of the bedrock groups in Obama’s voting coalition. The story seems to be fairly balanced in its views, as there are some younger voters proclaiming their continued allegiance to the President and the Democratic Party, but there are also young voters souring on the Democratic leadership.

One young voter was particularly descriptive in explaining her conflicted views.

Kristin Johnson, 23, like many other students interviewed here in recent days, said that a vote for Democrats in 2008, however passionate it was, did not a Democrat make. But she bristles just as much at the idea of being called a Republican.

“It’s like picking a team when you really don’t want to root for either team,” said Ms. Johnson, a communication studies major, who said she was undecided about parties and politics going into the general election campaign.

If Democrats are letting voters like Ms. Johnson get away from them across the country, the ramifications of this blunder will be felt for a long, long time. But that’s another topic for another day.

I wanted to focus on another passage from the article, one that reflects exactly what we have been facing throughout the last few special elections and what we will be fighting back through November and beyond.

How and whether millions of college students vote will help determine if Republicans win enough seats to retake the House or Senate, overturning the balance of power on Capitol Hill, and with it, Mr. Obama’s agenda. If students tune out and stay home it will also carry a profound message for American society about a generation that seemed so ready, so recently, to grab national politics by the lapels and shake.

While Kirk Johnson, the writer of this piece, does not go into specifics as far as what he means by a “profound message,” I think the odds are good that these few lines illuminate the common misunderstanding that Johnson and other journalists run with when writing these stories. They go with the surface level content, mindlessly reporting that youth did not show up at the polls and, thus, are not interested in voting. Apparently, we’re just not prepared.

But what about the other possibility: perhaps youth, suckered into this idea that politicians – maybe just once – might care about our issues, might be willing to talk big, think big, dream big, and for once exercise some pragmatic idealism, are let down. After being counted on to move this Democratic administration and congressional leadership into power, perhaps we are pissed off and making a political statement by refusing to be taken for granted.

That’s where this article falls short. There are other possibilities for why youth might not be voting. Not because we are apathetic, or turned off to politics. It’s because politicians gave us their word, we gave them our vote, and aside from a watered down health care bill, a stimulus that was too small, and maybe a few other bills, the work hasn’t been done, and the to-do list is getting longer. Furthermore, we are left hanging in the breeze, waiting for an honest explanation… still.. waiting.. for that honest explanation.

So don’t get us wrong: we’re still ready to shake some lapels. But in order to be most effective, we need candidates who are uncompromising in their tenacity on confronting big issues, but flexible in crafting solutions to our problems. And we need them to engage us.


McCain and GOP Blind to Upcoming Political Realities

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How does one know when a politician isn’t up with the times? I suspect there are a number of devices that get to this metric, but one might be looking for someone harping about the nation being “center-right.”

John McCain, of 2008 “Country First” fame, appeared with Sarah Palin the other day to speak to a crowd of Tea Partiers. While Palin continued to gloss over the constant references to violent acts in her exhortations to Tea Partiers over the past couple days, McCain railed against health insurance reform, vowing a repeal of the newly-passed law.

When McCain spoke, he responded to President Obama’s speech yesterday, in which Obama defied Republicans to campaign on a platform of repealing the health care reform law, in light of the various benefits included within it. “And my attitude is, ‘Go for it,'” Obama said.

McCain declared: “We’re gonna ‘go for it,’ an we’re gonna repeal this bill. We’re gonna stop this spending.”

McCain also said: “Our answer is, yes, we’re gonna ‘go for it,’ and we’re gonna get it, and we’re gonna restore the government back to the people of this country, because this is a right-of-center nation, and this president is governing from the left, and it will not stand.”

When I finish reading that, the question that immediately pops into my head is… “What happens if it does stand?” What happens if people like this health insurance reform, given that a majority of Americans had already liked the bill’s individual previsions or believed they weren’t liberal enough? What happens if the world does not end? More broadly, what happens when the entirety of the nation’s most diverse generation ever comes of age and is largely politically active, expressing its left-leaning viewpoints?

I think this all comes back to many members of the GOP and the conservative fringe being unable to zoom out and view these events over the long-term. We saw this with McCain himself in his poorly-run campaign in 2008 — the difference between tactics and strategy. Yes, Obama faced some trouble with the Rev. Wright controversy, but he gave a forward-looking and eloquent speech that muted much of the criticism. Yes, the McCain campaign was enjoying success in its portrayal of Obama as a celebrity political novice that summer, but because it wasn’t rooted in anything, the McCain camp apparently didn’t think anything of choosing a mayor with frighteningly little experience as their vice presidential nominee. Yes, health insurance reform has had its troubles, and while the GOP was responsible for many of those Democratic struggles, their refusal to do anything other than saying no left them without any input whatsoever. And now, there’s this call for repeal, a move to take away all the benefits given to 32 million people. A conscious choice to choose the student loan industry over young Americans.

As the GOP leans more to the right, its rhetoric closer and closer to a boiling point, it will increasingly place itself in untenable political positions. The GOP chooses to live in the moment, ignoring the political realities around the corner. Contrary to John McCain’s wishes/statements, this is no longer a center-right nation. As the Millennials come of age politically, their size and pro-government/socially liberal positions will tip the country to the left, a la the 1930s.

So, again John — what happens if it does stand? What’s the contingency plan?

Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) to Retire?

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At least that’s what conservative Matt Lewis is hearing.

… In other news, I am hearing rumors coming out of Ohio that Senator Voinovich is seriously considering making an announcement next week that he won’t be running for re-election. According to my sources, Rob Portman would likely be the Republican to replace him. This also opens up the GOP gubernatorial nomination for former Republican Congressman John Kasich.

If Voinovich decides to retire, Ohio would have a startlingly good chance to solidify its blue status.  Congressman Tim Ryan would be a leading candidate on the Democratic side, along with Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Congresswoman Betty Sutton.  In reality, though, the Democratic bench is deep.  Portman might do well in SW Ohio, as he served down there, and the area is already conservative anyway.  But Portman and Kasich may be old news for Ohio voters.

Interesting stuff.

(h/t to Jonathan Singer at MyDD)