Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Unexcited Youth Vote

Charles Lemos:

The importance of getting the young to turn out cannot be overstated. In New Jersey, 66 percent of those under 30 voted for Governor Corzine. Just 25 percent voted for the Republican Chris Christie. In Virginia given 11 point drop-off and the lack of excitement for the Democrat Creigh Deeds generally, the youth split nearly evenly with Deeds capturing 51 percent to McDonnell's 49 percent.

This is not to blame our poor performance yesterday on the young because there were other factors involved. In Virginia, 15 percent of African Americans turned out compared with 20 percent last year. The bigger factor was both drop-off in the number of independents and their swing to the GOP. Independents made up the smallest part of the electorate turnout in both states - contributing 29 percent of the total vote in Virginia and 28 percent in New Jersey. McDonnell received 62 percent of the independent vote, while Deeds managed only 37 percent. In the Garden State Christie took 58 percent of the independent vote, while Corzine received only 31 percent. This more than anything did Corzine in.

Still, I think this statistic is pretty telling. If the Electoral College vote had been determined by only those 29 or younger, Obama would have trounced McCain 475 to 63. Obama carried this demographic in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota. Clearly, it pays off electorally speaking to engage the young and make them "part of something."
Part of something like, say, real health care reform? Real climate legislation? Real immigration reform? Changing direction in economic policy? The achievements of this administration are no doubt understated and flying under the media radar, but we are lacking a cohesive goal and definition that existed in 2008, going into 2010.

Stated (over) simply, the youth vote came out for Obama in '08 because the campaign machine itself included them in something that at least in theory stood for something they could get excited about.

What's to get excited about in watching corporate interests water down the reform you helped campaign for? What's to get excited about in watching the leaders you supported make concessions to Olympia Snowe?

The youth vote will come out again if Democrats can give them a reason, tangible and clearly defined, to call themselves activists for Democratic candidates.

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