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Why Obama Rocks the Vote: Energizing young voters

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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-31-08 10:33 AM
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Why Obama Rocks the Vote: Energizing young voters
WP: Why Obama Rocks the Vote
By Catherine Rampell
Sunday, March 30, 2008; Page B07

Just before every presidential campaign of the past few decades, the media have heralded The Year That Young People Will Actually Vote. Yet each of those years turned out to be a youth turnoff. The last time more than half of 18-to-24-year-olds voted in a federal election was 1968.

The hubbub is instigated every election cycle by the youth voter mobilization movement, led by Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself. These nonpartisan groups generally try to make voting more palatable in practice and principle: They make voter registration more convenient, and they try to make casting a ballot sound fashionably subversive. Both strategies have failed. This year, though, youth turnout is doing a turnabout, if numbers from the primaries are any indication. And it's because where Rock the Vote has gone wrong, Barack Obama has gone very, very right....


Research from CIRCLE has found that primary turnout among 18-to-29-year-olds has greatly increased this year compared with 2000, with proportional increases generally greater than those for over-30 voters. In Maryland, youth turnout grew to 15 percent from 11 percent, while the over-30 turnout inched up to 29 percent from 28 percent. (Good comparison figures for Virginia and the District are not available.) In many states, such as Missouri and Tennessee, youth turnout tripled or even quadrupled. The difference is not a change in Rock the Vote's tactics; the difference is the junior senator from Illinois.

Here's my pet theory on why Obama energizes young voters. Other efforts to increase youth turnout have emphasized destruction of the status quo, but because they are "nonpartisan" they can't promote any alternative to root for. In contrast, Obama has given youths a team to join. In making his appeal to young people -- and few politicians have so directly and repeatedly addressed youth issues, such as college tuition -- he uses the first-person plural. Just as he preaches racial unity, so too does he seem to advocate age-based reconciliation, rather than a generational culture war young people know they can't win.

Obama emphasizes that political engagement is about being part of something bigger than oneself, not rebelling against that something bigger. He does not try to make voting individualistic, retaliatory or "bad-ass." Voting, like political engagement, is what it is: decent and well-mannered. Obama may portray himself as an outsider, but he wants to change things the old-fashioned way -- through idealism and authenticity, not rock-and-roll and cynicism. In other words, he's made voting hip by being square.

(The writer is a member of the editorial page staff.)
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Tarheel_Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-31-08 11:08 AM
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1. I agree with this article. Thanks for posting. k&r..........nt
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