Another election cycle, another spiraling narrative about the persistently fickle youth vote, another misleading piece that mischaracterizes an entire generation before a single poll opens. We're not as shallow as the now infamous New York Times piece on the youth vote would allow you to believe were are.
We're nuanced. Poll after poll indicates that the vast majority of us aren't overtly partisan -- yet we care about issues and in that department, we're progressive. The Pew poll referenced in the times shows barely any statistical change in party affiliation. Moreover, the very same poll shows that regardless of party affiliation young people are strongly progressive on the issues. From the poll:
The political leanings of this youngest group of voters may be linked to their outlook on politics and society. Analysis of long-term political values finds that Millennials are far more liberal in a number of areas than are older Americans. This is reflected in Millennials' views on contemporary policy issues as well, from their widespread belief that gays should be allowed to openly serve in the military to their reservations over the use of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and their continued preference for a more expansive role for government.
Moreover, Millennials are far more likely than older people to describe themselves as liberals. In the fourth quarter of 2009, as many Millennial voters identified themselves as liberals (29%) as conservatives (28%), while 40% said they are moderates. In every other age group, far more voters described their views as conservative than liberal. Among voters in Gen X, 38% described their political views as moderate and 38% said they were conservative; only 20% described themselves as liberal.
So that's that. There's certainly reason to be cynical. Our political process is broken and ridiculous. Only in Congress could a majority of votes ...not really count as a majority. We're weary. There are reasons to believe that our votes mattered in not only 2008 but in the years before it (after all, youth turnout has been increasing since 2000). Yet those reasons are often overshadowed by, say, the insincerity of politicians who claim to be standing up "for future generations" only to then vote against unemployment benefits for a generation facing 20% unemployment.
Yet, therein lies the beauty of midterm elections. Members of Congress may have the power to vote for or against legislation, but we have the power to vote for or against every one of them.
That mentality may not translate into political allegiances -- but that actually says more about the candidates than it does about young voters. What this article would suggest is that candidates, from both parties, would be wise to fight for our votes. The youth vote is always up for grabs, and contrary to what the New York Times might suggest, the youth vote isn't synonymous with "the college vote." We're not a monolith. We're a diverse generation that comes from different backgrounds, armed with different stories, still united in a shared belief that the issues matter.
What is true is that midterm elections often see a decrease in turnout from every demographic. What is true is that it's harder to turn out voters in an off year, and that it's hard to draw a correlation between those issues and the midterm elections. What is true is that youth organizations are acting accordingly -- finding new and creative ways to reach a wider audience and to go around.
It is the recognition of how challenging this cycle is that's inspired over 30 youth organizations and media partners to create http://www.voteagain2010.comCheck out the launch video for Vote Again 2010 here:
The media may continue to dismiss us as a legitimate voting cohort. Reporters may continue to insist that we're unreliable, fickle and superficial.
Well, I think they're wrong. I think we're powerful.
Fundamentally, while members of Congress may have the power to vote for or against legislation -- we have the power to vote for or against every one of them.
Why wouldn't we vote again?
Follow Sara Haile-Mariam on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sarahailemariam