Just what kind of moral authority does engaging the youth vote confer, anyway?
by Benjamin Wachs
In the end, the most important thing about Obama’s victory Thursday night may not be that he won, but the way that he won.
One word: kids.
Early analysis indicates that younger voters, especially college voters, broke strongly for Obama. More importantly, they showed up. Because, let’s face it: the vote has never been rocked before.
Ever since the voting age was lowered to 18, people have been predicting that it would change the face of politics … but the kids have had other priorities.
I remember, very clearly, the day after the 2004 general election: I was teaching a college class at the time, and my students slumped in depressed and dispirited. “What happened?” they asked each other. “How did Bush do it?”
“That’s easy,” I told them. “Quick show of hands: how many of you wanted Kerry to win?”
The room was unanimous.
“How many of you actually voted yesterday?
Very few hands stayed up – and I think at least one of them was lying.
“There you go,” I told them. “Your generation all promised P Diddy you’d show up … and you flaked.”
Something’s changed in four years. Maybe Obama’s far greater charisma pulled them in where John Kerry failed … or maybe the 2004 election was so traumatic that they’re driven to the polls by painful thoughts of what might-have-been. One way or the other: the cradle has rocked.
Assuming that wasn’t a fluke … this is going to be big.
But Bay Area liberals should be cautious: the fact that the kids voted for Obama tells us about more than their attitudes towards race and celebrity. Obama was not the most progressive of Democratic candidates, nor the most fire breathing. The kids didn’t vote for Kucinich … or Edwards … they voted for the candidate who’s promising to reach across party lines and transcend ideology.
Whatever they are, they are not the second coming of '60s activism, nor will they be demanding a liberal paradise. No one knows exactly what they want yet … probably they don’t either. But if they keep coming out to vote like this, for any candidate, the odds are that they’re going to get it.