For Rock the Vote, the challenge is reaching a generation that’s paying attention to politics — but is simultaneously repelled by what they see.
While [Eva Guidarini of the Harvard Institute of Politics] is concerned about a generation of voters turned off by politics…she doesn’t think all hope is lost: “I think that if politics starts to change in a direction that I think all of America wants to see it change — not just young people — then you’ll see young people get back in the game.”
The question is whether politics will improve unless a new generation gets more involved and pushes for that change.
The problem with the “let’s get out there and vote to change the world” mentality is that, as millenials who enthusiastically supported Obama in 2008 are well aware, voting for a reformer doesn’t necessarily bring reform. It’s also rare that one even has the opportunity to vote for a candidate who promises to change a failed system. Typically, the choice is between two well-funded establishment types who rally their troops with the same antiquated slogans and talking points. There are so many deep-rooted problems with both our electoral system and the daily operations of our government that a sudden and dramatic alteration in the staus quo is essentially impossible.
If, like Lil’ Jon in a recent Rock the Vote ad, your reason for voting is marijuana legalization, you might as well not vote in the Presidential election. If you’re a Palestinian whose primary concern if your family back home who is threatened with destruction by Israel, you might as well not vote. Neither party will offer you a candidate who will advance your issue. Your only hope is to participate in protests, debates, and discussions and try to reach as many people as possible. This requires a lifetime of effort, not an occasional trip to the voting booth. When advocates and activists force a long-buried issue upon the public, such as civil rights or gay rights or feminism, then politicians must revise their platforms in order to keep pace with the changing norms. That’s a good model for change and voting is just one part of it.
I don’t mean to suggest that millenials shouldn’t vote. Rather, I object to this silly emphasis on voting which pretends that untold liberal reforms shall be ushered in upon the election of one party or one candidate. Both parties support the war on drugs. Both support a neverending war on terror. Both have oppressed minorities and women. Both have long histories of voting against gay rights. It is completely reasonable for a member of an oppressed group to abstain from voting if they feel that their concerns are not being addressed by either party.
Voting should not be the metric by which we measure political participation or patriotism. It’s the day-to-day attempts to introduce new ideas and alter perspectives that truly change history.
In Florida, more than one in five black adults can’t vote. Not because they lack citizenship or haven’t registered, but because they have, at some point, been convicted of a felony. …More than 20 percent of black adults have lost their right to vote in Kentucky and Virginia, too…
Felon disenfranchisement among black adults has multiplied over the past few decades… In 1980, only two states had black disenfranchisement rates above 10 percent. By 2010, nine states had rates above 10 percent with three of those states being home to disenfranchisement rates north of 20 percent.
So that they can receive federal funding and easier ballot access, but given the results of the last 6 presidential elections, achieving just 1 or 2 percent would be significant progress.
The caucus system is fundamentally unrepresentative, disproportionately dominated by semiorganized bands of activists, and leads to low turnout.
There’s got to be a better way to pick a presidential nominee.