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Dear Abby: Comment Response March 17, 2009

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Politics.
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1 comment so far

*UPDATE*

Thrust, parry.  Instead of reposting, I will just redirect you once again to my good friends at NextGenGOP.

 

A bored google image search just led my to this gem.  Thought I'd share.

A bored google image search just led me to this gem. Just thought I'd share.

 

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Original Post:

A fellow Duke student posted a comment on my column today.  While I cannot engage her criticisms about my column (and was happy to see that other people basically said what I would have anyways), I did decide to check out her blog, NextGenGOP.  She also posted today, on the topic of youth liberalism.  

After reading her piece, I decided that I ought to return the favor and leave her a similarly helpful albeit longer comment.  Below, I have reposted her piece “Kids These Days,” followed by my response.  Alternatively, you may read her post (and my response) on her blog (here), which I actually recommend – it is very nicely designed.   Enjoy:

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Kids These Days – Abby Alger

The question I am asked most often is why I am a Republican. It’s a query accompanied with a smirk by liberals, particularly Baby Boomers. (They hope my answer will contain overtly racist, sexist, classist, ageist, heterosupremacist, insertcategoryhereist opinions or—better yet!—upbringing of the same type so that I can be made to recognize my sins, repent, and achieve salvation/redemption/eternal life on the government dole.) And it’s a query increasingly accompanied with a bit of anxiety, edge, even desperation when it comes from Republicans mainly—conservatives, less so.

I’m in the generation that’s the least Republican since Pew started tracking such things. Depressing, not dire as a statistic, but indicative of a broad force at work. It’s something in the cultural water that turns the kids these days into knee-jerk Democrats of the leftist stripe. And it’s got to be in the water—and not just in being liberal at 20 because you have a heart etc.—because it’s a sort of blind, stupid activism that delights in conformity to the (now-confirmed) left-wing echo chamber, rather than overthrowing The Man to bring in a new era of enlightenment, happiness, peace, and drug legalization.

So what is it about Generation Me/Generation Next/Millennials that makes us so blindly leftist? Below are my initial thoughts. I invite fellow writers here to join in the chorus.

I think the answer, at that abstract, 30,000-foot view, is simple and explainable by characteristics of the era. The story goes something like this: being a limited-government, fiscally conservative Republican is, well, kind of boring. You let people do what they want to do. You provide for the common defense, the national infrastructure, some social goods (e.g. education), and enforce laws that keep people from stealing, killing, and the like. It is remote, even impersonal. The government does not care who you are or what you do. It just gets out of your damn way.

But I’m in the generation that believes it is amazingly interesting. The internet, which brought to us delights like LOLcats, rickrolling, and Rathergate, also brought us navel-gazing on a scale unseen before now. As Matt Labash put it in this week’s Weekly Standard, “The very fact that they are on Facebook has convinced people that every facet of their life is inherently interesting enough to alert everyone to its importance.” In other words, me me me now now now pay attention pay attention pay attention to me me me.

Unsurprisingly, this also affects political discourse. What I feel is infinitely more important than what I know or what you can prove with logic or numbers. “That offends me [or aggrieved groups X, Y, and Z]” is a sufficient answer to settle any intellectual debate. Take away your cold facts; my intuition and desires are enough to settle complex debates. Sound familiar yet?

And I’m in the generation that believes it depends on what the meaning of is…is. However young we were during Bill and Monica, we got the lesson. There are no moral absolutes, no unimpeachable standards of right and wrong. There is only legal and illegal. What the law prescribes is allowed; what it does not discuss is a black hole. (Here there be anarchy, so we never go there.) But then, even that is flexible. A tax cheat collects our taxes, a corrupt crook stayed governor of Illinois for weeks, and a perjurer held the highest office in the land.

This whole process makes us curiously dependent on the government and our legislators to decide what is good, what is bad, and what the penalties are for transgressing those boundaries. We dwell, quite literally, in the nanny state. Even worse, we enjoy it. We press for its growth and slow encroachment on each part of our lives.

As Republicans and conservatives, how do we communicate to this generation? We tell them to grow up or we wait until they do (i.e. when they get their first paychecks). The only upshot of Obama’s budget is that he may hasten that process nicely…

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Dear Abby – My Response

As much as I hate to add a discordant voice to your one-woman “chorus,” I accept your invitation. 

Do you honestly believe that young people lean left just because we seek conformity?  Or because fiscally responsible governance is “boring?”  Wake up.

Liberalism is not in the water (that apparently only young people drink).  It is a product of an open mind that cares about the world it lives in.  The free market and <6 year election cycle are ill-suited to addressing long-term challenges.  Yet somehow I still care about my long-term future.  I’d like the world to be a clean, safe place both for myself now and my kids later.   And sadly, that makes me a Democrat.

We’re liberals because we think everyone deserves a chance.  And we’re liberals because we think everyone deserves a choice.  For a party that prides itself on government “getting out of your damn way,” you certainly enjoy legislating your values.  But if you really want to know why our generation is so “blindly” Democratic, I’ll tell you the answer, but you’re not going to like it:

We are Democrats because of Republicans.  Our generation awoke politically to the travesties of the Bush administration and its Congressional accomplices.  I don’t have to list the deeds of that gang, you know them well.  And we’re still paying for them today in money and blood. 

Growing up in that climate, how could we become anything but Democrats?  Even if we DIDN’T support the liberal policy agenda or happen to care about the environment, in a 2-party system we really had little choice BUT lean left.  Our generation wasn’t born Democratic, we were pushed there, away from the Republicans abusing our government and hijacking our country. 

And do you really want to talk about criminal politicians?  People in glass houses, for god’s sake.  Our guy got a blow job.  Your guy deceived us into an unending war et plenty of al..  You do NOT want to go here.  If our country were as interested in transparency as you claim to be (in your profile) and our current president wasn’t trying to turn a new leaf and leave the past where it is, we WOULD have to legalize drugs – to make room for Republicans in our prisons (perhaps not for quantity, just quality). 

Also, it’s cute that you scoff at Democrats for wanting peace.  You’re right, it IS confusing why more young people aren’t Republicans.

Unrelated point but worth mentioning: it’s a little hypocritical to disparage our generation because it “believes it is amazingly interesting” and draws undue attention to itself…on a blog that you started so the whole world can access your personal insights.   Yes, I know I have a blog too.  But my life and opinions are amazingly interesting.

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I lamented during the election about my inability to find active young Republicans.  It is nice to have finally found them.

Year of the Youth Vote November 6, 2008

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Election.
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1 comment so far

Back in January, Time dubbed 2008 “The Year of the Youth Vote.”  It appears they were correct. Pollsters consider “youth voters” citizens between 18 and 29 years old. CIRCLE (from whom I got all these stats) estimates that youth voter turnout was between 49 and 55 percent (votes are still being counted).  In the three preceding presidential elections, youth voter turnout rose from 37 to 48 percent. In each of those elections, youth votes accounted for just 17 percent of ballots cast (overall turnout also rose).  This year, the National Exit Poll projects our share of votes at 18 percent.  This increase may seem small, but even a minor vote share increase in a year of strong overall turnout is significant.

Students comprise about a quarter of the youth vote. We will have to wait for more detailed statistics, but an examination of votes in counties with major universities suggests that students broke heavily Democratic this year. Youth voters chose Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain by a whopping 34-point margin (66-32), and many analysts believe that students were pivotal in electing Democrats up and down the ballot.  Obama won the youth vote in 41 states with over 80 percent support in some states.

Obama’s campaign pursued the youth vote much more actively than McCain’s. While I knew this intuitively, I wanted to see if I could quantify this assertion – Yes I Can. There are 23 special “coalition” pages on McCain’s website.  While bikers (leather, not spandex), racing fans, and lawyers were important enough to get their own pages, students were not. Even Lebanese Americans got their own page. Now I have nothing against Lebanese Americans; unlike Senator McCain, I never implied that ‘Arab’ is derogatory word. But the fact that McCain’s website would court a decidedly minor demographic and not students is absurd. If ever there was a demographic to appeal to online…But my quest for quantification continued.

Barack Obama is an Arab.

A domain search on johnmccain.com for the word “students” returns just 317 hits, and some of the first hits aren’t even about us, they clarify Sarah Palin’s position on teaching creationism in schools (she’s for it, but thankfully that doesn’t matter anymore). Conversely, the same search on barackobama.com returns 931,000 hits.

Students for Barack Obama was largely responsible for this disparity. SFBO, the official student wing of the campaign, was almost entirely student-run. It had hundreds of chapters at schools in every state and tapped students to volunteer, canvass, phone-bank, and register voters throughout the nation. Full disclosure: I started working for SFBO nearly a year and a half ago, but my own considerable bias aside, it is quite telling that our group had no counterpart in the McCain campaign.   I was unable to find even a state-level organization. The campaign supported efforts on individual campuses and external groups like College Republicans, but did not create any organization of or for new supporters.  At least none that was ever meant to be found online.

Why? The obvious explanation is that McCain was expending his resources elsewhere because students heavily favored Obama, but that has major implications. Sure, demographics have their trends, but do campaigns regularly leave such a large, important group unchallenged? Young voters are not just a subset of America, we’re a cross-section of it. We come from every part of the nation, every socio-economic situation, and as diverse a racial background as our country has to offer. And you know those future generations that will have to pay for today’s mistakes? That’s us. And our kids. Considering the number of recent mistakes, shouldn’t our perspective matter?

Vote by Age

Young voters won the election for Obama. Graphic from CNN.com, data from the National Exit Poll.

In this election, it did. And what of the future? Regardless of how they vote, many young voters consider themselves independents. That sentiment typically dwindles in higher age brackets. It is conventional electoral wisdom that lifelong party identification forms some time in a voter’s first few elections. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 55.4 percent of the youth vote, the highest percentage since the voting age dropped to 18. That election had formative, lasting effects on the youth voters who participated; their age cohort still trends more Republican than those immediately younger and older. Although we are not all predestined to become Democrats and could maintain our relative political independence, this certainly doesn’t bode well for the Republican Party.

At least 22 million young people voted in this election. While youth turnout increased, what is extraordinary is how lopsided our support was. Obama tied McCain among voters aged 45-64 and lost among voters 65+. According to CIRCLE Director Peter Levine, who studies the youth vote, we are Obama’s core constituency and he couldn’t have won without us. We won’t be youth voters forever, but our generation has definitively asserted itself on the political stage. Let’s keep it up.

A version of this post ran in The Chronicle at Duke University.

The Student Vote November 3, 2008

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Election.
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1 comment so far

My fellow Young Americans: Please wake up.

As a kid, I had a friend who was epically bad at “hide and seek.” Employing some flawed, kindergarten-level logic, he concluded that when he closed his eyes, he became invisible (to other people too). As childish as that is, there is an analogous situation among some of our peers today. Our government’s decisions affect everyone who lives here, but many young people tune out as if ignorance could shield us from energy crises, potentially lost abortion rights, and… well, economic Armageddon. Compared to older age demographics, today’s college students are largely apathetic about politics.

It was not always this way.

During the 1960s, college campuses were bastions of political activism. Students followed politics closely and demonstrated when they felt the government had misbehaved. That generation was incited by the Vietnam War and united by the energy and experiences of the Civil Rights Movement. Today, we have a similarly unpopular war in Iraq and a government marred by frequent allegations of corruption, but our campuses are torpid in comparison.

So what has changed? The anti-war sentiment in the ’60s was strengthened by self-interest – some students protested because they didn’t want to be drafted. But our parents’ generation was motivated by idealism and indignation as well. The complacency among today’s youth is symptomatic of a greater problem.

We have grown up in an era of scandal. That in and of itself is not so remarkable; today’s politicians did not invent the abuse of power. Yet from George Tenet’s WMD controversy to the Abramoff lobbying fiasco and a long list of disgraced Congresspersons, we have seen our share of corruption. What separates the misdeeds of the last eight years is that they have gone largely unpunished. The Bush administration deceived the nation into a costly war, tortured detainees, and exercised illegal partisanship in its firing of federal prosecutors. But when the media break these stories, nothing happens. Congress has called high-level officials to testify, but even the Attorney General and Vice President have ignored subpoenas or claimed incredible memory loss under oath. With the exception of Scooter Libby, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valarie Plame case, this administration has protected itself from repercussions (even before lame duck pardons).

As a result, we have become desensitized to corruption. Every American faces the same truth that an individual vote makes little difference. However, older voters have lived through different administrations and seen how votes can affect their lives. For today’s college students, many of whom were barely teenagers when George W. Bush was elected, the government appears to be a static entity. In 2000, likely the first election today’s young voters followed, Bush won without the popular vote by a Supreme Court decision. Then voting controversies plagued the 2004 election. That doesn’t inspire trust in democracy. College students are less likely to cast a ballot than their elders, but we have just as much at stake, if not more. Our generation needs to be more politically active.

I know we’re not all sitting around shirking our civic duty; many of us do care and work hard to better our communities. So why don’t we vote? According to CIRCLE (the acronym is annoying; I refuse to expand it out of spite), students don’t vote because politicians don’t target us. A researcher at Yale explains that campaigns don’t target youth voters because we historically do not donate much money. Others blame the decline in civics classes, and students themselves point to registration difficulties, convenience and the question of whether a single vote matters. In the face of these setbacks, youth voter turnout has been slowly rising since 2000, but it still barely broke 50 percent in 2004.

Lame slogan, but an important cause.  Young people need to vote.

Lame slogan, but an important cause. Young people need to vote.

According to the 2006 census, there are 29.5 million potential voters under 24, and nearly a quarter of the American electorate is under the age of 30 (which technically comprises the ‘youth vote’). But even college students alone could wield significant electoral influence. And it appears that this year our voices will be heard. A recent survey of students in four battleground states found that an astounding 94 percent were registered to vote. But it’s not official until your ballot is in the box.

Tomorrow is Nov. 4. If you haven’t voted yet, please head to the polls and show the country that we’re ready to take America in a new direction. It’s time to take our future back.

A version of this post ran in The Chronicle at Duke University.

The Youth Vote September 29, 2008

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Election.
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3 comments

My fellow Young Americans: please vote.

The pundits have repeatedly prophesized the rise of the youth vote during the last few election cycles, but despite significant increases in participation, we have yet to become a game-changer.  Not because we can’t, but rather because we have chosen not to. 

According to the 2006 census, there are 29.5 million potential voters under age 24, and nearly a quarter of the American electorate is under the age of 30.  Yet youth voter turnout has been low over the last few decades, only recently reaching rates nearing 50%. Now, we did see greater participation during the primaries, but the youth vote still lagged well behind the other age groups.  Here on the campus of Duke University, only about 10% of registered students voted (so we’re looking at well under 10% of the student body heading to the polls). 

As a busy, active college student myself, I do not mean to suggest that all students are idle and uninvolved; students are engaged in communities around the country and the world.  Even on the national political scene, many thousands of students are currently working to exercise our collective power.

Groups like College Democrats of America and Young Republicans are thriving, and we are finally seeing presidential campaigns court the youth vote as a major demographic.   Well, we are really just seeing a campaign (singular) court the youth vote – only one of the remaining candidates has given us respect and responsibility in this election.  While I knew this intuitively, I wanted to see if I could quantify or justify my assertion.  This quest led me to some interesting statistics: there are 22 special “coalition” pages on Sen. McCain’s website.  While ‘Bikers,’ ‘Racing Fans,’ and ‘Lawyers’ get their own pages, students do not.  (I know the link is dead, that’s the point.)  Evidently to the McCain campaign we are not a demographic worth the time it takes to write a webpage.  Just to emphasize this point, Lebanese Americans (no offense to them), US citizens who trace their ancestry to a country with a population of under 4.2 million people within their own borders, are apparently of more importance to John McCain than all the students in our country (Lebanese or not).  And that’s utterly absurd.

So if we don’t get a page on McCain’s website, do we appear there at all?  A domain search on johnmccain.com for the word “students” returns just 671 hits.  The same search on barackobama.com returns 437,000 hits.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s over 650x more hits on Sen. Barack Obama’s site.  And to add insult to injury, some of the first hits on McCain’s site aren’t even about students, they clarify Sarah Palin’s position on teaching creationism in schools (she’s for it and thinks that dinosaurs and humans coexisted 6000 years ago).  Just to give you a few more comparisons, allow me to present more domain search results from the McCain website:

  • “reform” – 6,800 hits
  • “maverick” – 587 hits + 2 more hits for the misspelled “mavrick,” inspired by my favorite sign from the RNC (below)
  • “lipstick” – 358 hits (more than half of the number of hits for “students”)
No well-dressed, wealthy republican adult left behind.

Bush's education legacy: apparently well-dressed, wealthy Republican adults were left behind too. Really, nobody at the RNC saw him or said anything?

But I digress.

Let’s continue to juxtapose McCain’s website with Obama’s.  The disparity in website student emphasis is due, in part, to Students for Barack Obama.  SFBO is the official student wing of the Obama campaign that, with the exception of a handful of Obama for America Youth Vote staff, is entirely student-organized and run.  It has been operating for well over a year now and has hundreds of chapters at universities, colleges, graduate schools, and high schools around the country.  This grassroots student network has been volunteering, canvassing, and registering voters throughout the nation.  On Obama’s website, students can find or start local chapters, ask questions, submit policy suggestions, download organizing materials, peruse student blogs, and even interact with each other other the campaign’s own social network, my.barackobama.com.  In the interest of self-disclosure, I have been and currently am involved with SFBO, but my own [considerable] bias aside, it is quite telling that our group has no counterpart in the McCain campaign.  John McCain has ceded the youth vote to the Democrats.  So let’s take it.

There is far too much at stake in this election to disengage from the process.  We need to realize that our government’s actions affect our lives even if we don’t pay attention.  Presidential elections are about far more than those two candidates.  Just look at the Supreme Court, where two liberal justices are poised to retire from the presently “balanced” bench.  Given the young ages of the conservative justices that Bush appointed and the life-tenures of the court, the next election could well determine the outlook of the Supreme Court for decades to come.  And so much, such as the fate of Roe v. Wade, hangs in that balance. The time for apathy has ended.

Or not:

…but seriously, it has.  New voter registrations are trending heavily in favor of the Democratic Party, and young voters are driving many of those numbers.  But registrations don’t win elections, votes do.  If you are registered to vote, go vote on November 4th.  Tell your friends to vote.  Nag them.  If you aren’t registered to vote yet, register online now, and then vote.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s so important.   Plus you get a neat sticker!

 

*UPDATE*

I got bored in class and ran a few more searches.  Enjoy:

  • The word ‘change’ appears 1.43 million times within the barackobama.com domain.  That’s only about 300,000 times fewer than the word ‘the.’  As Sen. Biden would be happy to tell you, that’s certainly not more of the same.
  • “GILF” appears only on Obama’s domain (4 times), but both domains are graced with the term “MILF.”  I find the ‘GILF vacuum’ on McCain’s site ironic given that Republicans are far more likely to consider Gov. Palin a grandmother yet, but that’s a whole different story.
  • “Palin” appears nearly 4x as many times on Obama’s domain than it does on McCain’s…whose base is this woman rallying again? (This almost certainly derives from Obama’s site being much more expansive and the fact that his supporters are more technologically inclined, but it’s still interesting)

Please feel free to comment with any other fun searches you can think of to run.  If you don’t know how to do a domain search, type “[keyword] site:[genericwebsiteURL]” into a google search bar.  

Ex) “hope site:barackobama.com”.