This article was originally published by WireTap magazine.
May 12, 2008
Youth to Power: How Today’s Young Voters are Building Tomorrow’s Progressive Majority by 29-year-old blogger Michael Connery is one of the first books to chronicle the incredible reinvigoration of youth activism that began before the 2004 presidential election and has come to a fore in 2008. Given the impact young people are having on electoral politics and grassroots activism today, it’s about time we had a book like this.
Connery notes that today’s young adults–the Millennial Generation — are taking charge of their politics by organizing on the ground and online, leading new and established organizations dedicated to youth activism, and taking their concerns directly to political leaders, demanding action. The book pays particular attention to how youth-led, youth-focused organizations–from the Oregon Bus Project to the League of Young Voters–played a role in this resurgence. In 2004 and 2006, young voters turned out to vote in record numbers and made the difference in tight races that determined control of the U.S. Senate, seats in Congress, and statehouses.
While the book focuses too narrowly only on work done by new (what the author calls “Dot Org” boom) organizations, the overall theme–that the work of nonpartisan and partisan groups’ youth mobilization is central to building youth political power–is crucial for anyone trying to understand what’s happening today. In 2008, numbering 44 million, 18-29 year olds will be one in every five voters, and are on track to make a bigger impact at the polls–and beyond elections — than at anytime in the past thirty years. WireTap’s Kat Barr caught up with Michael Connery about this growing constituency, and what it might mean for our collective future.
WireTap: Your book begins by describing how conservatives built power strategically, and were successful for quite some time. Do you believe progressives are beginning to be successful to similar ends? What else needs to happen?
We’re definitely making gains. Before 2003, we had nothing. Now there are a wide variety of training and leadership institutions. Young People For (YP4), the Center for Progressive Leadership (CPL), the Movement Strategy Center, Campus Camp Wellstone, the Young Elected Officials Network (YEON)–these groups are all new or scaling upwards and they are creating a leadership pipeline that can match the conservatives. We’re already seeing the results. We’re seeing graduates of YP4 start their own institutions or get elected to office. YEON is helping more of those young elected officials stay elected and work more effectively with their fellow legislators.