We were peppered with volleys of mail from the young, and others, responding to Thomas Geoghegan’s “Dems–Why Not Woo the Young?” [July 21/28]. Letter-writers from 18 to 52 (almost all gave their age) found the editorial to be everything from “thoughtful” and “heartfelt” to “outrageous,” “condescending,” “insulting,” “snotty elitist crap,” “denigrating to community colleges,” “relying on stereotypes” of youth, jumping on the “tiresome sixties nostalgia bus” and “as outmoded as fainting couches and arranged marriages.” Tracy Goode of Tucson is “offended that Geoghegan thinks my vote can be so easily bought,” while Amalia Anderson of Decorah, Iowa, declares, “I for one will not be wooed.” (Several young letter-writers denied that they are “slugs.”)   –The Editors

Los Angeles

As a 24-year-old, I was happy to read Thomas Geoghegan’s appeal to Democrats to pay more attention to the needs of the young, if only for electoral purposes. Material issues like student loans and college tuition are clearly very important. However, addressing them will do little to win back the active involvement of young people. In these times of authoritarian Terminator-style government, it is too easy to blame the young for being indifferent (or for not reading The Nation, for that matter). What we need is inspiration: a leader who does not follow the Republicans in injecting this country with fear and polarization, and who shows that politics can change the world in progressive ways. And who is not too proud to look at Europe for examples (both the voter turnout and the political awareness of Europe’s young embarrass the United States).



I agree with Thomas Geoghegan’s premise that the Democrats should begin paying more attention to the issues facing American youth. However, his stated purpose for such attention (more votes for the Dems) and his suggested target issue (college loans) need to be re-focused. The young do not need attention for the purpose of winning elections; they need it because they are an important part of our society (this includes those under 18 too). Using young people merely as an electoral tool is a good way to disengage them. And, while college loans are important, it is safe to bet that a sizable portion of those youth Geoghegan notices on the El are not as interested in post-high school financial matters as they are in more immediate concerns (proper food, shelter, safety, etc.). Perhaps when Democrats begin to see youth for the achievements and worth they do have, as well as the challenges they face, the young will start to woo the Dems.



Thomas Geoghegan was technically correct when he said that “at least one candidate, John Edwards, seems to get it” about wooing the young vote. Geoghegan unfortunately didn’t report that Dennis Kucinich also “seems to get it.” In fact, Kucinich goes much further than Edwards with his plan to provide college education for the young in this country. Kucinich would reverse the Bush tax cuts and use that money to fund college for all. Not just freshman year, not just senior year. All four years. More information about Kucinich’s views is at www.kucinich.us.


Lincoln, Mass.

Has Thomas Geoghegan been in hibernation since the 1960s? Plenty of youth activism and civic engagement have occurred in the three decades since, and we were driven by idealism–not the cynical, materialist issues with which he proposes to “woo” us back to the polls. Apartheid, sweatshops and global free trade also “did not affect many of us in a direct or material way,” which he claims of Vietnam and civil rights (rather dubiously), yet they have drawn thousands of us out of our dorms and into administration buildings–not to mention the streets of Seattle, New York and Washington–with striking results!

If we learned one thing, it’s that direct action works. Voting once every four years for a President is the most passive, ineffective form of civic participation one could encourage in anyone, least of all idealistic youth. It will take a lot more than enticements of free tuition for us to back the Dems. Yes, college should be publicly financed, but so should elections! Only then can we win the free healthcare, universal living wages, decent public transportation, consumer protections and serious environmental laws, for example, that we need for a more humane society for our children.

With a platform like that, we just might “click” on.



As a 22-year-old anxiously waiting to vote for someone, anyone not Bush in 2004, I disagree with Thomas Geoghegan’s assessment of people my age. I agree that too few of us vote, but plenty of us do, and do so passionately. I see decreasing voter turnout as a national issue that afflicts all generations. To assume that young voters cannot be galvanized unless issues like loan debts are “pitched” to us is to grossly underestimate us. Though I agree that college should be free, I feel there is a flood of more pertinent issues right now, including the corporate merging of the media, the ineffective war on drugs and our ridiculously backward foreign policy.

Yet, call me crazy, I am optimistic, and I’m getting a feeling that people my age are pretty pissed about our current government. Many people I know who didn’t vote in 2000 have already registered and can’t wait to whup some Bush ass next year. I’m excited about the change I see; more and more of us are waking up to the fact that the people who run this country couldn’t care less about the public interest. And we’re getting active.


Madison, Wisc.

As a graduate student who teaches undergrads, I disagree with Thomas Geoghegan’s claims of lack of interest from this age group. Ask Representative Tammy Baldwin. UW-Madison students are one of the main reasons she holds her office. She constantly comes to campus to discuss issues with her constituents and recruits students to work in her campaign.

What the Democrats need to do, as Geoghegan points out, is demonstrate how their vision of America will assist students to become people who are not burdened by debt, can find a decent job and be part of a society that is not so divided by race, class, sexual orientation and gender. One of best resources is the Internet–as Howard Dean has shown. If Democrats were to tie in issues that young people are concerned about with web pages that hold their interest–bands, shopping, sports, etc.–they could generate a lot of interest.


Grants Pass, Ore.

Woo the young not with college debt forgiveness but jobs that pay. Most young people are not college-bound and are trying to piece together a living with nonunion, underpaying jobs. Many have become entangled in credit card entrapments and are facing economic ruin at an early age because the jobs they can get are dead end and their consumer appetites outstrip their means to pay. If Democrats returned to being the party for the underpaid and benefitless, they might find a voice among the young–a very loud voice. Yes, these kids have spent unwisely; but they also founder without strong unions or businesses that offer solid jobs. Democrats need to get corporations and all businesses behind an increase in the minimum wage and challenge them to create futures for their young workers rather than turn them into part-time employees that go from job to job.


College Park, Md.

Most of us college kids have been led to believe that our vote doesn’t matter–but there’s no lack of activism. A group of us here at the University of Maryland have been assailing the Republican governor over his budget cuts–our tuition is going up 21 percent next year, an additional $2,240 for me. This is the perfect point for a Democratic contender to make.

Most college students tend to be liberal. When 2,000 students turned out for an anti-Iraq war protest, the college Republicans had a counterprotest–of eight people. However, I was at the polls for an hour on Election Day 2002, and I saw about ten students vote. I’d reckon that this is because we’ve been made to feel “unnecessary.”


Somers, NY

As your 23-year-old liaison to “the young people,” I’d like to give all your middle-aged and senior Nation readers an encouraging report from the frontlines of younger America: The times they are a-changin’. Young voters are shedding their politically apathetic skins and filling in the blanks left by our subpar educations. What is the reason for this shift? It is none other than our beloved President. When not-quite-President Bush promised to cut carbon dioxide emissions in his campaign speech and then did just the opposite, he sent a message to the young people of America: A healthy future doesn’t mean squat to him. In fact, the “Clear Skies” Initiative is one in a series of euphemistically misnamed policies whose titles are the exact opposite of what they intend. Like Orwell’s Ministry of Peace, Bush’s Operation Iraqi “Freedom” is another example of a clever misnomer aimed at lying to America. Or how about the “Clean Water” Act? And my personal favorite, the “Jobs and Growth” tax cut.

That people might start paying attention is obviously something the extremists in the White House didn’t count on. By lying to the American people they have inadvertently inspired a new wave of young people whose mantra seems to be “Screw You Back.” Young people are most certainly uniting, and conservatives and republicratic “New Dems” better be scared, because we’re liberal and we’re mad. Let the success of Howard Dean’s campaign attest to our potential–because the once-upon-a-time apathetic young Americans are the secret in Dean’s sauce.




Hey, I’m not worried about the voting rate of young people who read The Nation. But what do our correspondents make of the drop in this rate to 35 percent among 21- to 24-year-olds, and the fact that it’s still dropping? And that no one is reading a newspaper? I am glad, though, that so many readers are ready to rally the young.