I won’t be combing South Philadelphia to register voters like I did in 2008, because the Democrats still haven’t learned what supporting youth actually looks like: letting us speak, and act, on our own behalf. Instead, Democrats wrap Millennials in dirty diapers, and shove pacifiers in our mouths when we try to point out the problems they’re leaving for the next generation. They tell us to quit whining — they’re taking good care of us.
The stink of faux-empowerment politics was pungent at the Democratic National Convention. Following the signs for the “Youth Caucus” through the bowels of the Charlotte Convention Center, I found my way to the cavernous “Ballroom C.” For the un-credentialed convention-goers like me, the Democrats had provided daily caucuses for key constituencies, like LGBT, veterans, and youth.
As my eyes adjusted, I noted a paucity of available seating, and of youth. I scurried up front to fill an empty seat next to some suited thirty-somethings. “These are reserved,” a bloated face scrunched in my direction. Meanwhile, a middle-aged statesman provoked a resounding “awwww” by describing how counselors told kids in his community, “Maybe college isn’t for you.” A middle-aged woman scolded the crowd, “As a college student…you have to stand before them [haters, presumably] and say Barack Obama will be re-elected!” And a middle-aged Organizing For America director elucidated just how much David Axelrod cares about his children.
Finally, the kids got to speak. Rod Snyder, the early-thirties President of Young Democrats for America and Rob Abraham, a mid-twenties Youth Vote director for OFA, delivered related messages: it’s awfully important for youth to vote. At that point, Dr. Jill Biden — teacher, mother, and grandmother — unexpectedly entered to speak to the children, derailing the meeting for nearly half an hour, and displacing the subsequent youth speakers scheduled.
As I exited the hall, I spotted a dozen or so youth delegates, of the “644 under 36” that the convention commonly boasted. Martin Cliff, a high school senior from Minnesota, shared his DNC experience. “I think at the high levels, there’s a lot of talk about youth, which is excellent. But once you get down to the community level, I hear from lot of other youth delegates say there’s not much respect for youth in the party.” Calling it “ageism” he described how “adults use us more as a tool, for a picture with a politician…not because I have good ideas.”
Some junior delegates were far more ticked off than Cliff.
“I have left the party today, for Occupy!” Through the darkness at Marshall Park, I made out the crisp gray suit and wavy blonde hair of Daniel McKenzie, a certified youth delegate from Minnesota who had stumbled upon the Occupy DNC encampment after storming out of the convention.
Despite, well, many things, the Occupiers generally welcomed McKenzie as he explained the cause of his defection. According to McKenzie, the President had flouted procedure to insert God back into the party’s platform, ignoring “obvious dissent” in the voice vote. After attempting to find a parliamentarian and exact recourse, he realized “it was impossible,” and departed.