As earlier reported on Extra Credit, the enthusiasm gap between Republican youth and Democratic youth appears to be widening in the the GOP’s favor for the upcoming midterm elections.
Inevitably, in the following days and months after the midterms, the Democratic Party and its backers will undoubtedly search for an answer to this growing problem: Where did all the youth go, and how can the Democratic Party win them back?
The youth did not disappear as much as we became disillusioned with the American political process. The liberal/left youth in this country are physically exhausted from the relentless attacks from the right and are frustrated with the waffling leadership in Congress and the White House.
While not every liberally inclined “youth” voter is the same, I feel as if I accurately represent the mean. I am 24; the first election where I legally voted was in ’04. I am a baby of Reagan, a toddler of H.W. Bush and a child of Clinton—but I grew up and came of age under the regime of George W.
The fabled youth in America—and the other 69.4 million Americans who voted for Barack Obama in 2008—were not looking for a continuation of triangulation, or the failed neo-liberal past that brought us to the brink of a depression—but a new beginning, dare I say a revolution, within the political process and society. Yes, the majority of new voters were naïve to believe that such a revolution was possible in this post-modern age, but this is what the Democrats implied through their optimistic rhetoric and imagery in 2008.
In believing the Democrats would be able to fundamentally change our lives and make a difference, we gave the Democrats filibuster proof majorities in the House and Senate in order to implement our expectations. But instead of getting transformative leaders, we elected a party of dithers—who acted as if they were a minority-ruling party.
In two short years, the Democrats inexplicitly sold out our ideals and convictions—convictions and ideals the party ran on—to an illegitimate, reactionary adversary in the Republican Party.
However, the final straw for me, as a youth voter, was the healthcare bill—where we the people were sold out by the Obama administration.
According to former Senator and Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s new book Getting It Done: How Obama and Congress Finally Broke the Stalemate to Make Way for Health Care Reform, the Obama administration compromised with the insurance companies just days after his inauguration. The compromise included the exclusion of a public option: the basic provision for any legitimate, universal healthcare system.
If the Democrats’ only prerogative with the healthcare bill was to produce a piece of paper of half-measures to parade around the country as a report card for the midterms—then they should have revealed this to the voters in 2008.
The Democratic Party, in its waffling away of a filibuster proof majority in Congress, revealed themselves to be the perfect party for an ever increasingly failed political system—where the convictions and beliefs of the majority are trumped by those with corporate or minority-self interests.
Despite attempts from the Democratic Party to reach out to youth, the growing numbers of disenchanted youth are not convinced that they should still feel enthusiastic about voting and participating in democracy if the organs pulling the strings continually reveal themselves to be fraudulent.
While I hope that youth do show up at the polls to vote on November 2, if the turnout is disappointing, the Democratic Party only has itself to blame for growing youth malaise and apathy.