Last week I participated in a political panel for a journalism class here on campus. The panel discussed its thoughts on recent political issues, the state of politics, and the future of American governing and electoral politics. It was great to see my fellow students interested in the process, as this campus often makes me feel pretty disheartened about our generation and politics.
While on the panel, the discussion of the future of American governing and our own generation’s potential impact was brought up. Many of the “older” members on the panel voiced concern over the future, especially about the prospects of our generation gaining political clout. This was an interesting development as Republicans and Democrats on the panel both agreed we were going in the wrong direction and feared that our generation was not up to the challenge.
After this discussion began to take form, I pointed out to the others on the panel the voting record of our generation, the fact that we are overwhelmingly progressives, especially on social issues, and that as a whole we are extremely accepting of others. This did not sway some on the panel as the Democrats on the panel voiced concern because young people were not fighting for policy and voicing their concerns in a vocal and public way.
The fact of the matter is that in the information age, protests don’t need to occur in public and out in the open. They can occur online, especially on Facebook, through petitions, and general spreading of information on issues that are important to the individual. The youth of today have found new ways to express their political beliefs and the most commonly used tool is the internet and social networks.
The question still remains, is our generation up to the challenge of choosing leaders that will move us forward, and not leaders who are trying to capitalize on a mood of dissatisfaction? The first test of this will be in 2012.
Young people voted for President Obama in large majorities in 2008, and although that support has significantly dwindled, having campaigned for the president on campus, I am aware there is still quite a bit of support for him here, support that will most likely grow as the election nears. The issue for the GOP is how to remain relevant with young voters. Although some have tried (see Jon Huntsman’s Nirvana reference in a debate), the candidates have not been able to sell their message to students and young people. This task will be increasingly difficult as more young people begin to realize the benefits they receive from health care and student loan reform signed by the president, and the GOP will need to come up with programs to sway voters to their side.
The GOP can do this in several ways. They can pitch job programs that include loan reimbursement or reinvigorate the GI Bill for young vets who are returning home in larger and larger numbers without adequate education to compete in the American marketplace. By pitching programs such as these, they will be appealing directly to young voters and revitalizing the economy at the same time.
Although it is not likely the GOP will take on these bills and take action, the point is to highlight areas where the GOP can make an impact on young voters. The problems the GOP has with connecting with young voters will continue as long as they fail to connect to our generation in a substantial and meaningful way, and will stretch long beyond 2012.
Jordan Posner can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org