In Tuesday's snapshot, there were several paragraphs about how the Democratic Party was losing young voters. I said we could talk about it tonight if community members were interested and enough of you wanted to hear more.
These are my observations. I'm building on what I learned in poli sci as an undergraduate and graduate student as well as direct observations around the country since Feb. 2003. (A month before the start of the Iraq War, I began speaking out against it. I did that as a favor to a friend who had booked a college tour in the US and then had a larger offer come up. That left the smaller thing open. I did all the bookings she had made and then it just continued. This site comes out of the same thing, specifically post-2004 election analysis where a group of us who supported John Kerry's bid met up to discuss what worked, what didn't work, what should have been tried that wasn't. Some of those ideas were used in 2008 but I did not take part in that and did nothing partistan in 2008.)
The "true believers" are your campus activists. Depending upon the mood of your campus, they are extreme or middle of the road. For example, on an apathetic campus, someone being president of the college Democrat, Republican, Green, etc chapter would be 'extreme.' On other campuses, you might need to be a no sweat-shop, vegan anti-war activist to qualify as the extreme. The extremes on campuses identify early on and it's a lifelong identification in most cases. Due to the nature of college versus later life (including additional obligations and lower energy levels) most are at their most active in college. They will vote -- if they believe in voting -- for the rest of their life but their other activism will taper off. (Very few successful politicians are "true believers" -- in part due to the fact that a successful politician is generally one who can compromise.)
In 2004, Democrats had many true believers on the left. Was John Kerry the peace candidate the country needed? Nope. But you could hope for Kerry. And while you hoped there were a few Democrats in Congress with name recognition who loudly called out the Iraq War. In 2008, Barack won the true believers with the falsehood that he would end the Iraq War in 16 months (later reduced to 10). (What Barack tossed out at rallies was always contradicted by what he said in interviews with the print media.) 2004 saw a huge number of young voters turn out. (NPR originally broadcast that the group barely voted. They had to correct that story.) 2008 continued the trend. The bulk of those young voters were going Democrat.
And hula hoop people who look for the next craze ("reinventing government!", "framing!", "new landscape!", etc.) saw a game changer that was going to last forever. That was never going to happen. Ava and I repeatedly rained on that parade and noted the GOP was not dead and claims otherwise were going to result in a lot of people with egg on their faces.
That, of course, turned out to be true. It wasn't a psychic predicition. It was an informed call based on past cycles.
In 2000, Al Gore lost the election while getting the most votes. He lost the election in part due to Joe Lieberman (who went on Meet The Press and declared all military votes would be counted regardless of when they arrived, when they were postmarked, if they were postmarked, etc.). In America no one's ballot is above anyone else's. It's one person, one vote and that's why Lani Guinier's work on voting was so controversial (she was a Bill Clinton nominee who was deep-sixed -- she's also on the Nation editorial board which means they repeatedly trash Bill for Lani's failings -- it was her job to explain her position on voting in a manner that the average American could understand, she failed -- but forget to mention Lani's on their board even when raising that time period and mentioning Lani by name). Suddenly, there were no more requirements for some votes including ones that arrived after the desginated deadline.
Al Gore asked for a partial recount in Florida and not a full one. He was trashed for that. The thinking was that a partial recount could be done quickly and would establish that the votes in Florida were off. This was potrayed as Gore trying to cherry pick. Had he called for a full recount, they would have attacked him for that. It was all partisan nonsense.
The Constitution is very clear what happens during a disputed election. The Constitution was set aside because the Supreme Court majority wanted to step in and decide the election in a 'one time only, does not qualify as precedent' decision.
There are many things that the Gore campaign did wrong. But instead of acknowledging that, they continued the demonization of Ralph Nader. Nader was running that year. He was called a "spoiler." There's no such thing.
In the United States, you have a vote. It is your vote and you can use it however you want. That includes electing not to use it. This is not the USSR, you will not be punished for not voting.
Bill Clinton's first problem with young voters began in his first term. Michael Fay. He was a young American who was found guilty of vandalism in Singapore (his family denied the charges and with Singapore's history it was very likely that he was innocent). For college age America, this was an issue especially one that they felt the candidate who campaigned for their votes by going on MTV (and, unlike George H.W. Bush in the same election cycle, Bill neither disrespected Tabitha Soren nor sloshed his coffee on her) and The Arsenio Hall Show. Though Clinton would make a plea for leniancy (and the Singapore government would reduce the amount of strokes Fay would receive as a result), there were many young people who saw this issue -- which was huge in the media, on par with OJ Simpson coverage -- as a human rights issue and felt that Bill had not done enough or (more often) that he had not done anything. Why on the latter? Because the campaign that was smart enough to get the word out turned into the White House that didn't know how to communicate with young voters.
That really was the beginning of a gulf that would deepen between Bill and young voters. And it would also be reflected in the impeachment issue because a large number of young voters were more concerned about the sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky than they maybe should have been. (This was not a result of the Cokie Roberts clutch-the-pearls journalists. This was a direct result of the fact that the White House still couldn't speak to young people. But Rolling Stone was trying very hard to get to young people at that time. And they were a forum for many people -- Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind which was a very popular group at the time, to offer one example -- to sound off and make claims that went far past what Cokie Roberts and other pundits said.) From 1993 up to 2000, you saw a lot of young voters lose trust in Clinton-Gore. Some became non-voters, some went for Ralph Nader, some went for George W. Bush.
The Democratic Party immediately began demonizing Ralph Nader -- apparently it's easier for a political party to go after a consumer advocate than it is to rebuke a Supreme Court that violated the Constitution, halted the recounts and handed the White House to George W. Bush. But if there was something that you could take comfort in if you were a Democrat, it was that the party was claiming they had learned. They hadn't. By 2004, they were still resorting to demonizing Nader when Ralph made it very easy for them to stop his run (I'm referring to incorporating Ralph's platform, not to the illegal tactics the party resorted to in order to keep Nader off the ballot).
They didn't learn a damn thing.
They got lucky. Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Barbara Boxer, Cynthia McKinney and others were very prominent elected Democrats who were against the Iraq War. Howard Dean was seen as the anti-war candidate in 2004 and he came close to winning the election. He was supposedly deep-sixed by the media (it was the media and some people who later worked for Barack's campaign) which gave the party the out. You could be 18, for example, and believe Kerry wasn't speaking strongly enough about the illegal war but take comfort in the fact that Dean almost got the nomination and that various Democrats were who held office were speaking out.
In 2008, a similar dynamic existed in terms of Dems in Congress but it was also true that Barack was presented (falsely) as the anti-war candidate.
Barack won the general election and became President of the United States. And he continued the wars and added new ones. And who called him out?
If you were in college, who in the Democratic Party was speaking for you?
Dennis Kucinich probably came the closest but he caved on ObamaCare (after publicly swearing he wouldn't vote for it) and when he said Barack's Libyan War violated the Constitution, he made it clear he wasn't going to bring impeachment charges. That's a dereliction of duty on Kucinich's part. If he believes the Constitution was violated, he needs to bring forward the charges.
He doesn't. Barbara Lee keeps promising that someday in the future, man, she's going to get so mad. Seriously. Whatever. Russ is out of the Congress. Barbara Boxer's signed off on the Senate Foreign Relations report advocating for US troops in Iraq beyond 2011.
In 1968, you could be furious with LBJ for that illegal war (Vietnam) but find many in the Democratic Party who represented your point of view. The failure of diversity in the Democratic Party has turned it (or, some would argue, revealed it to be) just another arm of the War Party. You're dealing with a group of young adults who came of age as an illegal war was ongoing, an illegal war that was tremendously unpopular.
It continues -- another US soldier was announced dead today -- and you're looking at the Democratic Party that all marches in step (goose step?) with Barack. No one must question the Christ-child.
That may be good for Barry's relations with the press but it was an idiotic and short-sighted move for the Democratic Party which will continue long after Barack is out of the White House. Leftists on campuses have a real hard time embracing the Democratic Party. The war is no minor thing to them. They grew up with the Democratic Party out of power and its candidates and its party organs (The Nation, The Progressive, et al) grand standing on the Iraq War. They're not able to toss aside idealism as quickly as jaded, professional party whores are.
And they have no where to go on the left except WSWS and World Can't Wait. Neither of those is a Democratic Party organ (World Can't Wait bordered on it when it spent too much time early on attacking the right for issues that are not pertinent to WCW). They saw CodePink, UPFJ and, so many others betray what they said they believed in.
I'm really surprised by those organizations. In 2006, a veteran against the war was rather outraged and angry by things I had written here. In 2006, he had faith that the Democrats would save the day and prevent other soldiers from experiencing what he did. (I did not take his attack personally. I didn't and I don't.) By 2008, he had no use for the Democratic Party. That should have been a tip off. That should have been a warning.
His shock and realization that certain issues were used to get votes and only to get votes and that, having gotten the votes, the issues would be discarded is echoed on many campuses. And there's no one that can speak to them on the left at our left organs. Democracy Now! could reach the largest audience ever because its on more channels (audio and TV) than at any other time. But its audience has actually shrunk because when Democrats were not in power, the show dealt with issues. (Or appeared to.) And today it's forever about defending the White House.
Other than Chris Hedges, there's no one on the national scene that has the cred to speak to college activists on the left who are against the war(s). It was a mistake for the party. And the Democrats are a love-fest in the eyes of Young American activists. In that political party love-fest, they all get along and they hug and they praise Barack and they embrace war. And there's no place in the party for any who might disagree.
It's why Antiwar.com -- already hugely popular online -- has become the bible on campus. And Justin and Kelley and the rest are consistent on the wars. They oppose them regardless of which party is in the White House. And they've got America's ear and they can (and do) present political positions to an interested readership -- non-left political positions.
Ron Paul's semi-tossed his hat in the GOP primary for 2012. He's a Republican who is serving in the House of Reps. And if you didn't hear, see or read the news about him this week, you just had to step onto a high school or college campus to hear the true believers (and they are leaders on their campuses, they have tremendous influence and tend to carry that influence out beyond college in later years) explain Paul was running and only a few would debate whether they could vote for him or not. The consensus is usually that GOP or not he's been consistent on the wars.
The Democratic Party organs (Socialist Worker, US, especially) will attack Paul as they did last time. Maybe they'll succeed, maybe they won't. But the openess to his candidacy indicates just how estranged the Democratic Party has become from the youth activists.
It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)
Last week, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4450. Tonight it is [PDF format warning] 4452. That doesn't include today's announcement.
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i hate the war