I just finished reading Mike Connery’s book “Youth to Power” and I felt the need to write about it. Not because I feel the right to critique it, or that anyone would take that critique seriously. I want to write about it because it has given me so much to say and I work in an office by myself with no one to talk to.
The youth movement is something that is now a popular topic. From campaigns, to news, to social networks, to bars, almost everyone is either a part of it or talking about it. Yet, most people probably have no idea how it came about. They figure its Obama or…, well they probably figure it’s because of Obama. So some guy says to you “okay, if it’s not because of Obama, then why?” You then proceed to list a bunch of reasons you know to be true but you can’t quite get your thoughts out clearly. Wouldn’t it be nice if the history of this movement was laid out conveniently in a 186 page book?
(Insert cheesy introduction here)
I feel as though I’ve just had a crash course in a subject that I have been a part of for a long time. Up until recently this whole movement didn’t really go further than HeadCount for me. I knew we weren’t alone, but I just figured all these organizations were doing their own thing, with similar goals, but no connection within a greater picture. What the book does so well is accurately describe how these organizations came about, what their goals were and what affect they have had. It makes you realize that while all these groups have found their own niche, and reach out to a certain demographic or particular cause, they are all working together to form a unified young progressive movement.
A popular criticism of the book will probably be that Mike fails to mention a great deal of the organizations that have played a significant part in the past five years. While it might be true, this criticism sort of misses the point. In order to touch even briefly on every organization that has done something in the past five years you would have to write a long tedious book that nobody would read. The point is that every organization has dealt with the same situations and been through the same experiences as the ones discussed in the book. They have applied for the same grants and been screwed by the same laws. HeadCount is only a mentioned a few times in YTP and with no real details, yet while reading it I felt as if parts were written specifically about HeadCount. This book is about every organization involved in the progressive movement, and if you don’t pick up on that by reading it, you and/or your organization probably aren’t involved.
The other criticism will probably come solely from College Democrats, who get it pretty bad in the book. I don’t know much about these guys other than the one meeting I went to in college was a complete waste of my time full of bickering amongst members about outreach ideas and budgetary problems (sound familiar?)
In making it clear that there is a greater youth movement beyond each organization, he creates a greater sense of optimism. Achieving the goals set out by individuals and organizations would be much more difficult if they thought they had to go at it alone. Knowing that are others there to support you is a great comfort and allows you to take more risks. Not that there is some sappy undertone or an “everything’s going to be okay” message. Mike lays out very clearly the great obstacles that lie ahead for the progressive movement. This is an important point. While things are moving along nicely right now with Obama picking up on the youth movement, it would be the worst time to assume success. Where will the energy from the campaign be funneled if he wins, or loses? What will happen to all these organizations if the elections don’t sway in the direction they would like? Mike notes that by 2050 Millennials will hold all branches of office. That is an inevitable fact; it is up the progressive movement today to decide what that government will look like.
There a lot of people out there who are more involved and more informed than me, who probably already had a pretty good idea of the information in this book. But I am willing to bet there are a larger amount of people who don’t. There are so many who want to get involved but don’t know how, or have become involved by some inner urge, but don’t really know why. This is the perfect book to help someone realize the bigger picture that they are involved in