The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell released an article yesterday that basically shat on progressive youth organizations. Rampell makes the claim, as so many uninformed journalists do, that the recent surge in youth turnout should be accredited solely to Barack Obama and not in the least to youth activist organizations.
She mentions Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself specifically, and ignores every other organization that has been working hard in the past 5 years. She clearly has had no involvement in this movement, and failed to look beyond what is covered in the mainstream media in order to write this one-sided piece. First off, she attacks groups for making voting to appear as a rebellious act, a way to fight the system. While this might have been a popular tactic in the 90’s (when young people didn’t vote), it is not the case today. The millennial generation that is driving this movement doesn’t share the apathetic rebellious attitude towards politics that its predecessors of Gen X did. Instead, they are more likely to accept the system that has been created and work within it to create a positive change. The notion that voting is a way to “stick it to the man” died a long time ago. P. Diddy tried to revive it with his bullshit public image campaign in 04’ “Vote or Die”, and he failed miserably.
Ms Rampell claims that “removing barriers to registration generally results not in an increase in youth turnout, but, rather in a decline in the proportion of those registered to vote.” How is it then that in 04’ 81% of all registered 18-29 olds voted? While the youth turnout was not as high as expected that year, those who were registered mostly showed up. Therefore removing barriers to registration does increase voting. This is exactly what HeadCount and other groups have been doing for the past 5 years. Barack Obama has given many young people a candidate to believe in and vote for, but he hasn’t made it any easier for them to vote. Even with the help of voter registration organizations, thousands of people will be denied their basic right to vote because of unjust laws created by their state or local board of elections.
The real problem with this article is that Ms. Rampell hasn’t been paying attention for the past 5 years. Her arguments point out all the flaws in youth organizing and voting in the 90’s, and for the most part they are correct. But now it’s 2008 and for the past five years progressive organizations have been working hard to drop the bogus tactics used in the past such as celebrity endorsements and shallow media campaigns in exchange for grass-roots peer-to-peer organizing which are mostly responsible for the recent turn-out in young voters.
I can understand how the average citizen might have missed how all of this has been happening in the past 5 years. Most grass-roots organizations are shunned by mainstream media, and unless you’re going to the places where these groups work you may not have been aware of their existence. But isn’t it the job of a journalist to dig a little deeper than that? If Ms Rampell had put any effort into researching the topic beforehand, she might have talked to some people or read some articles that informed her of what has been going on in youth organizing.
Check out the article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/28/AR2008032801857.html