Could it all fall apart?

In the late 1960’s there was an increase in youth voter turnout. Then in 1972 when the voting age was changed to 18 youth voting peaked at 55%. Throughout the late 70’s and 80’s youths became disenfranchised with politics and voting. In the 90’s we had Generation X’s anti-establishment and nihilistic view of civic engagement. Up until about 5 years ago it was not cool to talk about politics, let alone engage in it. Now with the hard work of several progressive organizations and the success of the Obama campaign the youth movement has made its way into the mainstream and its cool to vote again. Everybody knows the deal; I don’t have to explain it. The problem I see in all of this is what if it is becoming too mainstream? I think part of the appeal in anything for young people has been to partake in something different, outside the status-quo. After the long wave of apathy during the 80’s and 90’s, civic engagement became something you could do that was different. Is all this coverage of the Obama campaign and Wycleff videos going to be a turnoff for those just coming into the scene, or for those who have helped to build the youth movement? There all already criticisms of the Obama clan for being cultish and creepy. Youths have always been faulted for not caring, so it is a bit unfair to now accuse them of caring too much. In 72’ McGovern was able to utilize the youth vote in a way that Obama has now done. My worry is that youth participation will peak in 08’ and well then see another fallout like the 80’s and 90’s. Last night I attended a release party for Mike Connery’s new book entitled “Youth to Power”. Mike founded Music for America in 2003, blogs at and is also now on HeadCount’s advisory board. I asked Mike about the situation above during a Q&A after his presentation of the book. Mike seemed optimistic that this would not just be a passing phase. The parties saw what a mistake it was to lose the youth vote and they won’t let that happen again. Progressive organizations like HeadCount are embedded in youth society and they won’t be going anywhere. So while there may be a peak in youth voting in 2008 and a slight drop off afterwards, we will not see the kind of follow up there was in the 70’s. It’s reassuring to know that “millennials”, the group making up the youth movement today, are extremely strong in numbers. There will be over 50 million millennials able to vote in the 2008 election. By 2016 there will be 83 million and they will make up 36 percent of the electorate. While the Obama campaign might be a turnoff to some, we know there is a great deal more to this movement than that. Regardless of what happens in 08’, organizations like HeadCount will continue to register voters, create awareness and help train activists for the future. By the way, the stats at the end of this post come from the first chapter of Mike’s book which gives a great description of who the millennials are.