Hello Bus Friends,
I thought you’d be interested in this piece the NY Times just ran about the youth vote this year. In addition to the nice boost to our collective self-esteem to see the Bus name-checked as a model for youth organizing, the article sparked a few thoughts:
1. We have to ask the right questions. You’ve probably noticed that media coverage of the youth vote all follows the same, baffled frame: “Why are young people so apathetic?!” And so often the conversation stops there. This piece, however, goes deeper. Young people do care about their communities, their rights and the general welfare of society.
So the question is not “Why are young people apathetic?”, but “What’s the disconnect between the Millennial Generation’s deep connection to community and their comparatively low political engagement?” Which brings me to my next point:
2. We need to meet the Millennial Generation where they are. We need to connect democracy with the issues young people care about, things like equity, sustainability and an economy that doesn’t sport a youth unemployment rate double the national average. And not just that, but we need to proactively reach out to young people where they are: concerts, community gardens, sports events, and the like. When it comes to balancing the voices in our democratic process, relying on the traditional opt-in method just doesn’t work.
3. Politics needs to change. Last, the author makes the argument that we’ve been making since our founding: we can’t just leave politics unchanged and expect young people to jump on board. The generation more likely to get their news from Stephen Colbert & Jon Stewart fully reconginzes the outsize influence of money in politics. They see elected leadership that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the rising American electorate. They see the way that they’re courted during the election season only to be discounted when the sausage-making happens. And all along the way, they’re forced to deal with a process that’s boring, confusing and not built for the 21st century.
If we want a democratic process that includes the voices of the Millennial Generation to the same extent as older Americans, we have to address these three points. We need to ask the right questions, make politics relevant and unavoidable and fundamentally transform the structures of governance.
I like to think the Bus does a pretty good job on these three points, and that’s why I’m proud to be a part of it. Nice to see the Gray Lady thinks so, too.
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