The Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University recently released a report, funded by CRICLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), called Young Voter Mobilization Tactics. The report outlines what methods work in turning out young voters, arguing that method is more important than message, with an emphasis on face-to-face contact.
Alex Urevick over at MyDD outlines the argument that groups that work to increase general turnout may hurt Democrats in elections. He argues that the turnout methods described in this report are good, but the message is really what is important in getting out Democratic voters. I agree completely; we need to fund trained activists that know how to turn out voters with the progressive message.
In order to enact this strategy, however, progressives need a large group of activists. While there are thousands of young progressives who would be willing to do this kind of work, few have the means. Who can afford to drive somewhere, stay in a hotel, and volunteer for a campaign? Who can afford an unpaid internship in D.C. for a whole summer? If you want to work in politics, the job field is pretty bleak unless you're a member of the GOP.
The picture looks even bleaker when you examine the Republican get-out-the-vote effort. I noticed during the U.S. Senate primary in Connecticut that College Republicans had enough money to send volunteers to meddle in a Democratic primary. On the Democratic side, the Lamont campaign was too busy telling its volunteers which hotels were the cheapest. How can the Republicans afford to pay for their volunteers to travel and stay to work in the opposition party's primary, yet progressives can't back their own activists?
The answer is that there is a lack of investment in a long term progressive infrastructure, especially when compared to the conservatives. Progressives need to build an infrastructure that supports and fosters young progressive activists. The lack of internships, fellowships, and jobs in D.C. that are well paid and attractive to progressives is a huge problem. A quick look at the situation for the right, however, reveals how easy it is for a young conservative to find the support and infrastructure to get a well-paid job in the political activist community. Organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Young American Foundation provide immense opportunities to young conservatives.
Camp Wellstone and Young People for are making progress, but in order to create a long-term progressive majority, more needs to be invested into building a progressive infrastructure. As Alex argues, "deploying professional persuasive activists in the field" is an integral part of election strategy. We can readily provide these activists if more were invested in training programs, internships, and fellowships for young progressives.