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Watching election returns last night proved to be a very interesting evening.  What became consistent was the impact of the lack of outreach on the youth segment of the electorate and the diminished rate of enthusiasm.

In Virginia

"Only 1,973,868 of a total 4,955,755 voters participated in the gubernatorial race — "a miniscule number when you consider there were 3.7 million voters in the 2008 election," said Isaac Wood, assistant communications director at the University Center for Politics... He added that generally one-third of Virginia voters in presidential elections choose not to participate in gubernatorial elections, and that, as such, yesterday’s voter turnout was even lower than usual."

One difference this year than in 2008 was young voters had a candidate at the top of the ticket who actively sought their vote.  

This isn't generally the standard in other elections, despite our efforts to teach candidates otherwise.  Outreach is so important, asking young people for their vote is key, and peer to peer outreach is a must.  All of these things happened nation wide in 2008, in large part because the Obama campaign placed a high importance on getting out the vote for young people.  

Let's also not forget the huge outreach done by non-party groups like HeadCount, Rock the Vote, and state youth groups around the country.  I did receive a "Go Vote" email from HeadCount yesterday but no text messages from Rock the Vote, and no facebook reminders.  There just wasn't the kind of work done this year that was done last year.

This was echoed in a brilliantly articulated piece in the Washington Post

"It doesn’t seem to have been enough, and one immediate lesson from these off-off-year elections is already clear: Democrats have a lot of work to do to bring Obama loyalists to the polls, particularly the young. Early exit polls suggest that the share of the electorate represented by voters under 30 will be cut roughly in half compared to 2008.

No one expects that young voters will be as excited by this year’s election (or by next year’s midterms) as they were by Obama’s own candidacy. But Democrats are more dependent on young voters than ever before – something I wrote about earlier this fall. Virginia should bring home to them the imperative of mobilizing the millennials with more than just a nice ad toward the end of a campaign."

Another major problem I'll echo comes from the Atlantic Wire

Uninspired by Democrats Elrod at The Moderate Voice isn't so sure. "Young voters and African Americans did not feel inspired to support the Dems in those states," Elrod writes. "If they feel that way in November 2010 then the consequences will be grave for the Democrats."

Never underestimate the inspiration factor.  In large part it comes from a candidate that speaks to young voters.  A candidate doesn't have to look like Obama, or speak as well as Obama does - the simple outreach and ability to speak to youth issues can be enough.  Communicate to young voters 1. the differences between the candidates, 2. why their vote is important, and 3. ask them for their vote.  Get them to vote early or by mail, and then actively GOTV on election day.

The Atlantic Continues by placing some blame

"Jon Stewart Failed, and White House Didn't Step In: Maegan Carberry at the Huffington Post isn't the first to argue, provocatively, that "it's been up to Jon Stewart and to keep the kids engaged." The problem with the Obama team, she says, is that "despite its hipster Flickr feed and weekly YouTube address, [the White House] has presented a television-driven strategy, ceding a great deal of its street cred with the president's digital Millennial generation base."

I both agree and disagree.  Young people watch more than Jon Stewart and FunnyOrDie and saying that the youth vote depends on these two factors is an oversimplification.  There wasn't a youth campaign, whether from national sources or from the state campaigns.  If there isn't going to be national outreach done by The Daily Show or online then the only option is peer to peer outreach on the ground done by the campaign.  Neither in this case happened.

This is also the first election with OFA at the helm of the DNC, and I think its an indictment of the style of organizing.  Its troubling that OFA wasn't involved in the Maine vote considering the extent to which the White House has attempted to make-up to the LGBT community.

When democrats weren't in the White House the DNC organizing model was focused on elections, now that we hold the White House the purpose of the DNC has shifted to pushing the President's agenda, which is why the DNC isn't in the business of winning elections anymore (locally or otherwise), but instead organizing around issues like the President's health care reform battle.  This isn't a criticism, its just the way things are.  If democratic donors want to see electoral results they should invest in the DCCC, the DSCC, the DGA or local state parties, not to OFA or the DNC.  

Finally, the Atlantic says

"Young People Fickle, Bored, and Hate Health Care "Would Obama have had more legislative success," wonders Steve Sailer at the iSteve blog..."

I both agree and disagree here as well.  I wouldn't say fickle, I think its pretty simple to outline a winning strategy for young voters and it starts with outreach and we've determined that wasn't done here.  I would agree that youth were bored with their choices - there was no inspiration and again no outreach.  But I disagree this has anything to do with health care nor do I agree that young people hate health care.  In the past I've written on Future Majority that the HCR battle would have been a lot easier and more effective if OFA and the White House incorporated youth into the discussion, but instead they were ignored there as well.  

The moral of this story is that the DCCC and the DSCC should go beyond "showing candidates the data on young voters" (as Chris van Hollen said at the 80MS conference), and show campaigns how they can win with the youth vote and how to do the proper outreach.  With a professionally run campaign to connect with young voters, their candidates can win the way Obama did with youth, but the outcome will be similar to NJ and VA if they don't.

UPDATE:  There is a demographic breakdown of partisan vote in VA that shows that 18-29 year olds voted 51% for Deeds, 47% for McDonnell, and were 10% of the vote share in VA.

Crossposted from Future Majority - the leaders in reporting the youth movement :)

Originally posted to Sarahkatheryn on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 08:41 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  so now it's a referendum on Jon Stewart?? (5+ / 0-)

    stretch much?

  •  Some good points here. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    frandor55, soms, MKDAWUSS

    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 08:48:08 AM PST

  •  So, it's Jon Stewart's and Obama's fault. Right. (6+ / 0-)

    Stewart and Colbert are the only "newsmen" telling it like it is so why should they push two super crappy candidates? They aren't the propaganda arm of the Democratic party. If Democrats would actually do what needs to be done and would put good candidates forward, then I'm sure voters would vote. I don't live in New Jersey or Virginia, but I'm not sure if I would have gone to the polls.

  •  jon stewart -- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


  •  If anybody... I think VA & NJ were a referendum (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fivefouranonymous, stunzeed

    on Tim Kaine... especially VA... that's his state.

    Criegh Deeds had his own problems and ThinkProgress does the best job of outlining them: Creigh Deeds Failed To Run As A Progressive

    Corzine lost for two main reason's: Goldman and Sachs

    Local Dems were on our own here in NYC for Bill Thompson... the DNC was completely absent.

    •  Corzine did not lose because of Goldman Sachs (0+ / 0-)

      He lost for several reasons:

      1. Nothing was done to address property taxes.  
      1. Failing to push the Christie/Bush connection.
      1. The whole accident/not wearing seatbelt/speeding to a photo-op thing.
      1. People like me (I'm 29/voted for Obama) sat this one out.
  •  What Lesson will Democrats take away (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, jethrock, GameMusic

    personally, i find the democrats have had a disastrous year ... they have all the legislative power they need to accomplish serious reforms ... but they have been so incredibly timid -- THAT is what turns voters off who so overwhelmingly came out to support them last year -- Young AND Old alike ....

    i take Your point on the Maine issue to heart as well ...

    "I want to keep them alive long enough that I can win them to Christ," - Rick Warren, Professional Greed Driven Scumbag

    by josephk on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 08:50:51 AM PST

  •  Many Young Voters See Business As Usual... (7+ / 0-)

    Obama inspired young people in his campaign, but he has turned his back on them.

  •  Interesting analysis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sarahkatheryn, snaglepuss

    Interesting observation on Jon Stewart's role in youth participation in political activities. It seems to dovetail into Larissa Dorman's study, in which she discovered that:

    The findings of this study demonstrate that exposure to "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart has a significant positive impact on political participation among American youth. Using a large survey of students (18-24 years of age) and a survey of a cross-section of the American adult public, this paper tests the hypotheses that college students began watching "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" due to its comedic content and subsequently became engaged in the political issues being discussed.

    "As both sets of data conclude, exposure to "The Daily Show" in the presence of multivariate analysis controlling for other predictors is a significant indicator of political participation not only for the narrow cohort of college students but also for the cross-section of the American public. Additionally, exposure to "The Daily Show" is a more important explanatory variable of political participation than network news and newspaper readership."

    "Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn." - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist and philosopher.

    by MKSinSA on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 08:57:48 AM PST

  •  I used to be a young voter when (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, publicv, beaky

    Clinton won two terms and of course, Clinton excited the youth and got them out to vote but you quickly begin to see crazy right wing legislations being passed (DADT and DOMA, welfare reform, wildly varying and racially unfair crack v cocaine laws etc) and you don't give a crap anymore.

    Now the people have voted to not grant gay people the word marriage as if its a sacred jewel of human rituals and our very lives depend on whether a XY and XY are "allowed" to call themselves something.

    The president himself doesn't support XX/XX and XY/XY being called married. Its a really bullshit argument. Who gives a crap if two men are hubby and hubby or not except of course for the two men in the situation who could benefit from SS and lesser taxes and equal status in the world? They might reduce the foster care pool and adopt a lot of children. I really cant see why people would vote against love.

    Goddamit. I cant wait until these old superstitious freaks are gone. I promise I wont be that kind of old person.

    •  You and me both...n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "Shouldn't he have turned into a bat and flown away already?"

      by chicating on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 09:39:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I waited for the superstitious freaks to be gone (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in the sixties.  They did go.  But in the meantime they bred, indoctrinated those they bred, and lured them onto their superstitious freaky path with carrots of money-no-matter-who-else-loses.

      I wish it was as simple as just waiting.  It didn't work before, obviously.  What happened instead was we got plucked off the streets one at a time, locked up for one thing or another, and had our lives rearranged so we lost the prior fervor that gave us a name and something to identify with...and we continued to wait.  The future was ours and we didn't shape it, we let it ride.  For that, for our doing nothing, among other things, all us old hippies get flack from the generations after us.  

      I think what happened is the conversation got changed by the tactics of the GOP after 2008.  Using our language, to create confusion of meaning thorugh changes of definition, created distraction and stunned inaction.  The more they had to work against, the more emotive and provocative were the distractions they created.  It worked; Teabaggers, people armed at townmeetings, townmeetings basically filibustered by rowdy types working in unison, meaningless mumblings and rants from people like Palin, Limbaugh and others, Lieberman filibuster threats, moot sex scandals, quicksand C Street Religious saftey zones, on and on -- all distractions from the issues and from any successful work being done on the issues.  The conversations on the issues were redirected.  

      I know this is a stereotype, but when I think of Gen-Xers I think head banging, Kurt Kobain mourning, Mosh Pit habituees dressed in combat boots and torn black clothes held together with safety pins.  That's what most of Gen-Xers I met in the 70s looked like, like they were trying to shock people awake, the goal being illumination while sating themselves.  Different in appearance, but the same modis operendi as us hippies.  Maybe in their youth that image fit some Gen-Xers, but most of them I was friends with eventually went into the workforce, not quite as in general sold out as yuppies, but into the workforce.  Every generation has had it's way of rebelling, at least, and creating its own functional nitch, at best, by using appearance.  And every generation is ultimately stuck with the same option of going into the workforce.  Money, whether evil or nice, is necessary.  It's a b*tch.  What Mammon is is a question that never gets asked or answered.

      If we, Dems, Progs, Inds, and disaffected Reps, are going to come out ahead of this of-late and not-so-different-than-any-other-time political game, we have to ignore the differences of our sub-sets, stay active and focused on the issues, recapture and keep control of the conversation, not let the converstaion get destracted by absurd theatrical stunts, and keep conversing on topic until some solution is figured out and put into practice.  

      :-/  2 cents only, or less.  Sorry.  That came out all on its own.    

      Efectus nihil profundus sub pensus est

      by Riddlebaugh on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 10:04:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree 100%. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        GenX is also the kids who were at risk in the hood during the crack invasion and barely made it out of teenhood alive.

        The GenXers who turned out to be racist/bigotted GOP voters were the ones kept away from black kids and taught to be homophobes while growing up. You're right. People breed and the perpetuate the cycle of bigotry by purposely brainwashing their children.

        Don't their numbers at least get smaller every year? Every generation? (sigh) I just want to believe its going to be alright one day. Believing is not enough, I gather from your post. We've got an uphill battle.

        •  I know what you mean. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          As conservative as conservatives are, one would think they don't make love at all, let alone breed.  

          Yeah, I used to figure the kids they did have would see the proverbial light, out of their own self-interest if nothing else, and leave the conservative nest behind.  So I ignored them.  Sort of like I ignored computers thinking they would just go away.  Lol.  

          Yes.  We do have an uphill battle, or at least an uphill struggle.  The days for days of dazes are gone.  They were good, but time is seemingly getting shorter.  Some of that could just come with getting older.  But the world's ice is melting, too, among many other things going on.

          I wish just shrugging it all off would work.


          Efectus nihil profundus sub pensus est

          by Riddlebaugh on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 10:26:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Voting is our only duty, i don't think it's stres (0+ / 0-)

    sed as such coming up to most young people.  At the same time, a person needs to be moved to vote.  Inspiration.  They also have to feel like they are a part of 'it.'  They have to know who the candidate is and what they stand for. When do they usually know this candidate?  By some TV ads just before the election usually.   They don't 'waste' their time lightly.

    'If we lift our voice as one, there's nothing that can't be done' MJ

    by publicv on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 09:03:11 AM PST

    •  Agreed. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And in cases like the NJ gubernational election, it's hard to get people like myself to choose between three unpalatable selections.

      Corzine?  Christie?  Daggett?  No thanks.

      Had it been clear Obama was moving forward on his agenda, and Corzine was a necessary piece of this, I'd have voted for him.  Sadly, that was not the case.

  •  It seems to me that (0+ / 0-)

    the youth vote for Obama was about the man more than the issues. Much educational, motivational work still to be done before we can call it a real re-alignment.

  •  exactly (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Michael Connery, beaky

    young people turn out when someone engages them on the things they're concerned about. they tune out when they're ignored, and candidates play to older, conservative voters. people said obama was wasting his time with the youth, but they turned out when he spoke to them. same with dean.

    at a certain point, running the 1990s centrist game plan is going to become a real liability for democrats. the kids are liberal, they're facing a brutal job market, and that triangulating corporate mush will not play.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 09:11:27 AM PST

  •  This is almost a non-issue. (0+ / 0-)

    Off year elections have never been known to bring out voters, as a matter of fact, rain would keep them home.

    MSNBC ran a story about Obama's coalition failing.  really???

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 09:16:41 AM PST

  •  Youth vote for Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Michael Connery

    Some story (New Republic?) on the Obama campaign noted that the usual "youth co-ordinator" for a presidential campaign is a young relative of teh candidate. The youth co-ordinator for the Obama campaign had a department as big as any other, and maybe more active.

    If "con" is the antonym of "pro," what is the antonym of "progress"?

    by Frank Palmer on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 09:37:45 AM PST

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