Will The Youth Vote Trump Tea Party In Midterm Elections?

by Bakari Kitwana

One of the most important unasked questions this midterm election year is this: “Will the youth vote be a factor in 2010?” Given the actual impact of the youth vote in 2008, it’s a far more important question than the ones daily raised by the media manufactured so-called Tea Party Movement–despite the latter’s success at striking fear in the hearts of incumbents.

The Tea Party murmuring is hardly a movement. It has not a single political victory to speak of. Not so easy to dismiss are young voters who two years ago turned out in record numbers to vote in the presidential election. Two-thirds of the 23 million voters 18-29 who voted for president in 2008, voted for Barack Obama.

“The election of Barack Obama was a major electoral politics victory for the youth vote,” says Angela Woodson who co-chaired the 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention, which brought together 4000 young voters from across the US. “But it doesn’t help the president to move their agenda if he isn’t backed by a strong legislative body with the same vision.”

The primary races unfolding this spring and summer (Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina had theirs this week) will lay the groundwork for important midterm elections this November. Both will determine if President Barack Obama can move forward effectively with his change agenda or if young voters will see common sense policies that they voted for in 2008 erupt into ugly, year-long knock down, drag out debates–the ways healthcare and economic reform have.

Over the last year and a half, young voters have for the most part remained on the sidelines of mainstream political debates. And a Gallup poll last week found that young voters are less enthusiastic about voting in midterm elections than older voters.

Is the youth vote simply elated by what it achieved in 2008 or exhausted from the effort?

Biko Baker

Rob Biko Baker, Executive Director of the League of Young Voters Education Fund, an organization that has been mobilizing young voters since 2003 says it’s neither.

“Community institutions and capacity have been weakened by the economy, says Baker. But I don’t think that youth have been quiet. The mainstream media just isn’t focusing on their activism.”

When the Chris Brown and Rihanna incident pushed dating violence into the media spotlight early last year, young voters missed an opportunity to translate their newly won political leverage into much needed dating violence reform. Young voters were mostly silent on the healthcare debate. They were even quieter on student loan reform. Both were signed into law despite lackluster support from the youth voting bloc.

However, Baker points to other issues where youth have taken the lead, such as activism around immigration (in Arizona) and police brutality (Oscar Grant in Oakland).

“Young people are engaged in these issues and extremely present in on-line advocacy,” says Biko, pointing to a recent survey that found that African Americans were more likely to be on Twitter. “But despite their sophistication, we need to identify a tangible agenda around which to heighten that engagement.”

Already this year, the country has witnessed the white backlash against Obama under the auspices of a Tea Party Movement, the rising conservative state’s rights agenda in the form of Arizona immigrant laws and Texas textbook reform, and the even more extreme antigovernment militias threatening violence to thwart an inevitably more inclusive America. With important congressional, senate and governor races approaching, all three may be tangible catalysts for youth electoral politics engagement.

Given the significant number of independent voters in their ranks (42 percent of college students and 35 percent of African Americans under 30 are independent), such a turning point will require young voters to rethink their independent status in the primary in order to assure the most viable candidates are on the ballot on November 2.

Young voters need to understand that the primary structure was created for the two-party system,” says Woodson, the former director of Outreach for Faith-based and Community Initiatives for the Ohio governor’s office, who now heads the consulting firm Gelic Group. “In order to use the same aggressiveness for midterm elections that they did during the presidential race, the youth vote has to learn how to play the independent game and switch parties when it makes sense.”

Such thinking is not unprecedented. During the 2008 Democratic Primary Election, Republicans crossed over and voted for the Democrat they believed to be the easier opponent for their Republican contender, then switched back to “Republican” for the general election. It made concrete political sense and is well within the rules.

The question is, will young voters abandon their fierce independent convictions in the short term to advance their long-term goals?

If they can do this, then they are closer to building a movement than so-called Tea Party supporters can imagine.

Bakari Kitwana is CEO of Rap Sessions, Editor at Large of NewsOne.com and author of the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era. (Third World Press, 2010)

original story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bakari-kitwana/will-the-youth-vote-trump_b_566478.html

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7 comments on “Will The Youth Vote Trump Tea Party In Midterm Elections?

  1. It would be great if the young voters turned out strong! They have the highest unemployment rate in the country, and their prospects for a good future seem worse. They might be smart enough to vote in some people that will help get jobs, not create more social feel good waste money priorities. In case the young weren’t aware, the $2.5 trilion dollars deposited by old workers for their social security retirement is gone. Our congress put in some IOU papers so the young will pay for what the old stole again.

  2. Historically the young do not vote in mid terms. If they don’t show up it’s not necessarily due to anything other than having something better to do that day.

    That is the type of disenfranchisement and apathy caused when first time voters realize they were lied to. Obama hasn’t fullfilled a single campaign promise most devastating among them the continuance of Bush’s illegal prison in guantanamo. He didn’t say “I promise to close it unless it makes me unpopular in the press” he promised to close it and didn’t.

    I’m not naive and never expected more than one or two promises to be fulfilled but I expected him to try and fail not to simply ignore those who put him in office.

  3. the key to getting out the youth vote is issues they care about. young people were kind of meh about john kerry in 2004; that was not the case with Obama in 2008.

    california’s 2010 midterm election could be a real litmus test, with the marijuana legalization issue on the ballot. will this issue bring young voters to the polls? if so, other referendums will get a boost from an influx of young people.

  4. this aint about youth not voting or to get youth to the polls u gotta put making weed legal on the ballot this is about people not just youth, but people in general who feel it’s a waist of time voting. All the ballot gimmicks won’t make some 1 young or old vote unless they want to.

  5. The tea Party folks are at least a little bit organized meaning they at least have events and such.. what does the “youth vote” have?
    why, because they don’t care… youth is wasted on the young.
    If anyone.. young or old, who voted for Obama will sit back and simply recognize the facts, not the hubris of this administration and voted accordingly.. but hey I am speaking logically and the youth aint logical.
    Hell maybe Jay Z should run for office… he’s illuminati ya know.

  6. Jose you don’t know what Illuminati is, who runs it, or just what they are up to at the moment. If you did you wouldn’t say Jay-Z. Jimmy Iovine, and high rankers on the Universal board is ilumanti (ill kids) you fool. He put the hit on Pac. Ill Kids thought he was somebody else. They used that fool Suge Knight like a domino, to hit Biggie just in case he was the nigga they was looking for. Now they daring Pac to show from Cuba, Jimmy figure to get 50 on him, and they invented Drake. Ill Kids know the true Christ is going to be black and use music. It’s one of their oldest most hidden prophecies. Think about it fool, what is the quickest way to get global notoriety. Pac is not the one, but he survived, that why his momma made like she burned the body. All those people that loved Pac don’t you think she would have had a decent burial if he was dead. Jay-Z is so mainstream he does what they want without them having to let him in. He’s an autopilot fool

    As far as this article. All I can say is. I need to vote in the mid term. I got two choices. It makes sense to go with the one that aids my first choice.

  7. Jose, the youth vote has the following and more: grassroots activists mobilized around Oscar Grant, Jena 6, Arizona immigration law. 2/3 of 23 million young voters who voted for Obama in 2010. An increase in the youth vote in 2006 up from 2002. up in 2004 from 2000. up 2008 from 2004. The Hip-Hop Caucus, The League of Young Voters, Black Youth Vote Coalition, The Hip-Hop Congress. countless grassroots and local arts organizations and activists groups. We can’t let 2010 be the last word from young voters. The Tea Party isn’t as organized as the media suggests. Their national convention brought out 500 last year. The National Hip-Hop Political Convention of 2004 brought out 4000. But the media didn’t keep young voters in the news every day the ways they are giving shine to the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a scam, designed to divide and conquer the nation so Republicans, the Party of yesterday, not tomorrow can keep running things. Don’t believe the hype!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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