Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Will the Youth Vote Save the Day?

we can only hope.

from seattle p-i:

Four students in my freshman class could barely sit still during their test Feb. 8. I had put them in the back of the room because I knew they wanted to bolt out the door to get to the Barack Obama rally. As I watched them furiously checking off answers, I thought back to April 2006 when I had agreed to meet with students for Civics Week at my university. The organizers reserved an auditorium for 150 people. Six students showed up.

Robert Putnam recently wrote in the Boston Globe about the "rebirth of American civic life" and those of us on the front lines with today's college population are indeed witnessing an upsurge of interest. But I am not sure we have a handle on the reason this is happening. And why am I seeing such support for Obama among evangelical students at my Christian university?

While turnout among Democrats has increased 90 percent since the last presidential primary year, among under-25 voters, it is up 135 percent. Not being in the Obama camp yet, I wanted to understand and invited my students for cookies and conversation. Tell me, I said, why you are so enthusiastic?

What they told me was all about finding their own voice in politics, and it was a voice full of optimism. As each spoke at the table, it was clear that Obama inspires a belief that they matter. Michelle said, "I stood with 20,000 people in KeyArena and felt he was speaking just to me."

I asked them about this support, given their evangelical background: Didn't society assume they should be Republican voters?

The students told me their generation did not grow up with a tradition of being Republican. Obama, they said, took on issues of poverty, war and justice -- aren't those the very themes they were reading in Scripture?

It was 40 minutes into the conversation before any of the students at the table mentioned the issue of race. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Americans will have to choose in this election which of our sins is greater, racism or misogyny. Were the students supporting Obama to make a statement about racial justice?

No, they answered. Of course, it would be wonderful to show the world Americans were capable of choosing an African-American president, but they did not view their vote as a symbol against racism. We are the post-protest generation, they told me. Again, Michelle said, "I will vote for him because he is a good candidate, not because he is black." more

The Apathetic Hole

The Good and Bad In All of Us
Poll: Democrats Prefer Obama