Waymon Hudson

Politics as usual? The Youth Factor

Filed By Waymon Hudson | May 03, 2008 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Democrats, Facebook, Hillary Rodham Clinton, LGBT youth, Myspace, politics, social networking

I have hope that there are some looking beyond the bickering within the Democratic Party and having substantive discussions on policies and their effects. Want to know where this elevated level of discourse is happening? It's among young voters on social networking sites.

While many of the party old-timers are stuck in the rut of "digging in and defending your candidate" no matter how much it harms the party, the discussions from young voters and politicos on sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Glee more often than not are actually about policy differences between the candidates.

Now more than ever, young voters are looking at individual issues with an in-depth and nuanced stance. And when the discussions dissolve into "distraction issues," the commenters on the threads quickly put things back on the right track. A great example of an in-depth fresh look from a Facebooker on the gas holiday is after the jump...

This great little thought nugget comes from a good friend of mine. He posted it to his Facebook page and has gotten tons of comments and discussion on it. I think it is the first actual look at an issue that doesn't take needless swipes at anyone, but seems to really struggle with a position taken by Clinton:

Please don't get me wrong - I have always been a fan of Senator Clinton in some way, and still am. She's a wonk, kinda nerdy, she likes to talk about the finer points of policy and has, as a Senator, found ways to work with the then-majority party to make the laws of the land better.

But few things anger me more than this Gas Tax holiday idea. Senator Clinton has been saying that her experience and her substance make her the best candidate to be president. So why, then, would she sign on to Senator George W. McCain's short-sighted, ineffective, and ultimately damaging gas-tax holiday?

Politics As Usual.

I hate to see Senator Clinton do this. She's smart, and has always been good on environmental issues. Why would she endorse a counter-productive plan that takes money away the highway trust fund, a fund that creates jobs for infrastructure repair? Why would she want to endorse a plan that creates an incentive for more consumption? Why would she endorse a plan that would benefit the most wasteful drivers, a plan that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy?

Politics As Usual.

There are so many better ways to get money into the hands of people who need it. Increases for food-stamps. A stimulus plan that helps get people out of debt and gets some cash into an economy. A middle-class family of four would get, at most, $100 over the 3-month course of the summer gas-tax repeal. That doesn't help, really, and the Senator knows that.

It's sad that the shoe is on the other foot, but much like 1992, it's Change versus More of the Same. It's about Real Substance and Effective Policies versus pandering and expediency.

I think a hard, smart look at an issue that could really affect people, like this gas holiday, is becoming increasingly rare in the political discourse. I also think it shows how many young voters are educating each other through modern technology about policy differences rather than wallowing in distractions like "bittergate" or Clinton's pantsuits.

Perhaps it is the younger generation moving beyond divisive politics. Maybe youth are not as hung up on race or gender as older generations and can look at the issues better. Who knows?

One thing is clear- young voters are getting more involved than ever. They are reaching out to each other, talking about things that are important to them, and rallying their friends. Maybe the rest of the politicos could learn a lesson on in-depth discourse, rather than sound bite bickering, from the newly energized youth.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 3, 2008 10:57 AM

Hear Hear Waymon. I do believe I have been waiting half my life to see young voters registered and participating and may this trend continue.

I don't think the average family would save $100 over three months. The oil companies would just increase the price of gas to off-set the difference. Gas ain't elastic, yo.

See? I can talk like the kids do.


I disagree that the phenomenon of holding dear to your fave candidate at the expense of all else is limited to "party old-timers," unless my friends in their 20's fall into that category.

I do, however, notice that younger people tend to think more intersectional and cynical when it comes to ID politics, in general. Growing up with the first black and black female sec's of state both being war-mongerers, the first latino attorney general writing memos against the Geneva Convention, a female education secretary who's anti-feminist, the first Asian Labor Sec. who does all she can to steal from laborers to give to the rich, both outed and out-n-proud gay Congresscritters who work against LGBT rights leg, etc. has prolly made people, esp. young people, more cynical about ideas like "If we just had X in the White House, s/he'd understand our experience."

But I don't think that's the same as "not as hung up on race or gender." I was just hanging out with some college-educated American male kids (early 20's) the other day and one said that he just can't stand anything that women write, and another asked why that was, why is it that women just can't write as well as men can, why they always come off so irritatingly. After I said something and someone responded with "I forgot that Alex was a feminist or something," another boy was just like "People don't have to like everything. Live and let live."

We still have a ways to go.

"Perhaps it is the younger generation moving beyond divisive politics."

Apparently - not when it comes to ageism. But that's OK - the 16 year olds will take care of that for you old and in the way types.

Alex, thanks for posting another blog in the comments section... LOL.

I'm not saying that young people are perfect when it comes to politics or issues of race and gender. I do think that the youth vote is more concerned with actual issues first and "identity" politics second.

So while we "still have a ways to go", I still think that that the newly energized block of young voters approach the race in terms of issues, which is refreshing.


Why does everyone always scream "ageism" whenever young people are mentioned?

Perhaps the charge of ageism would be better pointed towards yourself. The way you seem to look down your nose at youth (I mean, your "16 year old" jab? Really??) is a bit insulting.

Pot, meet the Kettle...

(I mean, your "16 year old" jab? Really??) is a bit insulting.

I wasn't calling you a 16 year old. Nor did I imply calling you one would be an insult.

But yes - if you're going to point out how you're only reaching out to people of a certain age - and how people of certain ages have answers and attitudes more advanced than others - you might want to examine the statement that implicitly makes about others - based upon their age. Particularly given how when interacting mediated by technology, someones age is assumed - but not known.

I do see that as divisive. I think it's always worthwhile to examine the reasons and effects in politics of people choosing to separate themselves from others and how they describe others when doing so. It's not necessarily a bad thing - people have differing needs that need expression and attention. But it is identity politics. And it can be seen as the obverse of being told to get off my lawn.

If ageism is always raised when you discuss an issue - it's likely that this is an opportunity to begin educating each other. Mediated by technology. Damn - better get off my own lawn.

I fail to see how recognizing something I see as a positive trend among young people is in any way ageist. I also fail to see how this is "only reaching out to people of a certain age." The fact that young people are becoming more involved does not denote in any way that they are "more advanced" than anyone else. It simply means that they are finally finding a voice and place to express it.

I also think you might want to reexamine your own comments. You seem very good at casting stones and reading into things without the slightest bit of recognition about how your own comments are in fact insulting and come across as demeaning to younger people.

Simply saying that you didn't mean your "16 year old" comment as an insult doesn't make it so.

So as I get off of your lawn, let me just say that stating young people are doing something good doesn’t automatically equal that older people aren’t. This isn't an either/or situation.

Now where is the baseball that I hit in your yard…? ;)

So if I say that young people tend to be better at video games than those over 40, that's ageist.

If I say that people over the age of 20 tend to make better cooks than those under age 20, that's ageist too.

If I say a grown up tends to make better judgement calls than most kids, I'm ageist again.

And for Christ's sake, don't ever mention that some "youngsters" are smarter than their elders.

Mountain out of a molehill. Not even molehill - anthill.

Waymon, thanks for taking a serious look at the youth vote. Too often they are ignored in the blogosphere. If you really want to dig in and take a look at the habits, ideas, and real-world actions of young people, I'd recommend reading a new book: Youth to Power: How Today's Young Voters Are Building Tomorow's Progressive Majority.

It just got reviewed on AlterNet:

Michael Connery has written a necessary and accessible primer on the status of the progressive youth vote in the U.S. Youth to Power is a slim volume that gives important historical context to the youth vote and an in-depth look at the current activity of young progressives aligning with the Democratic Party, turning on its head the long-held perception of youth in America as apathetic and disconnected from electoral politics.

Connery essentially issues a wake-up call to progressive leaders: ignore the youth vote now and in any election in the future at your own peril. With good reason -- the Millennial generation, defined in the political realm as those born between 1978 and 1996, includes 50 million eligible voters for this year's presidential election. And more and more of them are aligning with the Democratic Party on issues like health care, the war in Iraq, foreign policy and environmental standards.

Connery, a respected progressive blogger, maintains the blog Future Majority and is a contributor to MyDD, DailyKos and the Huffington Post's "Off the Bus" project. As a veteran of the 2004 presidential cycle -- Connery co-founded a get-out-the-vote organization called Music For America -- he is well positioned to share observations and suggestions to those in power and simultaneously share experience and inspiration with youth voters and young leaders during this historic presidential election cycle.

He addresses Gen X and Baby Boomer leaders as well as Millenials throughout the book, in chapters that cover the 2003-04 rise in political participation in the Howard Dean campaign ("Deaniacs") through what he terms the "dot org boom" -- when an array of organizations were established by a few key progressive funders after the Democrats lost the presidential bid in 2004. He also spends time explaining how funding for progressive youth leadership training pales in comparison to the "conservative youth factory" established by the right wing. Connery also discusses methods of engaging youth through social justice activism -- a strategy deftly employed by communities of color. And he illuminates how new communication technologies, and the advent of Web 2.0 specifically, has helped shape new opportunities for unprecedented levels of participation by youth in electoral politics.

I fail to see how recognizing something I see as a positive trend among young people is in any way ageist.

Not taking sides, but just explaining where people might have an issue, I think here:

While many of the party old-timers are stuck in the rut of "digging in and defending your candidate" no matter how much it harms the party

So old people are destroying the Democratic Party?

And here:

Maybe youth are not as hung up on race or gender as older generations and can look at the issues better.

So old people are too racist and sexist to examine the real issues?

Not saying that's what you're saying, but I think Kathy has a point: when we isolate certain attitudes as more advanced, then everyone else is automatically less advanced, and unless we have more data than a Facebook post, it's going to come off a bit insulting to those people who are in the everyone else.

On a completely different subject, I also think it comes off weird to have a young person, a fresh voice in the conversation, say things like "Politics as usual" and talk about the '92 election as if he were there (was he? He couldn't really be all that young then).

And don't say you're getting off my property, Waymon. I think I'm a bit younger than you, so, if anything, it's me who should be listening respectfully to your stories of how the world works, not talking back like some poorly raised child.


You are taking statements (actually one of those was a just a question, but that's splitting hairs) and blowing them to extremes. I don’t see the extreme jumps you are making. That's neither helpful to a discussion or a fair shot.

And the writer of the facebook post is 24. He is well read and knows his political history, so to say he "couldn't be that young" simply because he knows his stuff is kind of ridiculous.

And are you calling me a poorly raised child for standing up for myself? I hardly think engaging in debate is "talking back".

So old people are destroying the Democratic Party?

Hardly. But I don't think that was Waymon's point. The older politicos don't get social networking and how the web2.0 works. A perfect example was the Woody Myers campaign threatening to sue - which backfired into a perfect storm on the blogosphere. It may have cost him the election.

So old people are too racist and sexist to examine the real issues?

No, but I'd wager that you'll find more acceptance of women, minorities and the LGBT community in younger folks. How many studies have been published showing the younger generation to be mostly socially liberal - or at least much more liberal than the Baby Boomers or "the Greatest Generation?"

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 4, 2008 12:12 AM

What is web 2.0 sonny?

Tons of seniors are using the internet. I correspond regularly with people past 80. I have even sent some hints to read Bilerico.

Particularly, I have sent it to those who still are harboring remnants of racism and sexism.

As some may recall I challenged two Hoosier Republican women to list five women each they would consider qualifed to be President. I am still waiting for the list and they are P ed off at me, but they have ceased sending cartoons of Hillary in pantsuits and obama muslim junk.

This is what I find extremely frustrating. The level of discourse has dissolved into "you said this, which MUST mean that". There can be no actual discussion. Alex and Kathy's movement to extreme statements of "what I really meant" is not unlike:

-you don't support the war, so you MUST be against the troops
-you don't like Bush, so you MUST be un-American
-Obama doesn't wear a flag pin, so he MUST not love America

Or any of the other ridiculous moves to automatically put someone in a box that you can fight against. I mean, am I the only person that sees the lack of logic that it takes to leap between statements in Alex’s comment (#10)?

This post is about how I see many young people expressing smart, nuanced views on politics using new technology. The rest is just conflated, argumentative crap that doesn't accomplish anything.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 4, 2008 2:27 AM

It is frustrating Waymon, but most folks don't like to think. They would rather watch "American Idol" and "Fox news." I applaud the youth vote and hope they have arrived in time to save the country from itself.

I hope you don't think I have said anything unhelpful, but get your damn bicycle off my lawn!


Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | May 4, 2008 9:07 AM

I am right there with you Waymon.

It is kind of like when I tell people that I don't hate HRC and they then awesome that I don't like transgender people. It doesn't make much sense to me and serves to foster the kind of division that has kept use from making political progress faster.

I took away from your post a hopeful message about how young people are seriously discussing politics using social networking sites. That doesn't mean that older people aren't, it is just a look at what young people are doing.

We should be celebrating that young people are actively engaging in politics in a way and format that works for them.


You are, as always, funny and insightful. I always look forward to your feedback in everything I write.

You are right that most folks don't want to think. This post just dissolved into "Politics as usual"- People making extreme jumps in "logic" to try to make a point, throwing around labels and offensive buzz words (sexist, racist, ageist- oh my!), with a smattering of condescension. I feel like I'm in a primary, for goodness sakes. LOL.

Now I'll collect my bike and go back to my paper route, sir. ;)

Wait- that statement might need to go in the open thread for the weekend... Tee hee.

I find myself agreeing with Waymon on this one. Every time he says anything about "younger," "older," or anywhere in the middle, someone has to jump out of the woodwork and accuse him of ageism. It's not as if Waymon is an 18 year old railing against the old farts; in fact I think most of you would be surprised at how old Waymon actually is. Don't let that baby face mislead you!

It has to be extremely frustrating for Waymon to do a post on youth involvement in politics and how they are using web2.0 to increase their political viability and amount of information disseminated and then get taken to task for a bullshit charge of "ageism."

It's the same as Alex putting up a video of a drag queen for a You Gotta See This video and being told he's "transphobic" and worse than Hitler. Or how a post on murdered Iranian youth turns into a "trans people who are killed in America is worse than gay kids killed in Iran. By highlighting the Iranians, you are anti-trans."

Waymon is correct when he says that this whole thing is starting to turn into "You don't support the war, so you must be against the troops." I don't think any of you bothered to ask Waymon any serious questions about his post to flesh out anything that you might question - instead it went straight to labels and antagonism.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 4, 2008 11:57 AM

Don't worry Waymon, I'm still willing to believe you are 18 and I can type very well without my glasses! Congrats on the posting!

Bil, on May 5, I become fifty five. Who cares right? What destroys me is that so many, are so involved in themselves, to miss living altogether. All of us have a responsibility to others to try and create a better world, but we all have to live in the world as it is rather than as we might like it to be. Right?

Weeks before I left Florida I was able to go to Lakeland Florida to see a production of the Matthew Shephard play that had been created. It was a minor news story in Florida, Waymond probably heard about. The teacher and students doing the production chose the play, but the pressure from parents caused the school to prevent the senior class from presenting it.

They believe in the play and sought and found another venue to present the play and I attended as guest of a dear friend who was an underwriter of the cost of the production. After the play, the cast, Gay and Straight 18 year old kids, made themselves available for after performance questions. I would trust these kids with the future of our country and complimented them all on living "fiercely." If you have lived fiercely when you are young there is no going back for a lifetime.

Waymon, I think the candidates themselves (with the exception of McCain) are getting smarter about reaching out to younger voters by utilizing tools such as Myspace and Facebook. When people pay attention to the youth, isn't is amazing how they respond by being engaged? Hmmm . . . what a novel concept.

Kathy - why do you hate on Waymon so much? Did he pee in your Cheerios, or what?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 5, 2008 10:13 AM

And if he hasn't he might if you ask nicely and call him "Sir."

Robert wins for best follow-up one-liner! LOL