from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thoughts on young people after 2 CTG events 

I had read the book. I went to both DC events yesterday. I asked Markos a question which must not have been well-framed, because his answer was not to the point of my question. So I think I should share my own thinking. I’m sure that none of my insights are original, and the things I propose must also be floating out there as well. But since I have not yet seen them elsewhere, I will offer them.

And is the policy at this site, steal what you want. It might be nice to give me credit insofar as you use my words and ideas, but even that is less important if the ideas can serve the end purpose.

Many reading this will already have read Crashing the Gate. In it Markos and Jerome talk about how for years Republicans have funded their gifted up and comers, and contrasts this with the way, as Markos puts it, if you want to work for a progressive non-profit or thinks tank you almost have to be a trust fund baby. Our interns struggle to find houses they can share with 5 other people, the Republicans provide dorms for there. All of this is true, and from a structural standpoint is something that must be addressed.

I look at something else. As a teacher of government and politics to high school students, I notice two contrasting phenomenon. First, on many issues even those who self-identify as conservatives or Republicans when you go through issues, including many of the moral or “family values” issues, they are ate least persuadable if not favorable towards the progressive position once they understand it. Second, even many of those with strong feelings on certain issues are quite turned off to politics and politicians as they see them practiced. Remember, teaching as I do in Prince George’s County, for many of my students national political news as a part of their local news. Oh, and their disgust at politics is even more palpable if you talk about local or state politics.

Those 18-25 tend to vote a very low rate. Here is a group that is at least persuadable, is not currently voting (or in many cases participating in any fashion),and which could contribute mightily to the progressive vote total if only we had the structures in place to reach them. And I would want to start the process of outreach even younger, at least down to 16 years old, if not lower. Remember, one no longer has to be 18 to contribute, many young people might only give nominal amounts but with enough $20 and up contributions (the out of pocket cost of one movie with snacks) you can, as Dean showed and as the netroots has since demonstrated, you can raise some serious money.

Clearly candidates have to address issues that matter to young people. There is that content issue. But it will have to be framed differently, and it will have to be communicated differently.

Look, I teach some kids who are pretty conservative, personally, morally, and politically. Yet take the issues of gays, or of mixed race relationships. In our school everyone has at least acquaintances and usually one or more friends who are openly gay or bisexual. While the kids might be uncomfortable with the term “gay marriage” they are by and large perfectly prepared to support legalized gay civil relationships with ALL of the incidents of marriage -- why should their friends be denied happiness and security. Many students have significant others of a different racial -m or religious - or national origins - background, and more than a few are themselves the products of such relationships. When we talk about the kind of times I knew in high school in the early 1960’s they are shocked to realize how much they now take for granted.

Candidates will not be able to use traditional means to reach and influence such people. In many cases their concerns are less different than are how they communicate. At both events yesterday Markos talked about how Rupert Murdoch has bought myspace.com, looking ahead to this younger demographic group. I was thinking about that in the question I asked him at Politics and Prose. Last night, in response to a thread on dailykos posted by RenaRF, who blogged about that event at P&P, I offered my first semi-coherent thoughts on the subject. I will share them now, and then close with just a few more remarks.

in a sense, developing and supporting leadership for YDs the YRs have done might be PART of the problem, but would be insufficient.  The YR model that produced Reed, Abramoff, and Rove tended to be very incestuous, with people very concerned about their own future careers.   And it is not at all clear to me that such people would be able to reach out to the larger age cohort  -- that is, doing the equivalent with Dems

I was looking for mechanisms that would focus on connecting with this age group.  So, if you know that many of these people are in myspace.com, why does it matter that Rupert bought the site, is it not possible to set up a bot to scan for possible people to contact, or even set up a site as a phisher that might draw people to it?  That's one example.

Are we setting up mechanisms to do age group specific events on a regular basis, including for local and state candidates, that can more easily turn on young people and then get them to network with their friends.

The IM lists some young people have are incredible.  How can we utilize those to reach out, to communicate, to involve? those are a few examples which quickly come to mind.

I may work with young people, but I will be 60 on May 23. I do not use myspace.com (and in fact access to it is now banned from school computers). I offer a few thoughts, but also a caution. If we want to reach the younger people, we not only must think about the structures we use, but also the voices we use. Here my ideas and those of Markos in saying we must develop and support our gifted young people will overlap. Think of a pebble in the water, rippling out. Young people are incredibly networkers -- trust me, I see it every day. We need to find young people, listen to them, and encourage them to be agents of influence.

I hope that some who fall in the demographic group about which I am concerned will offer their ideas. You are far more than the future of the Democratic party, You are the future of this nation, this democracy, and without your involvement there may be no future democracy.

I have no wisdom to offer. I reflected on this last evening while attending an event with a batch of progressive bloggers and media types (fascinating in itself), and continued to think about it on my morning perambulation. I hope it is of some benefit to someone.

Now I must head off to another day with my own group of young people.


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