Saturday, February 28, 2015

Young voters, political participation, and the 2016 election

This is a work in progress, and I am posting it in the hope that people will read it and react to it. Tell me where I’m right, and tell me where I’m wrong or missing something.
I teach Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in years past I taught at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania and a large state university in California. Among other courses, I teach big introductory classes in American Government that are full of first and second year students, so I have been talking with a lot of young people about politics for 25 years. As a political scientist, I have also been reading what little is available in our literature about their attitudes toward politics and their political participation.  Add to that the fact that I have three children between the ages of 17 and 23, all of whom are interested in politics, and I’d say I have a solid base to offer some opinions on young people and political participation.
 Here is what I know about how the 18-29 demographic views political participation. I think it means that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are in trouble in 2016 unless they make some changes in their approach to young people. I am intentionally oversimplifying here and overstating the differences between young and older people in order to sharpen the contrast.  If I seem to be saying “all,” please understand that I mean a disproportionate amount. But as a practical matter these differences are determinative of election outcomes, and these are reasons why young people must be appealed to differently or they will not vote.
How are young voters different than older voters?

Right wing young rising star says HIllary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are rich white males

Thus spake 22 year old South Dakota TV personality and apparently rising star on the lunatic right. She was busily dismantling the myth that Republicans are rich white males. After pointing out that she, herself, is not a rich white male, she concluded with this show stopper:

"So, I think we’ve gone through this: Old, rich, white males. I want to remind you, let’s look at the top three Democrats for 2016. You’ve got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden? Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits, male too?"

A truly brilliant insight. I think that should solidify the young female vote for the Republicans, don't you?

USA Today: "For Bill O'Reilly, the facts are a factor"

USA Today ran a fairly remarkable editorial. It says that Fox News should distance itself from their highest rated...whatever he is, Bill O'Reilly, but that they won't.  Why? Because Fox isn't in the truth business. Fox is in the business of telling right wingers what they want to hear, or as USA Today puts it, "Fox News was not created to be neutral but rather to feed a hunger among conservatives for a network they could relate to."  

So, there will be no consequences for serial fabulist O'Reilly, they say:

"It's unfortunate that neither the network nor its star sees a need for allegiance to the truth. But for O'Reilly and Fox, the perceived vast liberal conspiracy that helped create the network two decades ago means not having to say you're sorry today."

USA Today has by far the highest circulation of any newspaper, at over 4 million, and they just launched a broadside at the biggest cable news show on the biggest cable network, accusing them of having no respect for the truth.  That's saying, in essence, "you are not in the journalism business."  And at the same time, USA Today expects no reaction from Fox, who refused even to comment on the editorial.  If the mainstream media are now comfortable calling Fox what it is not--journalism--will they begin to call Fox what it is--right wing propaganda?