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What Today Means for Young Voters

As one of the younger contributors to this blog, let me take a moment to explain why Election Day is so important for many 20-something voters.

Imagine you’re 26 years old. Eight years ago, your first time casting a ballot, you enthusiastically vote for Al Gore. He is smart, technologically savvy and won't mess with Clinton’s legacy. Then the Florida recount unfolds, and the Supreme Court, in your view, hands the presidency to Bush in an outright display of partisanship.

Four years later, Howard Dean piques your interest. He speaks his mind and understands the potential of the Internet. You’re disappointed when he bows out, and you reluctantly support John Kerry. You don’t feel passionate about Kerry, but you figure anyone is better than Bush. The exit polls show Kerry ahead, but Bush ekes out another win.

You’ve voted twice. You feel the first election was outright stolen. In the second, you acknowledge Kerry was a middling candidate, but you wonder why anyone would support Bush.

2008 approaches. Your belief that four more years of Bush would prove disastrous has been validated. You’re angry about the direction the country is heading, but you’re wary about engaging in an electoral process that has given you nothing but heartache.

Then a freshman Senator from Illinois announces his candidacy. He’s different. Not ashamed of his intellect. Not afraid to inspire with his oratory. You read his autobiography -- it gives you chills. You vote in the primaries -- a first. When you have a few extra dollars, you send it his way.

Improbably, he upsets the frontrunner. As Election Day nears, he builds what seems like an insurmountable lead. You’re proud of your county for the first time in years. And you’re going to vote for Barack Obama, even if it means navigating lengthy lines and inclement weather.

For these voters, Election Day is about rewarding their passion for Obama and restoring their faith in the democratic process. I’ve had my doubts about Obama, and I’ve been critical of young voters who support him for his rhetoric instead of his stance on the issues. But it’s hard to deny their involvement has made Election Day that much more meaningful. And it’s hard not to root for their faith to be rewarded.

By Steven Stein  | November 4, 2008; 7:42 AM ET
Categories:  Stein  | Tags:  Steven Stein  
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Comments

wow, that pretty much hit the nail on the head of my voting life and my feelings about those elections

Posted by: jenms | November 4, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm 43 and with the exception of Howard Dean piquing interest, you just described the last 2 elections for me too. So it's not just you young'uns!

Posted by: SJAJ | November 4, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Wow, that was a little scary in how accurately that reflected my political life. I was just thinking about how I voted Democrat this morning while I was waiting in line to vote and how disastrously that turned out.

Today, I wasn't wishy washy, but very proud to cast my vote because I feel like I actually voted FOR a candidate I believed in, rather than AGAINST someone I despised. I really pray that Obama wins today!

Posted by: around | November 4, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Youth is about being, or staying, green at one's core. This election has made my 73-year-old heart feel green again. Eugene Robinson's post (11/4/08) brought tears to my eyes, for I have lived through the same history he has seen. I was the white kid who couldn't understand why the well-dressed, soft-spoken black gentlemen couldn't eat in the same restaurant as my family but had to hunker down outside in the Arizona desert with a can of cold beans. I was the white kid who defiantly drank from the water fountain labeled "Colored" when the department store manager told her she couldn't. And I was the white kid who spoke back to her uncle at that Thanksgiving table, staying calm and logical and rebutting his racist insistences until finally he devolved into sarcasm, the last defense of the marginal mind: "Well, why don't you just grow up and marry one, and watch your kids come out with kinky hair."
Thank you, America, for giving me the chance to see that restaurant owner, that department store manager, that bully uncle relegated to the back of the historical bus.
Truly, we have overcome.

Posted by: watchbird1 | November 4, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

That's it for me too, B U T ...how do we pay for his programs? My folks are already broke, and I'm gonna be out of work soon!

Posted by: rargar1 | November 4, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

It means we have given undue influence to many people ignorant of civics and history and also those with little or no tax obligation.

Posted by: leapin | November 4, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Leapin, I say this with respect, as I try not to get involved in the vitriol that is too often flung about on these comment boards: what you just wrote is exactly what I (and probably many others) feel about the Palin-supporting base.

I guess it all depends on one's perspective. That's why respect is important.

Best wishes.

Posted by: lde2c | November 4, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

leapin: I just turned 25 yesterday and voted this morning. It's true I have not lived through and experienced the same history as those older than me, but isn't living my entire adult life under the shadow of Bush enough of a lesson? It's true others may know more about civics but I do my best to study the impact of my vote and which candidates I support. It's true I didn't get a great history education in school but I do my best to study the history of this country and all other countries around the world. It's true I don't pay very much in taxes compared to other people, but at my wage level, taxes take an enormously painful bite that I am nonetheless proud to pay.

I stayed up until 3 AM last night double checking to make sure I understood the positions of every candidate on the ballot and the ramifications of every local amendment. I woke up at 6 AM so I could be sure to have a voice today.

I'm young, but I matter just as much as you.

Posted by: schala1 | November 4, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm 28 and I have to agree with shala1. The comment made by leapin is ignorant. Let's look at the consequences of the last two presidential elections, when most young people didn't bother to show up. Clearly we can't trust our elders to make good decisions for us. Our economy is in shambles, we're fighting two wars simultaneously, the government now spies on US citizens without any evidence, and, oh yeah, we now torture people. At every level of government technocrats have been replaced by loyal Bushies who brook no dissent. Government jobs are no longer given to those with experience and skills but to those who are registered Republicans and made campaign contributions to conservative groups. Not only that but an entire American city was nearly wiped off the map, in no small part due to negligence and incompetence. And my generation will be paying off the debt from the Bush years, as will my children. Why should we get no say in government but have to pay - literally and figuratively - for others' mistakes?

And I would pay more in taxes if I had a higher income, but given the state of our economy, that's not likely to happen any time soon.

Posted by: littlered2 | November 4, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

littlered2- What American city almost got wiped off the map? Are you incompetent enough to say that Bush was fault for allowing 9/11? Interesting...

People say they would be willing to pay more in taxes IF their income was higher. I am sure your income is higher than it was when you where 16. Income level is a relevant issue. "If only I had more of this, I would do that." The mentality of shrugging off responsibility is a major issue with "youth". Stop saying if because if never happens. If you want something done then go out and stand up for it. Don't complain after the fact because things didn't go your way. Instead spend your time and energy discovering a way to solve the problem.

"You’re proud of your county for the first time in years."-Stein I have wonder how many people actually think of pride in their country before their 20s?

If anyone looked at history they would understand that growth does not go on forever. There a business cycles to the economy.

Posted by: Ibn_Meno | November 4, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Ibn_Meno -
The city that was almost wiped off the map was New Orleans. While there have been ups and downs, overall the US economy has grown pretty steadily throughout its history. I for one was far more proud of my country during my teens (early to mid 1990s) than I have been for the past 8 years. I never would have believed that the United States of America would ever officially condone torture under any circumstance, but I would have been wrong.

Posted by: goterps00 | November 4, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

So Katrina occurred because of the negligence of the Republican party?

Was bush at fault of the dot-com bubble or 9/11, which both crashed the economy?

Is torture a new revelation or has it just been better hidden in the past?

Posted by: Ibn_Meno | November 4, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Exactly! This will be the third election I've participated in and I voted for Gore and Kerry previously. I've been an Obama supporter since February 2007.

Posted by: miknugget | November 4, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

This is absolutely how I feel! I'm 20 and this is my first time voting in a presidential election, my first time voting in person (rather than by absentee), and my first time voting for a politician I actually stand FOR rather than AGAINST (as several other posters said).

That said, I do not agree with everything Obama supports ... like the so-called "clean coal" myth. But even still, I am very excited about him overall and SO excited to have participated in this election!

Posted by: ewlk2 | November 4, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

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