Monthly Archives: September 2011

Is It Important to Get Young People to Vote?

Every year, around election time, there are always lamentations about the low voting turnout of the American people, and of young people in particular.

When economic conditions are bad, opportunities for success are drying up and the country seems to be in decline, it would make sense for citizens in a free republic to make a change in leadership.

Everything seemed to change in 2008, as young people turned out in higher numbers, overwhelmingly voting for Barack Obama, who was at that time just a young, first-term Democrat Senator from Illinois. Youth support, no matter how small in comparison to the general population, was part of what gave him victory over the unexciting and uncharismatic Republican, John McCain.

In the 2008 presidential election about 22-24 million young voters under 30 turned out to vote, the third highest total since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971. This is a dramatic change from most other years, when the youth voter turnout was essentially a non-factor.

The combination of increased youth participation with over 60 percent of it going to Obama and the Democratic Party made it appear that not only had young people responded to the economic and financial crisis, but may have created a re-alignment toward the liberalism of the Democratic Party for a generation. Former President Bill Clinton’s strategist, James Carville, even wrote a book called 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation.

Just a year after Carville’s book came out, Republicans were swept into office in dramatic numbers, taking back the House of Representatives and nearly taking the Senate. The number of youth voters for that midterm election dropped to about 9 million.

So what happened to the permanent Democratic majority and the youth vote?

The first answer is that midterm elections don’t attract as much attention as a presidential election, and without Obama on the ticket many of his core supporters were simply uninterested in coming out to vote for his Democratic allies.

The second answer is that the lack of success of Obama’s agenda in his first few years in office left many young people frustrated. The country remained at war in both Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world, the economy remained in the dumpster and most young people were only mildly interested in health care reform as an issue.

The new health care law made insurance companies keep young people on their parents’ plan until the age of 26, but that wasn’t enough to make young people show up to the polls during the next election cycle. One of the reasons that so many individuals are uninsured in America is because young people, healthy and in their prime, simply don’t find a reason for getting health insurance. For young people a solid, fulfilling and well-paying job is much more rewarding than staying under their parent’s wing for a few more years.

The recession, that began in 2008 and created historic highs for youth unemployment, is sapping young people of the thing Americans desire most—independence.

The excitement and optimism from 2008 had almost entirely faded by the 2010 midterm, as the country has lapsed into the doldrums of a poor economy and a dysfunctional government. The youth vote was gone, the change was bad, and the hope had faded.

What’s important to understand is that a political message is important, the messenger is even more important, and the result of the message is the most important factor in winning the hearts and minds of a people in a free society.

The Democrat Party won’t create a permanent majority if the county is upset with their message, and especially the results of their policies. This creates an enormous opening for Republicans, one that they have often struggled to grasp.

Winning over young people is not just about getting them to vote for your party in higher numbers when they are in their teens and early twenties, it’s about convincing them that the party’s platform and principles are sound and just. That kind of victory will usually convince voters to elect members of one party for the rest of their lives.

Values trump election cycles.

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Greeting Cards Can Only Say So Much

Layoffs hit close to home for me recently. My mom is a teacher and the school district where she works just laid off every employee who had worked for the district for less than 3 years. Luckily my mom didn’t lose her job, but several of her coworkers did.

Unfortunately, in today’s economy, this situation is not unique and even Hallmark is taking that into account.

Hallmark has just released a line of job loss sympathy cards for you to console your unemployed friends with.

When my mom told me about her district’s layoffs she talked about how awkward the situation was, so now apparently there is a greeting card for that…

I don’t really know how I feel about these cards. While the issue they address is extremely relevant and they will probably sell a lot of cards, I find them semi-derogatory.

The themes of the cards range from sentimental to sarcastic.

One reads, “Sorry you lost your job, but please remember your job is not who you are. You have many great qualities, and that’s what really matters. Until someone realizes your unique abilities, I hope you’ll take pride in all you’ve accomplished and realize how much you have yet to give.”

Another says, “”Don’t think of it as losing your job. Think of it as a time out between stupid bosses.”

Proponents for the cards argue that it is a positive approach to losing a job and that it will help stave off feelings of post-job depression.

But despite that, I know I won’t be giving any of these out any time soon!

What do you guys think? Would you be ok with getting a job loss sympathy card?


Tough Times for Young Adults

Newly released U.S. census data shows just how great a challenge the youngest generation of Americans has to overcome.

The numbers and trends are hideous:

-Employment for young Americans is at its lowest percent since the Great Depression. Only about 55% of 19-25 year old Americans are currently employed.

-A growing number of young Americans move back in with their parents after college graduation. So they are often deep in debt and without the means to pay it off.

-Young Americans without a college education are having an even more difficult time finding the blue-collar that they would traditionally take because those jobs are completely evaporating.

-Big, blue-collar cities that used to be a haven for young job-seekers are severely hampered because of the housing bust and the decline in industry.

-Young Americans are also much less likely to move to a new state, seeking opportunities.

-About 6 million 25-34 year old Americans live with their parents

Obviously, all of these problems are causing great number of difficulties and increased stress for young Americans right now, but the trends for the future are even more disturbing. These realities can grind down even the most optimistic young people.

America has always been known as a land of opportunity, individualism, and growth. Even when similar economic catastrophes plagued the country in the past, there always seemed to be opportunities for growth elsewhere.

It’s safe to say that many 20-somethings of my generation enjoyed dramatic prosperity in their youth, when the nation was growing rapidly, that has been severely curtailed in the last few years.

However, the kind of economic failure being experienced by Americans now is not without precedent in history.

There were a number of “Panics” (A recession caused by a financial collapse) in the 19th century that ruined many Americans and reversed the massive gains created by the national growth in earlier periods

For instance, in 1819 America experience its first true economic disaster. Not only did the economy collapse, but the flow of western migration was halted in its tracks. People got burned by massive land speculation in western lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, and banks were unwilling to lend money to cash starved frontier settlers.

The disaster increased hostility to both national leaders and banks, especially the Second National Bank. A new party emerged from the wreckage with an anti-national bank platform and a deep hostility to “elites”. Eventually, a popular national war hero, Andrew Jackson, emerged to nearly achieve victory in the 1924 election, and produced a real wave in the 1928 election that brought himself and the Democratic Party to power.

Jackson ran on a pitch perfect anti-bank, anti-elites platform that resonated with a majority of American people and allowed him to successfully enact his agenda. The Second National Bank was destroyed and a large number of outsiders were brought to Washington D.C.

The country moved on from its troubles, but not without much tumult in the political system and a re-alignment in national politics. It seems that we are headed for that today as well.


Apparently freedom of speech stops here

Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas got a taste of censorship this past week.

Students at this public school had erected a “Free Speech” wall on campus, a stand alone object covered in paper designed for students to come by and write essentially anything they want on it.

Statements on the wall ranged from the inane to the obscene. In fact, the F-bomb seemed to be the most prevalent word on the board.

But within hours of the wall going up, a professor tore part of it down after what he deemed was “offensive content.” The part of the wall he called offensive was a statement that read, “Fuck Obama.” Though there were other groups and people attacked on the wall, it was only this comment he found offensive and the only part of the wall the professor asked them to take down.

Photo from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Eventually the students had to take the wall down after the police said they were engaging in “disorderly conduct.” You can see pictures of the wall here.

While I don’t agree that we should use this kind of language against our nation’s president, I also don’t think that any professor or police officer should have the ability to limit freedom of speech.  It is bad enough that free speech is limited to a temporary wall, but requiring all students to meekly follow authority and not allow them to express themselves is wrong.

To read more about the incident and about the ongoing backlash at SHSU click here.


Adding a Southern Accent

My name is Ashley Withers and I am excited about contributing to Pick Your Future!

I was born and raised in Texas and I am a current student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. I graduate in December so the issues being discussed on this site are ones of immediate concern to me.

I am a huge social media nerd and I hope to talk about how this new media is changing and contributing to our society. You can find me on twitter @ashleywithers.

I also want to bring some of my southern perspective to the site. Growing up in the South with a family from Mississippi, I sometimes have a different outlook than other contributors to this site.

America is made up of so many different cultures and I hope we can touch on as many of those as we can!


Where Liberty Dwells

Greetings!

My name is Jarrett Stepman and I look forward to contributing to Pick Your Future. I have seen some of the work that Rebekah has done for this blog and I am intrigued by its direction and message.

I am a native Californian, born and raised in Oakland, and I graduated from UC Davis last year. I have been tottering along with only partial employment since that time. Many of my friends and peers are in the same boat and some are doing much worse.

However, despite those problems, I remain quite optimistic about my future and the future of the country.

What I hope to bring to this blog is not merely a discussion of the economic challenges that I and many other young Americans face, but also the broader implications of governmental policy, culture, and what is sometimes called “Americanism”.

I believe, like I hope most Americans believe, in what Alexis De Tocqueville called “American Exceptionalism”. This exceptionalism derives from the unique experience and institutions of the United States and has contributed to its remarkable success as a nation for over 200 years.

I will try to bring our country’s current situation into focus using the lens of American and world history. On top of that I will be writing about the leaders that bring this message to the public, and how they can better bring it to young people especially.

The biggest challenge for the next generation will not be the short-term opportunities or lack of opportunities for employment, but will be whether or not American ideas about liberty and opportunity, passed down through every generation, can survive into the next.

It’s a big challenge. America has always changed at a breakneck pace, and those changes are happening faster for each successive generation.

I hope that my analysis and perspective can be enlightening to the readers of Pick Your Future.


Changes

Hello Everyone! Sorry I have been so absent.

A lot of changes have gone on in my life, but they have been good changes! I am officially employed and started my new job a couple of weeks ago. I am in the process of moving to my new apartment and out of my friend’s basement!

Even though I have some full-time work responsibilities I feel that the issue of youth unemployment is still a huge problem that has to be dealt with. That is why I’m having my friends Jarrett and Ashley join me on the blog.

Jarrett is currently working part-time and looking for full-time employment. He graduated from UC Davis back in December of 2010 with a degree in Political Science.

Ashley is in her last semester at SMU and is actively seeking full-time employment after graduation.

I will also still be around posting about relevant issues and the financial struggles of young people just starting out in their first job.

I look forward to keeping all of you informed on the issues that employed and unemployed 20-somethings are facing in this economy!