Where was the youth vote this time?

by Matthew Little

Much has been written, broadcast, simulated, tweeted, and otherwise expressed through every medium of communication in existence since November 2 regarding the tremendous upset surprise Republican Party victory.

I am sure that we have had our fill of the excuses, explanations and reasons by now. But for some reason, we have heard little or nothing about what appeared to be the disappearance of the young people’s vote (that hefty 18-to-25 group).

It is generally agreed that two years ago it was it was this element of voters that skyrocketed President Obama and the political party he represented into an unprecedented victory. With the probable exception of the African American vote, this voter group probably represented the largest demographic category of the blowout Democratic victory.

The dynamics and energy of young people during the 2008 national election was reminiscent of their enthusiasm during the most heated stages of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. At that time, they were eager to volunteer their time and efforts in support of the struggle.

I can address that from a degree of personal experience. After the landmark 1963 March on Washington, for which I was fortunate to have helped recruit and chair the Minnesota contingent, interest was voiced to continue in some way to support the Movement itself rather than disband at the march’s conclusion.

In preparation for the march, we had come into contact with (now Congressman) John Lewis, then a leader of SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and one of the march captains. He interested us in supporting his project to help voter registration in the Delta of Mississippi, called “The Mississippi Summer Project.”

The mission could be dangerous, but to my surprise we had no trouble recruiting volunteers of young people from both local and out-state colleges. Nor did we have difficulty raising funds to support the project.

I would suggest that it was the sons and daughters of those enthusiastic 1960s civil rights supporters who propelled the huge 2008 voter explosion that played such a significant roll in boosting the Obama campaign into an overwhelming victory.

But, with all of the daily media speculation on the reasons for the overwhelming GOP 2010 victory, I have yet to see one of them even venture to mention the absence of the young people’s vote.
Where were they?

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to mlittle@spokesman-recorder.com.