Do Millennials Need a "Port Huron" Statement for the 21st Century?

So here's a question: Does the Millennial Generation needs a political manifesto?  Would there be value in a new Port Huron statement?  And is such a thing even possible in today's political, technological and cultural environments, which are all substantially different than the time during which P.H. Statement was written?

I ask these questions because this week I received a message on my FaceBook account from a group called Mobilize.org, an "all-partisan" organization that is intent on creating a new document, called Democracy 2.0, A Declaration of Our Generation, and use it as a jumping off point to engage Millennials in a campaign to "change our government" (whatever that ends up meaning).

This is something that tends to happen every decade or so in American youth politics.  I'm by no means a scholar of these manifestos, but off the top of my head I can think of two recent attempts - Third Millennium in the early and mid 90s, and more recently the Principles Project in 2005.  From what I can tell, Third Millennium took the fiscal conservatism of Gen Xers (balanced budget, fix social security), which was made safe by Clinton's economic policies, and tried to craft a statement that would drive a youth political movement around those issues.  Comprised mostly of young white guys, with a statement of principles written by a smaller group of said white guys, it was not very representative of Late Gen-Xers or early Millennials.  It didn't gain much traction in the cultural zeitgeist, and most people don't even know about it today.  The Principles Project - an offshoot of the now defunct 2020 Democrats - tried something similar, though all drafts beyond the first draft were part of a group wiki, allowing a more collaborative, open creation process.  Even with a more open process, and buy-in from a fairly diverse set (cultural and political) of the [dot]Org Boom youth organizations that were created in 2004, that too gained little traction.

As far as I can tell, Mobilize.org's plan runs something like this.  For the next four months, they will propose a series of questions on their website, the answers to which will be incorporated into a draft statement.  Sample questions include:

  1. What currently works and what doesn't work in our democracy, and specifically, what should the role of government be?

  2. What characteristics define our generation and how can these traits help us redefine our democratic process?

  3. What should Democracy 2.0 look like and what action items must we take now to help create a more citizen-centered approach to democracy?

Added to this statement will be some quantitative research obtained through an online survey.  This document will be considered a first draft, which will then be used to provoke discussions at a number of conferences, the final of which will be The Party for the Presidency - a gathering of 435 local activists, one from each Congressional District.  As part of the Democracy 2.0 distribution strategy, it will be the job of these activists to produce some sort of final consensus which they will then push to other local activists and apolitical folks in their district.  

I think the problems with these types of statements come down to this:  

  • They tend to be written by a small group of unrepresentative people.

  • As a result they tend to be rather myopic, focusing on specific polity problems of the day of concern to a select few.

  • This in turn leads them to appeal only other insiders, very rarely gaining real currency in the cultural zeitgeist they hope to embody.

Mobilize.org has made some nice steps to try to overcome some of these hurdles - of which they are well aware.  

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Abel Guillen: the Rise of the Millennials

I talked politics at Lanesplitters pizzeria on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland the other night with two young progressive Democrats who, in my view, epitomize the future of politics in America.

My two compatriots were Abel Guillen, recently elected member of Peralta Community College Board, and Matt Lockshin, his '06 campaign manager (whom you might know as the founder of the local blog SayNotoPombo.)

If you care about the direction this country is taking and how the millennial generation is going to shape the American political landscape for the next twenty-five years, I'd like to invite you to read a bit about our conversation and what it means for American politics below.

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Consensus, Millennial Politics, and the Common Good

Peter Levine blogged about consensus today, and it got me thinking about Millennials, their affinity for collaboration, and how this impacts the current political environment.

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Mapping the (Youth) Progressive Politics/Social Justice Divide

Cross posted at Future Majority

Update: Adrienne MAREE Brown, whose name I've been mispelling all over town, sent me an email about this blog post and asked that I post a clarifcation explaining her thought process behind this graph/matrix. Here's what she had to say:

"This map is meant to show the scope of what I consider the 'intermediary' realm of organizing - formal non-profits more than grassroots organizers (we get the two communities VERY confused here in the US, leading to confused identity, shame, competition and delusions of grandeur...rarely leading to significant lasting social change, which we all deeply want). It was drawn to show where I see The Ruckus Society in relation to a lot of other groups which are providing tools and support to organizers, but also to show that this full range of organizations exist in the same realm...in that realm folks are elbowing over resources and fighting to make the same words sound exciting and new.

I've written a lot on reform vs. revolution, I always come to a both/and conclusion. My dream would be that this full range of folks were working with each other more respectfully and strategically within the quadrant to support the small fragment of the puzzle we cover, stretching to make sure there are no gaps in meeting the needs of a movement for change. But that starts with acknowledging where we are. I would love for this to be a growing tool that could be handed to frontline organizers so that they could self evaluate and then see which intermediary non-profits they should turn to for support and resources. Feedback welcome!" --Adrienne

Progressive  Youth Movement Matrix

This is not scientific.  Don't be fooled by my stylish graphics.

Update: In response to some criticism below, I changed the title of this piece to reflect that I am talking about the progressive youth movement here, not the entire movement.

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2008 YouthRoots

Cross posted at Future Majority

One of the things I want to do through the course of this primary is track the "youthroots," or "under 30" grassroots organizing on behalf of candidates - campus groups, high school groups, or other identified youth groups (like Punx for Dean in '04).  I want to not only track these groups, but look at how they organize their members, how they coordinate with each other, and how they coordinate with the "official" youth operations of the campaigns. The end goal being to compare, contrast, and establish best practices for youth outreach.  

As a start to that project, I've compiled a list of all the groups I could find for each candidate based on some simple Google searches (candidate name + youth, student, teen, high school), a look at the blogrolls/links, and some quick surfing on MySpace and FaceBook.  I'll follow it up with emails to the administrators of all those groups and report back the results later this week along with some more thoughts as to who's youthroots are organizing most effectively and why.  If you are part of - or know of - any other youthroots that I'm missing for any candidate, please add a link in the comments.

There are some preliminary thoughts based on initial observations offered throughout the post.

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Diaries

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