Who Will Rock the Vote in 2008?

Cross posted at Future Majority

I'm a little embarrassed that I found out about this from the Midday Open Thread over at Daily Kos, but Linkin Park has a new video that's got a political/social edge to it. I loathe Linkin Park, and there's a lot that's not great about this video - there's no coherent thread connecting the various social and political problems it depicts, and there's no "ask" or action item at the end.  In short, it's no Mosh, but its encouraging to see nonetheless.  At this time in 2003, artists were petrified of getting entangled in politics, and a video like this - as unfocused as it is - would have been unthinkable.  

Seeing this video got me thinking, who will Rock the Vote in 2008?

In 2004, music played a huge role in generating excitement and interest around the election, and turning out young voters for the Democrats.  At least half a dozen organizations used music events or music communities to organize young voters - Music for America, Punk Voter, Head Count, Concerts for Change/Kerry, Vote for Change, Rock the Vote. I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of local acts, but these were the big players.

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California Dreamers: Bendixen/New America Media Youth Poll

Cross posted at Future Majority

Sergio Bendixen and New America Media released a poll yesterday of 600 California youth.  It's a pretty remarkable poll.  It was conducted entirely via cell phone and focused on 16-22 year olds: young people who will occupy the 18-24 voting bracket come November 2008.  The poll was also incredibly diverse - perhaps a reflection of California's demographics.  59 percent of respondents were youth of color and 49 percent were immigrants or the children of immigrants.

Bendixen's overall takeaway seems to be that young Californians represent a "post-racial" America that is keyed into the American Dream.  Racial identity isn't a big factor in the lives of this generation, most of whom have interracial friendships or personal relationships, and most respondents believe they will do better than their parents, despite current events and economic pressures.

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Barack, the Students, and the Grassroots

Cross posted  at Future  Majority

This is part of a series of reviews of campaign youth websites. In previous installments I reviewed John Edward's OneCorp and Mark Warners's Youthroots.

Co-opted by the campaign months ago, Students for Barack Obama launched their new website this week.  After their impressive emergence via FaceBook and demonstrated ability to turn Facebook energy into bodies on the ground, I was looking to see something equally impressive.

What I saw was basically a funnel.   The new SFBO website is - mostly - a directory that allows visitors to find a local chapter or create their own chapter where none exists.  Whichever option you choose, the site will funnel you into MyBarackObama.com, the campaign's social network organizing vehicle. Aside from links to the official Barack Obama FaceBook group and YouTube page, almost every link on the site directs the user into the main campaign website.  That's not necessarily a bad thing - when I interviewed Tobin Van Ostern, one of the founders of Students for Barack Obama, he indicated that FaceBook wasn't scaling sufficiently as an organizing tool to accommodate the group's needs.  Now that SFBO are an official part of the campaign, it makes sense to integrate their operations with the larger campaign infrastructure.  But there's a lot missing here.

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Talk To Us: Democrats, Policy, and Young Voters

Cross posted at Future Majority

In 2004, John Kerry made a huge mistake.  While touring colleges and universities,he delivered long-winded speeches about medicare and social security to audiences of teens and twenty-somethings whose main concerns were rising student debt, shrinking employment opportunities, and their friends, busy fighting an ill-conceived land war in Asia.  As a result, one of the more popular sites during the '04 election was called John Kerry is a douchebag but I'm voting for him anyway.  

And we did vote for him.  We didn't sit it out, we weren't apathetic. Young people gave John Kerry a 10 point margin over Bush - the only age demographic to choose Kerry.  But we weren't happy about it.  He was still a douchebag, and nothing showed that more than his indifference to the issues that we cared about so deeply.  

What I want to know is this - are the Democratic candidates going to repeat that mistake in 2007 and 2008?  Will they take our votes for granted, or will they respect us enough to address our issues and engage our generation in a substantive conversation?  What will they say this time when they hold their "college tours?" What will they say when they meet young voters who are working their first jobs, or starting families, and struggling with a mountain of debt?  Or to those who are priced out of college?  What will they say to those of our generation who continue to fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Right now we have a chance to find out.  

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Teen Spirit, Protest Theater, and Participatory Democracy

Cross-posted at Future Majority

In a column called Grand Theft Politics, Joshua Glenn reviews Dream: Reimagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, by Stephen Duncombe.  If you can ignore obnoxious references to Nietzche's Birth of Tragedy, it's a really interesting article all about the Democratic Party's (next to non-existent) relationship to culture, and what a new participatory politics might look like.  

On the relationship to culture (and what that means for our politics):

After Reagan's re-election, the Democratic Leadership Council was formed to unburden the Democrats of their '60s-style ideological baggage. The New Democrats borrowed planks from the Republican platform and eschewed Dionysian spectacles like large peace rallies in favor of studying, lobbying, and regulating. Throughout the 1990s, Apollonian progressive figures such as Joe Lieberman and Tipper Gore tut-tutted about rap music, violent video games, and action movies without pausing to reflect on why suburban middle-class youth might enjoy those phenomena. Our leaders seemed out of touch, even inhuman.

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