At a Rudy Giuliani event at University of Northern Iowa this afternoon, a public speaking instructor asked Giuliani what he would say to young people who are disillusioned by politics.
"I'll tell you what I'd say," Giuliani said. He clapped his hands fiercely. CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! "Wake up! Look at America!" he said. "You are so lucky. You live in the best country in the world." He explained that America offers opportunity that no other country does, and that if young people are not so excited about America, they should try traveling abroad, because they'd return relieved to live in the old U.S.A. He repeated over and over some version of the line, "Just take a look at what you have around you, look at what you can do. You are very, very lucky."
Sometimes, Giuliani said, you need to "move your perspective around."
Giuliani didn't deny that there are imperfections in American politics that turn young people off, but claimed that young people could change what they didn't like. "You get a chance to vote. And if you pass it up," he said, "it's your fault."
Afterwards, students I asked about Giuliani's response were a little stunned. "Umm, I guess there's not a whole lot I can say about it," said Justin Brinker, a 22-year-old junior.
"Uhhh... I though it was all right," said Dane Embury, a 22-year-old senior. "But I still think it's going to be an issue." He shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno."
The lack of policy proposals that might appeal to young voters, or resurrect their faith in the system, wasn't missed. Jess Paulsen, a 20-year-old junior said, "I don't know. I think it might have been better to add in how he's going to, kinda, do something about student loans. And bring up education in general. Because this is a university and that's why people are here."
John Edwards has a whole agenda for college affordability, which includes a national initiative that pays for one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for more than 2 million students. It also includes an overhaul of the student loan system and a simplification of the financial aid application process. Barack Obama just proposed a tax credit worth $4,000 for tuition and fees every year. He wants greater support for the American community college system.
Point is, the Democrats have proposals that illustrate (1) an awareness that political disillusionment occurs in part because college-age voters don't believe Washington cares about the squeeze that is being put on them, and (2) a willingness to address the problems of youth voters, even though youth voters don't organize and fight for their needs, and often don't even vote.
But that's not what you get from Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani is the daddiest member of the daddy party. You kids don't get no stinkin' Pell Grants. You get tough love.