Getting the Kids to Vote

Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA

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Here’s something I don’t get. Maybe it’s because I’m dumb. Or maybe it’s because I live in California and I don’t see the same TV ads as everyone else.

But here it is. We liberals spend a lot of time griping that young people don’t vote. Fine. So how do we get them to vote? So far, I’ve seen various PSAs that explain how easy it is to vote; how you don’t want to let old people decide who runs the country; how easy it is to figure out which candidates are good, etc. And I guess that’s all fine. But various groups have been running PSAs like this since television was invented and young people still don’t vote.

So here’s what I don’t get. Why isn’t, say, Barack Obama, recording a PSA that really gives young people a reason to vote? A PSA that:

  • Specifically says “vote for a Democrat, any Democrat.”
  • Specifically goes after Trump and Republicans and figures out a way to convince 18-year-olds that Republicans are idiots.
  • Specifically talks about issues that a young, disengaged voter might care about. Free videogames for all! Whatever. Our problem is not getting college students to vote, it’s getting high school grads to vote even though they don’t care about climate change, abortion, or social justice.
  • Makes a game out of it. I dunno. Create some app that makes it fun to round up your friends to vote. You get points for every Democratic friend and negative points for every Republican friend. Sure, this sounds dumb, but it’s not the dumbest app I’ve ever heard of.

Here’s the thing: progressives don’t want kids to vote just because it’s their civic duty. We want them to vote for progressive candidates. In today’s world, that means Democrats. So run ads giving them all good reasons not just to vote, but to vote for Democrats. Hell, it might be the first time some of them even learn there are two political parties.

That’s the end of the rant. What am I missing here?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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