If there was one group who really came through on Tuesday, it was the young people of America. Their turnout was historic and record-setting. And few in the media are willing to report this fact.
Unlike 2000 when Gore and Bush almost evenly split the youth vote (Gore: 48%, Bush: 46%), this year Kerry won the youth vote in a LANDSLIDE, getting a full ten points more than Bush (Kerry: 54%, Bush: 44%).
Young people were the ONLY age group that voted for Kerry. In every other age group (30-39, 40-49, 50-59, etc.), the majority voted for Bush.
In my state of Michigan, observers noted that it was the record youth vote that helped to put Kerry over the top in the state (AP: "Young Voters Played Big Role in Kerry's Michigan Victory")
Contrary to all predictions and to tradition, MORE young adults (18-29) voted in last week's election than in any other since 18-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972.
It was the first time that a MAJORITY of all young adults came out to the polls: 51.6%.
Young adult turnout was UP more than 9% higher than the 2000 election ("Big Voter Turnout Seen Among Young People").
4.7 million MORE young adults voted in this election than in the last one. All these numbers are likely to go up when the millions of provisional ballots (and absentee ballots) are counted later this week (it is believed that young people were among the hardest hit in being forced to vote provisionally and students away at college make up a large bulk of the absentee ballots).
Rock the Vote and MTV's "Choose or Lose" had set the seemingly unattainable goal of getting 20 million young people out to vote. In the end, nearly 21 million youth voters cast their ballots last Tuesday -- A RECORD.
From the beginning, I believed that young adults and "slackers" would rise up in this election. As we began our slacker tour in Syracuse's football stadium on September 20, we could tell that this election would be like no other. It was no longer uncool to talk politics like it was five or ten years ago. Now, you were considered a loser if you didn't know what was going on in the world.
After speaking to the 10,000 gathered in Syracuse, we went on to hold rallies in 63 cities, mostly on campuses. Every night the events were packed, with anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 people showing up. We registered thousands to vote and got tens of thousands more to sign up to volunteer with Move On, ACT, the College Dems and other groups like Vote Mob and the League of Pissed Off Voters. We reached perhaps a half-million people in person and millions more on local TV and radio in those 63 cities (all but three of them in swing states).
To be honest, this tour was a killer and not the easiest thing to do for a guy who isn't 18-29. Two (sometimes three) cities a day for over a month, crisscrossing the country, is enough to make you want to sleep for a year. But I was deeply inspired by what I saw. The level of dedication and commitment amongst everyday, average citizens was overwhelming. Each night from the stage I could see it in people's eyes that they were not going to give up -- and they, too, would not rest until Bush was removed from the White House.
In every town, this movement was being fueled and often led by young people. I don't ever want to hear another adult talk about how apathetic the youth are or how they don't have "it" in them. What you are about to see in the coming months is going to shock you. These kids aren't going away. They have a resilience that cannot be snuffed out by older people's whining and moaning about the state of America. THEIR America has yet to be formed as they see it, and this one setback is not going to stop them.
Witness the students at Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado on Thursday, two days after the election. These kids can't even vote yet but that was not going to get in their way of expressing their outrage over what we adults had just done. The high school students took over the school by staging a sit-in and would not leave the building. They stayed there all Thursday night. They told the media that they were protesting the election results and putting Bush on notice that there was no way they were going to allow the draft to come back. It was the most uplifting moment of the week.
In the day after the election, the pundits were spewing their hot air about how the youth vote didn't matter this year. I wonder, even though they have the same facts available to them as I do -- the ones I've cited above -- do they just chose to ignore them because it doesn't fit into their tired old routine they call "conventional wisdom." I guess it is easier to simply repeat the same broken down clichés than it is to find out what the truth really is.
And it's even more important to kill what smells like teen spirit to them. God forbid if young people ever realized their true power and used it. Maybe what young adults need to continue to do is keep creating their own new media and news sources on the Internet and through other new technologies. Just bypass the old farts on Fox and CNN and all the rest. One thing's for sure -- by never challenging this president on his lies that sent our young off to war, they have proven which side they are on and it isn't on the side of the young or the future.
Congratulations, 18 to 29-year-olds -- you rocked.
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