Sunday, March 4, 2018

If the Children Are to Lead, They Have to Vote

You'll excuse me if I'm somewhat skeptical, but all this talk about how the young people of this country are going to lead us into a new era where the adults have failed seems vaguely familiar. Many older Americans had the same feelings when the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971 and they braced themselves for a new generation of activists who would change the way this country was run.

Instead, they gave us the Reagan Revolution which, by the by, coincides with a precipitous decline in the fortunes of the middle class, an explosion of money at the top of the income scale, and racial, economic and educational inequality that has resulted in a lost generation of African-American men and a coarsening of public discourse as a direct result of the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

In other words, the mythical bar in on the floor, ready for anyone with a half-considered idea to walk confidently over it.

Ok, Ok, maybe that wasn't fair or was a bit dark. After all, the baby boom cohort has given us technology that was only a dream 40 short years ago, which has revolutionized work, entertainment, grammar and the speed at which society hurtles forward. We have better food, more of it, and at lwer prices than we;ve ever had it. Is it any wonder that we're gaining weight? We also have more breweries in this country than at any time since the 1880s. So we got that going for us.

And here comes the new youth. Hello and welcome. While the rest of us boomers get older, and I am shockingly aging at the rate of one year per year, the country seems to be getting younger and younger. This is natural. This is good. This works for me.

But I am not yet convinced that it will mean that meaningful change is close at hand.

First, the new young people will need to register to vote on or before their 18th birthday depending on their state's law. Then they will need, and this is the big one, to vote. In every election. Every one. Without fail. I haven't missed an election...ever. Not ever. I voted in person, by absentee ballot and by mail-in ballot. They can too. It's easy. And fun.

And not just voting in presidential elections. Young people need to vote in local state and Congressional elections as well. This is how to transfer the energy and emotion into policy and representation. It's a lesson in civics. Which we don't require much in schools these days? Connection? Anyone? Anyone?

It will be difficult to maintain the present energy until November, but that's natural. The initial awakening will settle down into organizing and spreading the message. Then the real slog comes in the fall when people will need to go door-to-door and get out the vote. But we have a good start. The energy is building and so is the outrage over the senseless violence that has now invaded schools.

To make a change, though, young people must register and vote. No Excuses.

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