Young and Strong - But Ignored

Guest: Jehmu Greene, President, Rock The Vote The candidates were clear and forthright on many fronts, and their differing policies with regard to the arenas of homeland security and foreign policy have been highlighted well enough, except for one area: the impact of war on the young people of America.

President Bush promised an “all-volunteer army,” while Senator Kerry briefly mentioned a “backdoor draft taking place in America today.” They told anecdotes about devastated parents and widows and poorly equipped soldiers. While they sounded sympathetic and troubled by the situation at hand, neither of them spoke directly to young people’s concerns or specifically addressed the prospect of a draft. What will happen when we run out of volunteers?

The candidates need to start acknowledging the new generation of voters as the political and voting force that they are. Young people are showing an unprecedented level of engagement in this election cycle: 74% of them think that this is one of the most, if not the most, important elections in their lifetime. 20 million young people will turn out to vote on November 2nd, and both candidates missed a key opportunity to pull them to their sides last night. This opportunity exists in the debates ahead, where candidates will be able to focus on the domestic issues that weigh heavily on young people’s minds: jobs and the rising cost of tuition.

In terms of individual performance, Kerry’s showing may give him a stronger foothold with young voters, who had supported him by as many as 20 points up but have been leaning toward Bush in recent polls. Young people may respond to the strength of his participation by starting to swing his way, which is another clear example of how this voting bloc can and will be the swing vote