With the excitement of the election of Barack Obama last Tuesday its can be difficult to see through the dilemmas facing us. In reality there is a gap between our best wishes and the truth behind past rhetoric and reality. For the past few years I’ve had the privelage of serving on the National Youth Rights Association’s Advisory Board along with Mike Males. A sociologist, Males has written several books about society’s betrayal of youth, including the ways that media, teachers, and parents force their negative perceptions of young people onto society at large. His website is the most powerful tool many adult allies of youth don’t even know about.
Following is a post Mike shared with me, that I want to forward to you. Let’s carefully consider the analysis he presents, and prepare ourselves for the work ahead.
My analysis of 51 exit polls and each state’s vote show that the 25 million voters under age 30 elected Obama. Had only voters ages 18-29 been allowed to vote, Obama would have won with a landslide 66% of the popular vote and carried 41 states (including Kansas, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, and Kentucky) with 478 electoral votes if only 18-29 had been allowed to vote,, versus 57 for McCain (two states would have been tossups).
In contrast, had only voters over 30 been allowed to vote, the election would have been virtually tied. Obama would have barely won, if at all, carrying 23 states with 271 electoral votes. He would have lost Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, and Iowa and been deadlocked in Virginia and Ohio, probably throwing the election to the courts.
In many key states, Millennial support for Obama was staggering: 76% in California and New York; 74% in North Carolina; 71% in Illinois and New Mexico; 65% in Pennsylvania; 63% in Indiana; 61% in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Montana; 60% in Virginia; 59% in Missouri; 56% in Mississippi; 54% even in Texas. The 25 million Millennial voters’ thundering enthusiasm for Obama overruled their more ambivalent parents and grandparents, whose 45-and-older age group voted by slight margins for McCain.
How will Obama treat young people? It’s too early to tell, but initial indications are not encouraging. Obama’s candidate for the powerful job of chief of staff is Rahm Emmanuel (not yet accepted), the Illinois congressman and chair of the congressional campaign committee, known to many of you as a vehement opponent of youth rights, including cynical advocacy for curfews, zero-tolerance policies, and vilifications of youth as a political tactic to promote Democrats to conservative voters in the same fashion as the Clinton presidency (which he also served ) did.
To my knowledge, Obama’s advocacy for change has included virtually nothing on youth issues or social policies affecting youth (including lowering the voting ages) other than a broad platitudes on education equality and poverty along with a few fairly ignorant comments on crime, television viewing, and keeping the drinking age at 21. Clearly, an Obama presidency’s potential for progressive youth policies cannot be taken for granted.
We have to stay diligent on the road ahead, and not allow adultism and neoliberalism to be lost in the warm wishes we have for the next Administration.