TURNING OUT THE YOUTH VOTE

MAY OP ED | By: US Renew Democracy News | May 09, 2024
Featured Photo: www.cnn.com

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President Biden and the Democrats stand at risk of losing the youth vote in the upcoming Presidential elections. Many young people feel alienated by the current electoral contest, featuring a rematch between Biden and Trump seen as aging politicians with few new ideas that appeal.

It would be a mistake for Democrats to write the youth vote off, and an equal mistake for youth to sit on the sidelines in protest. Youth are our country’s future and they need to become engaged (in a positive way) in our political system. Here are some suggestions of steps President Biden and the Democrats can take to persuade young people to vote.

Promote policies that directly benefit young voters:  There are several policy positions that can be promoted in ways that support social and economic benefits for youth and society in general. For example efforts to forgive student loans can be prioritized for students  who went to schools with predatory lending policies; those pursuing public service occupations such as teachers, nurses and the police; and those young people who come from communities that are economically less well off.

Administration efforts to promote reproductive rights can be targeted to the needs of youth for access to contraception, abortion and IVF information and services. Messages promoting reproductive rights can point out how today’s youth deserve information and support on how to make decisions about their own bodies.

Recent surveys indicate that youth today also are interested in climate change, but want to know about solutions to the climate crisis that will work for their communities. Democrats can speak about what the Biden administration has done so far to address climate change and what it plans to do in a next term.

Take a stronger stand on the Israel/Palestine conflict:  Many young people, especially those on college campuses and those from the Middle East, have become engaged in protesting government and university policy towards the Palestinians. They have born witness to the destruction of Gaza and the death of thousands of Palestinians, and believe our government needs smarter policies that address this situation. While continuing to recognize Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, it is time for the Biden administration to take a stronger stand to end this conflict. It should  announce it is in favor of an immediate ceasefire, greater humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza, a two-state political solution, and the decoupling of Israel’s military efforts in Gaza from the use of US military assistance.

Implement targeted youth voter registration efforts:  The Democratic National Committee and lots of state committees and community-based organizations are  planning large voter turnout campaigns for the 2024 elections. These efforts should include a special focus on turning out the youth vote through youth-friendly activities such as social media promotions, youth rallies, and youth-to-youth voter registration efforts

Raise awareness about the dangers of not voting or voting for 3rd party candidates:  2024 youth voter registration efforts should include messaging on the dangers of not-voting at all,  or  voting for 3rd party candidates such as RFK Jr., Cornell West, or Jill Stein. They should make the point that voting for 3rd party candidates, or not voting at all, could hurt Biden and help Trump. And that electing  Trump will likely result in the demise of democracy. Young people should become aware of  Trump’s pro-Israel position on the Israel/Hamas conflict, his disregard of student loan forgiveness, reproductive health rights, and climate change.

Convene a youth advisory panel: The Biden Administration should consider the creation of a Youth  Panel to advise on election issues pertinent to young voters. Such a panel would  have a diverse membership composed of young leaders from different, education, cultural, racial. and socio-economic backgrounds. The panel’s charge would be to advise the campaign on what policies will appeal to young voters, and what activities can help persuade young people to turn out at the ballot box.

Lowering the voting age: The rationale is that youth pay taxes when they work, most carry the responsibility of driving and most are affected by the issue of school shootings, so why not let them have a say by allowing them to vote? Here is a non-profit group’s website on the issue of lowering the voting age to sixteen.

Bring out star power:  Youth often are  influenced by the views and opinions of celebrities from the arts, sports, and fashion worlds. So Democrats should seek  public endorsements from artists such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Usher, Bruce Springsteen, and others.  They should participate in voter registration commercials and appear at rallies.

In what many believe to be a close electoral contest, the Biden administration cannot afford to ignore the youth vote. It needs  a comprehensive strategy to raise awareness among young people about the importance of the 2024 election and the need for youth to become engaged.

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