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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Letter to a Young Voter
Posted by Jill | 8:16 AM
Dear young voter,

You and I have been arguing for years now about whether baby boomers are to blame for the state of the world as it is today. You've told me that we all sold out to Wall Street and greed, that WE are the ones who put George W. Bush in office, that WE are the ones who supported the Iraq War, that WE are the ones who threw your future away for short-term gain. You've put Dennis Hopper out there as representative of baby boomers even though he was born in 1936 -- a full ten years BEFORE the beginning of the baby boom -- just because he played what you think of as a hippie in a movie.

I have in my paper files a Tom Toles cartoon from 1987 called "The Reading of the Will." It depicts a lawyer reading to five young people from a piece of paper:

Dear kids,

We, the generation in power since World War II, seem to have used up pretty much everything ourselves. We kind of drained all the resources out of our manufacturing industries, so there's not much left there. The beautiful old buildings that were build to last for centuries, we tore down and replaced with characterless but inexpensive structures, and you can have them. Except everything we built had a lifespan about the same as ours, so like the interstate highway system we built, they're all falling apart now and you'll have to deal with that. We used up as much of our natural resources as we could, without providing for renewable ones, so you're probably only good until about a week from Thursday. We did build a generous Social Security and pension system, but that was just for us. In fact, the only really durable thing we built was toxic dumps. You can have those. So think of your inheritance as a challenge. The challenge of starting from scratch. You can begin as soon as -- oh, one last thing -- as soon as you pay off the two trillion dollar debt we left you.

Your parents

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Except that Tom Toles wrote that in 1987 -- twenty-one years ago -- when I, born in the peak years of the baby boom, was thirty-two years old and Barack Obama, born at the tail end of the boom in 1964, was twenty-three.

He wrote that about my parents' generation.

I know it is the fate of every generation to be loathed by those that follow. The parental curse is always "I hope someday you have kids who behave the way you do and then you'll understand." Then, unless you do what I did and not have children, the parental curse comes through and your parents get to laugh at you. That's the reward parents get, I suppose, for putting up with teenagers.

There are certainly baby boomers who sold out. There are also many who never had to. The vast majority of us aren't living in McMansions or driving Hummers and we aren't living beyond our means. Yes, some of us were fortunate and were able to buy homes that were affordable; though Mr. Brilliant and I were forty-one before the combination of home prices and our savings were close enough for us to buy, and even then we only bought what and when we could afford to.

I thought at one time that I never wanted to sell out. I was like John Cusack in Say Anything:

...except that I thought "meaningful work" was working in "glamor industries" like advertising and book publishing for peanuts. So I did a short stint as a secretary in an advertising agency where my boss was waiting at the coffeemaker, cup in hand, when I got in every morning and where I had to book rooms with a king-size bed that he could share with his mistress when they traveled together on business. Then I went to a major book publisher, where I read the slush pile and did the expense reports for a guy who edited books by neocons like Norman Podhoretz and Allan Bloom and Dinesh D'Souza -- all for peanuts, which is why when the opportunity to make enough more to give me some breathing room came along, suddenly working for Standard & Poors supporting direct mail marketing for that company's Directory of Corporations didn't seem so much like selling out anymore.

As Mr. Brilliant says, our choice is simple: Do we want to be pets, or meat?

This year, you were going to change things. You were going to be different. You were not going to even sell out as much as we had to. You were going to change the workplace, until the stock prices started to crash and your employer had to make the VCs or stockholders happy by dispensing with the free pizza on Fridays. You were going to change this country by electing the first black president -- one of "your own", as you appropriated him, ignoring when his birth year was. He wasn't going to be like the greedy, self-involved boomers, you said. He's going to work with us to build the utopia that the boomers were too lazy and too busy getting laid to build.

I applaud that sentiment. I hope you can do it. But for now I have one question:

Where the hell are you?

In states with early voting, you are showing up in lower numbers than you did for the Talking Tree in 2004. Rachel Maddow, last night:
"In 2004, first time and new registrant Democrat voters made up 13 percent of all the early votes cast. Thus far in 2008, it's about 12.6 percent of all the early votes cast."

The McCain campaign says their internal polling numbers say Iowa is a dead heat. That's another place Kerry led in early voting, but ultimately lost the state to Bush. In Pennsylvania, here's what the McCain campaign is thinking - this is Christian Ferry again:

"In Pennsylvania, if you look at absentee ballot returns, the GOP is leading by about 56 percent to 44 percent in terms of returns. Younger Democrat voters in 2004 made up 22.9 percent of the absentee votes. Thus far in 2008, it's 14 percent of the -- 14.6 percent of the early -- absentee vote."

Want more? C'mon! Vegetables are good for you! We'll have dessert later, I promise!

An Orlando Sentinel analysis of early voting in Florida found that, "Young people are turning out in disproportionately low numbers ... making them the worst-performing demographic group."

The Sentinel says only 15 percent of early voters in Florida are under the age of 35, even though that group makes up a quarter of the electorate.

All that talk in the Democratic primaries about how young people were proving the haters wrong by actually showing up to vote even though everyone says they don't? Are the haters gonna turn out to actually be right?

Do you think this is going to happen by magic? Do you think that making robocalls and holding rallies by the side of the highway and treating appearances by Barack Obama as if he were the Grateful Dead circa 1969 are what puts him into the White House? Is it really all about the pizza parties with you guys?

I know the lines are long. Rachel Maddow is right -- making people stand in line for hours IS a poll tax. This year people actually WANT to vote, and voting is going to be more of a hassle than usual. You've been calling US self-indulgent, but in the most important election of your lifetime, you aren't even bothering to show up? Do you really require free swag -- T-shirts and yo-yos and pens that light up -- provided by the states you live in as a reward for showing up at the polls to vote for your own future?

If your state has early voting, get out there. I don't give a rat's ass how long you have to stand in line. Bring a book and a sandwich and your iPod. Bring a camp chair. Bring a Box o'Joe and pass cups around to everyone else waiting in line and turn it into a party. I don't care what you have to do, but your future is only in your hands until Tuesday. And if you let John McCain and his Christofascist Zombie bulldog win this election because you were too busy with your Wii to get your ass out there and vote, I don't want to hear another word from you about how we sold out, ever again.

Love and kisses,


PS: And take a sweater. It's cold.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
This might cheer you up:


Let's cross our fingers. But maybe this time, they realize they future is at stake. As Pete Townsend said, "The kids are All Right".

From our mouths to God's Ears.

Blogger Bob said...
Ask any GOTV pro, I mean the party people at the town & ward level, & they'll say that depending on young voters is bad strategy. It's always good to register new voters who'll probably vote for your candidate, but you have to get them them to vote, & younger voters are most difficult to corral, in large part because you can't find them when you need them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well, I guess I did it right then! I got my 25yr old daughter and my 24 and 27yr old nieces to vote today, the last day they could do Early Vote. There is hope!