In today’s installment of my series on persuasion I want to concentrate on one target demographic: young people. You will find a lot of similar strategies for activating young voters and women. News flash to the old, white men of the GOP: women are people. Let’s explore.
The biggest similarity with today’s young voters and women is that they both reject Party labels. If we approach them via the Democratic Party many of them will immediately tune us out. I currently have two granddaughters who are old enough to vote. Both are registered independents despite the fact that they are both liberal; one having volunteered for President Obama before she was old enough to vote. I don’t care how people register (I very much care that they do register) I care how they vote. Votes not registrations win elections. Again I reiterate that outreach programs must be conducted without Party labels as much as possible.
If you want to motivate a person to vote, donate and/or volunteer for you then you have to illustrate that you are knowledgeable of the issues they care about, are on the same side as them on those issues and will work for the outcomes they advocate. In the case of young people I would disregard the donation angle. Young people generally do not have a lot of money but they have time and energy which make them great volunteers.
A huge issue to many young people who are either students or want to be students is the cost of education and the burden of student loan debt. Although not widely recognized this is also a major economic problem. Too many young people are coming out of school with a “mortgage payment” but sans the house. Marriages are often postponed in large measure due to the burden of student loan debt coupled with underemployment in their early adulthood. (The latter is a separate problem that if a candidate acknowledges and addresses they will benefit from.) In our economy demand is 70% consumer demand. If young people didn’t have to service their student loans that would free up billions of dollars’ worth of purchasing power for home, automobiles, appliances and furnishings.
My father’s generation was the Greatest American Generation in more than just book titles. They won World War II and solidified the middle class. Albeit in different ways, I see my grandchildren’s generation as potentially as good. They are the least bigoted generation in American history. They have a sense of fairness that exceeds that of any previous generation. Discrimination in any form simply does not utilize all assets to their fullest potential therefore making optimization impossible. This generation doesn’t care where your ancestors came from, who you choose to love, what clothes you choose to wear, where or if you go to church or which public restroom you utilize. They want opportunity both for themselves and everyone else. They will judge you by your words and deeds. The candidate/recruiter who advocates an equal opportunity and respect for all will do well with young people.
That is why the GOP is so threatened by critical thinking and is working diligently to destroy public education. The Republican war on public education is all about indoctrination in place of enlightenment.
Today’s young voters are among the most caring and knowledgeable when it comes to the environment. Too many in previous generations were happy to pollute as long as they could simultaneously profit. This upcoming generation cares less about money and more about social and environmental impact.
Being both a senior citizen and baby boomer this next segment is outside my areas of expertise; but like with any problem, the fact that I recognize it means I’m on the road to solving it. You can’t reach young voters the same way you reach people like me. Mass mailers don’t work; young people will immediately throw them into the recycle bin (not trash can). All cell phones have caller ID so that’s not the fast lane to their attention either. I’ve been told that email is considered almost passé. I am about as far from an expert on social media as you can get but that is the most effective way of reaching most young voters. If you are a candidate, in the strongest possible terms I suggest that you have a social media coordinator and in the vast majority of cases that person needs to be a young person.
Politically the two best things about young people are that they are not set in their voting pattern and they have energy.
Many Americans will tell you they are independents and/or they vote for people of both parties. If they actually believe that (which most do) they are deceiving themselves. Political scientists have proven that by the third time an American votes they disproportionately vote for one or the other of the two major political parties. That is why, unlike most people who have served in some of the political positions I have, I don’t care much about Party affiliation on voter registrations. In the case of most young voters, if we can lead them to the “progressive water” they will “drink”.
I used to break volunteers down into two basic groups: air forces and ground troops. It doesn’t take a lot of physical energy to do the “air wars” like phone banking. Getting out and knocking on doors or working the crowd at an event is another thing. Young people have both the physical and emotional energy to “hoof it”.
Young people are our future in so many ways. Our candidates just have to reach out to them. If we don’t I fear we will not only lose in 2018 but for years to come.
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