Power of the People

A lot of discussion this election cycle has been dedicated to questioning if Kerry has adequately appealed to minority voters, and whether Bush is going to end up with double the minority voters he did in 2000. I’ve read lots of articles and opinions on the subject, but the one that seems to be the most honest comes from a Salon reader who admonishes the journal for not giving a voice to those who really know. I don’t think Salon is unique in its tendency to raise lots of questions about particular voter groups without actually talking to any members.

This is a sister issue to the one I raised recently regarding the Left’s regard (or lack thereof) for Middle America, and is therefore of great interest to me. So much of the chatter from Lefty publications is airily theoretical, espousing assumptions and raising questions about regional, social, or ethnic groups without ever getting into the trenches and mingling with the hoi polloi that compose these factions, thereby leaving their own questions unanswered. I was buoyed by the letter published in Salon, which gave a rational and matter-of-fact voice to the very voters whose votes have been the subject of so much hang-wringing debate.

The author of the letter, Kevin Criss, speaks for two groups that have been much discussed recently – African Americans and younger voters, to whom he refers as “young'ns.” He begins:

I am a 21-year-old African-American/loyal Salon reader/ frequent writer to you. Although I love you all a lot and, like you (assuming so), I am a liberal, I just feel I have to scream at you for a bit. Almost two weeks ago, I sent a letter to you guys telling you how the new Eminem song "Mosh" has many young'ns riled up, angry, motivated and against Bush. Now 10 days or so later, not only you guys but many publications are up on it. My point? Maybe you guys should listen more to us young'ns, maybe have a young person consultant of sorts. After all, we will decide this election […]
Lest one assume that his last claim is hyperbole, he goes on to explain:

First, let me just say prepare for the death of polls, as that will be the dominant story coming out of election night. First blacks. […] Those polls saying how Bush will get 16 to 18 percent of the black vote are just wrong. To quote ODB, "Nigga please." Since black people aren't really polled, here is a bit of insight. Although we aren't that excited about Kerry, he has nothing to worry about with the African-American community. We as a whole don't like Bush, period. Yes, Democrats take us for granted and regardless of which party, we are at the bottom of the totem poll, but we realize that Democrats talk to us, try with us, are down with us, and give us a seat at the table. We are gamed to what the GOP do, or rather don't do for us. […]

Plus, we are highly motivated. You just don't realize how pissed we are from Florida last time. Bringing out Clinton won't hurt, but Kerry shouldn't worry about us African-Americans.

Next, us young'ns. We aren't as stupid as people think. Simply put, we are in Iraq fighting or we know someone there, we have no health insurance, no jobs, and are generally pro-human rights (not for the gay marriage amendment, PATRIOT Act, etc.). We aren't going to vote for Bush, period. Kerry will take about 70 percent of the young vote. I am predicting, collectively there will at least 20 million more voters from these two groups, young'ns and blacks. You maybe think "yeah the fuck right" -- but trust me. On average 30 percent of African-Americans vote. Expect a minimum of 50 percent this time, maybe close to double. That is anywhere between 7 to 9 million more blacks voting. Young'ns will have a similar margin. Again, we at most vote at a 40 percent rate. Young'ns will easily double their numbers, going from 18 million to about 36 million.

I know some reading this are dubious; some will chalk up such claims to youthful exuberance—the idealism of the young. But let’s give some context to this issue:

The polls are screwed; everyone knows about the cell phone exclusion issue.

Harvard has found that college students prefer Kerry to Bush by a wide margin.

Nickelodeon’s kid poll declared Kerry the winner. Sure, they’re not old enough to vote, but it’s indicative of a youth trend favoring Kerry over Bush, and they’ve called it right the last four presidential elections.

The popularity of media like “Mosh,” The Daily Show, and Conan O’Brien (whose Triumph the Insult Comic Dog might be the second best political commentator after Jon Stewart this election cycle) all of which appeals primarily to the under-35 crowd. In fact, if you check out iFilm’s Top 100 Viral Videos, it’s rife with Lefty goodness: Triumph: Poop Valhalla (#1), Ann Coulter Pelted with Pies (#2), Bush: Draft! Wait...No Draft! (#11), Hard Working George (#17), Seriously. (#22), George Bush Stumbles over Sovereignty (#29), Reeve Stem Cell PSA (#31), and on and on and on…and they only get more plentiful as the list goes on.

Bush is drawing far fewer supporters to his rallies than Kerry is to his. While one may argue that disparity is due to Bush & Co.’s insistence that attendees sign loyalty oaths, I don’t believe that’s the main issue. When Bush is drawing 1,000 to Kerry’s 10,000, loyalty oaths isn’t all that’s at work. (If you figure that half of those attending Kerry rallies are actually Bush supporters—an unlikely scenario, but let’s assume it for the sake of the hypothetical—then why would Bush still only be getting 1,000 in the same area, instead of 5,000? Say all of those weren’t willing to sign loyalty oaths—cut that number in half again, and Bush should still be getting 2,500 instead of 1,000, especially when he’s a sitting president.) My guess is that the loyalty oaths were a way to diffuse attention from the disproportionate turnouts—a built-in excuse to explain away why the president’s crowds were smaller. It was just a convenient benefit that those who were willing to sign would also be unlikely to confront him. Insularity is clearly a hallmark of this administration, but red herrings are totally their style.

Criss ends his letter with the following appeal:

I ask that in the future that you at least take in more opinions from us young'ns and Afro Americans.

I think that if, as I fully expect, the “young’ns and Afro Americans” deliver this election to us in landslide style, taking in more of their opinions is the least we can do in return.

After that, jobs, healthcare, and a country they can be proud of, where criticism isn’t inextricably linked to treason and hope replaces fear as our guiding tone, would be a good start.

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