Sunday, February 24, 2008

Clinton and the youth vote

It was May of 2006 speaking to the Chamber of Commerce that Senator Hillary Clinton, 61, starkly displayed what seems ultimately to have become a fatal political vulnerability: a maternalistic disregard for young people verging on outright disdain. In that speech, Mrs. Clinton criticized young people for having a sense of entitlement after growing up in a "culture that has a premium on instant gratification."
"We have a lot of kids who don’t know what works means. They think work is a four-letter word."
Even her own daughter called her on that nonsense and Clinton back-pedaled frantically, but the mask had slipped and the damage was done. Young voters took note of a presumptive Presidential candidate scolding them for their 'laziness'.

And they didn't like what they saw.

Hillary seemed to realize that she'd done herself some damage and made efforts to address it. But then late last year the Clinton campaign took a page from the Republican voter suppression play book and attacked the voting rights of college students. When Barack Obama sent out a mailer encouraging college students in Iowa to participate in the Iowa Caucuses, an alarmed Clinton campaign struck back with fear mongering and a transparent attempt to sow division between older and younger voters.

Bill Clinton darkly warned Iowa college students born out of state to use their consciences to decide if they were really 'Iowans'. Hillary chimed in that "This is a process for Iowans. This needs to be all about Iowa, and people who live here, people who pay taxes here"

Never mind that the law is clear that such statements are entirely baseless. College students have every right to be politically involved where they go to school, despite repeated attempts to stop them across the country.

At the same time they were trying to shame away Obama's college age supporters from participating, the Clinton campaign began to ramp up their own efforts to entice college students into the process, at the very least a deeply conflicted mixed message. 'Look,' her campaign seemed to be saying, 'Were 'down' with the Facebook generation.' Which may help explain Facebook's plummeting popularity.

The consequences of these kind of tactics, statements and implicit attitudes to the Clinton campaign have been evident. Young people have surged to Obama on a massive scale. Not just, as some commentators have suggested, simply in response to his relative youth but also in reaction to a perceived condescension and hostility directed towards them from the Clinton camp.

There's a strong irony in the candidate representing the boomer generation that really put the power of youth politically and socially on the map being so completely abandoned by a new generation of young people.

Even in Hillary's often touted advantage with Latinos there's a generation gap with older members of the Latino community viewing the Clintons as long standing allies who've earned their support and younger Latinos who seem ready to move on to a new political generation.

The Clinton campaign seemed to take for granted that the youth vote this election would be as weak and absent as it has been in recent years. That it would be safe to condescend to youth without fear of political consequence.
"They're not a particularly reliable voting bloc and haven't been in the past. That doesn't mean you can't get them out, but it's a lot of work," said Drake University political science professor Arthur Sanders.
The Obama wave makes it clear that was a bad bet.

UPDATE: Arrogant, condescending horrorshow.

1 comment:

Steve Muhlberger said...

As a baby boomer myself, I ask you to remember how selfish that generation can be.

Remember GWB.

Popular Posts