Monday, March 17, 2008

Gen Y and the Voters of the Future

Shoebox over at No Runny Eggs offers a valid, albeit one-sided, critique of "Generation Y" voters and the potential impact of an Obama loss, especially by way of some nefarious tactics by Team Clinton, on their the future political participation.

It's certainly possible that a "stolen" victory by Clinton could turn young voters off, and Shoebox isn't the only person to suggest that this could happen, but to predict that this phenomenon will occur due to the fact that Gen Y is collectively "needy," has "entitlement" issues, or is merely out to "do what feels good" largely misses the most distinct characteristic of most people under the age of 30: they are voraciously social.

Technology has had a large hand in contributing to this, but its not the only reason. Kids these days are more likely to have studied or more likely to study abroad -- their worldview is larger than their parents'. They're more likely to do things like internships or participate in some form of extracurricular activity (this has come both in the form of sheer availability of such programs and active encouragement from every quarter). And they are increasing required to lend a hand in their communities by completing a number of volunteer hours before they graduate high school (for example). You can't be political without being social, and kids these days have that down pat.

The "doing what feels good" criticism has been something young people have been praised for in a different context. Many recent college graduates are taking the few years after undergraduate school to do things like Teach for America, non-profit work, or other less than lucrative employment, not because it pays, but because "it feels good" to help out. Nothing makes people more political involved than volunteering in the community, seeing first hand what changes need to be made and actually having a hand implementing those changes. Gen Y may be the first generation of Americans to experience this on such a mass scale and may be better prepared to handle any kind of disappointment the current political environment can dish out to them.

For every doomsday scenario involving a so-called "Lost Generation" of voters there's another calling Gen Y a "Joshua Generation" (and it's no coincidence Obama used that phrase when he spoke in Selma earlier this year). It's the prerogative -- and maybe even the sworn duty -- of one generation to fear the worst from those that succeed it, yet somehow the human race continuous to move on. Kids these days are alright -- they're just young and susceptible to shortcomings of youth, like inexperience. That doesn't mean their idealism is any more fragile than any other generation before them.

No comments: