After Ruining Mayonnaise... Can Millennials Save America ?
October 13, 2018 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I’ve given up hope that boomers can rescue us from the tyranny of the Trump age. Boomers were supposed to fix things, build things, save things for future generations. They would see things as they are, and instead of asking why, dream of things that never were and ask why not — as Robert Kennedy promised. Allow me to burn my generational card.
Can Millennials Save America ?
...But millennials have one glaring, society-crushing character problem, and it has nothing to do with sandwich preference: They truly don’t vote. Too many have checked out of the whole citizen-power thing. You can blame the lack of civics education during their formative years, when not enough of them studied the owner’s manual of democracy. Now it’s a pain in the butt, an afterthought, or OMG, is there an election ? Or you can blame a dozen other reasons.

The numbers tell a shameful story....
But as for ruining mayonnaise, iirc, millennials had no part in the invention of Miracle Whip, stones, houses, glass, Mr. Egan. Imho.
posted by y2karl (120 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dear Mr. Egan:

If you want more Millennials to vote, maybe try

* Making it easier for them (and everyone) to register
* Making it easier for them (and everyone) to actually physically go vote, maybe by making Election Day a national holiday
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 AM on October 13, 2018 [53 favorites]


The lack of voting may have something to do with a lack of candidates that one feels able to support wholeheartedly rather than as the lesser of two evils. Perhaps that will change—it certainly seems like the Democratic party is being pushed to the left, but it's not clear how real that is yet.

There's also the fact that voting feels increasingly like a sham. Of the five presidential elections that have happened during the time when I was at-or-near
voting age, two of them have been won by presidents that actually got fewer votes than their opponents. In one case, the president was appointed by Supreme Court justices, some of whom had been installed by his actual father. There's a lot about American "democracy" that is not actually particularly democratic.

It's hard to be enthusiastic about voting when you feel disempowered, disenfranchised, and disillusioned. I still do it, but I understand why a lot of my generational cohort doesn't.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2018 [95 favorites]


(Psst: Maybe it isn't that millenials don't vote, maybe it's that one of your two major political parties has invested a generational effort into making sure _any_ region or demographic that isn't very likely to vote for them _can't_ vote.)
posted by mhoye at 7:51 AM on October 13, 2018 [69 favorites]


Oh, what blather. They are our children. How would any but an exceptional few of them get any better than us? Is a magic Zeitgeist with little fairy wings going to take them all on a vision quest? What is wrong with this columnist?

Millennials have, as a cohort, less lead-induced brain damage than we do, and so higher average intelligence and better average impulse control. They weren't raised by a generation with PTSD from the world wars. This is presumably why they murder each other less, get pregnant too young less, drink less, and take fewer drugs. But let's face it, they were raised by brain-damaged, drug-addled, ill-tempered, hyperactive oversized children with no attention span. There is only so much they are going to be able to fix.
posted by ckridge at 7:59 AM on October 13, 2018 [105 favorites]


Personally I think the most important question around Millennials is, at what point will the media stop running stories talking about people who are in most cases over 30 years old as if they're a group of children that aren't around to hear the adults discussing them?

(Perhaps the second most important is, can someone in the media tell their friends that generational labels are bullshit?)
posted by tocts at 8:17 AM on October 13, 2018 [111 favorites]


All of the above are true. They are institutionally disenfranchised more than any other age demographic before them. The gig economy, student loans, the amount of blatant bullshit in politics that has not been an aberration but a norm from the time they were born. The boot of capitalism is more firmly placed on their collective necks then any of the rest of us. They are literally going to die younger than generations before them.

They are lots of reasons to understand why they don’t vote. But that doesn’t mean they can’t vote. And things would look very different indeed overnight if a miracle happened and 70% turned out in November. Anyone who wants change should be focused like a laser on young people.

Help me Obi-Millenial, you’re my only hope.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:18 AM on October 13, 2018 [15 favorites]


Bitch bitch bitch about millenials not voting.

Anyone got data on voting rates of boomers when they were that age?

...and maybe they don't vote because they're either unemployed, or working at shit jobs where they can't take off to vote because boomers refuse to fucking retire.
posted by notsnot at 8:26 AM on October 13, 2018 [18 favorites]


I'm right at the boomer/gen-x transition and voting rates for my cohort pre-middle-age were "low". If it's the case that late-sixties young adults showed up at the polls, that was the last time that was true. A lot of conservatives in my cohort retroactively imagine themselves being energized by Reagan, but that certainly wasn't true.

Also, and maybe this goes without saying but I sometimes wonder if anyone remembers this, but certainly my cohort in the 80s and even my parents cohort in the 60s complained that there "was no real difference between the parties". I certainly believed that, a belief which seems astonishing and unlikely to me now -- yet, I distinctly recall often lamenting that supposed state of affairs.

I think when we get older we forget how the political and social structure of the world looked to us when we were young, in the sense that similar to how we believed all sorts of possibilities were in our personal future, so too could the world be possibly rearranged in innumerable, radically divergent ways. Compared to the infinities of what is imaginable, the sorts of things politicians talk about seem insignificant. From that perspective, they all look alike. As you get older you realize that small differences can have large, snowballing consequences that powerfully impact individual people's lives. When we're young we think about grand restructuring of society, when we get older we become aware that one party winning one election can mean one young child having food to eat at lunch, or a roof over their head, or a doctor's exam. Those are huge things, certainly when repeated across many thousands of people.

But at 22, you weren't going to get me motivated to vote because of a party's school lunch program, Medicaid policies, or whatever.

All this to say, I find all these sorts of analysis tedious. The young are forever prone to idealism and yearning for change while also being politically unorganized and, for most practical purposes beyond the very local, less motivated to vote.

Not only that, but we (those on the left, anyway) are forever looking at the preferences of youth, seeing that they're more in line with us than the opposition, and smugly reassure ourselves that the future will bend in our direction as a result. We're always surprised and disappointed when today's young liberals becone tomorrow's middle-aged conservatives or centrists. But they do.

After 35 years of being an adult strongly interested and active in politics, I find I have little patience with any of this intergenerational stuff. People say the same things over and over, different generations blame each other even as they come and go, and most of this analysys ends up being self-serving "just-so" ad hoc stories meant to either soothe or frighten.

Meanwhile, the actual bottom-line stays the same -- a big portion of political swings are historically contingent, they are masses of people reacting to big historical changes which are, sadly, largely beyond the scope of any single polity's influence, while, at the same time, the things that are within our collective grasp are the dull, unglamorous hard-work of working the political machinery at all levels.

But nobody really wants to hear that -- instead they want bromides of how this one group will change everything, or this one thing will make all the difference because, well, people do sort of believe that hope is a plan and when things don't turn out the way they hoped, they have a scapegoat ready to blame for it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:49 AM on October 13, 2018 [55 favorites]


When we boomers were the age the millenials are now, we voted at approximately the same rates. The NYT article I read blamed it on the chaotic lives of the young.

This is interesting because during the 1972 presidential election, for example, we had perhaps a lot more at stake (Vietnam war, etc.) and disillusionment with two-party politics was not nearly as pervasive as it is now.

Also, will humans ever stop blaming young people for shit? No. We get old, powerful, published, and cranky.
posted by kozad at 8:56 AM on October 13, 2018 [26 favorites]


The lack of voting may have something to do with a lack of candidates that one feels able to support wholeheartedly rather than as the lesser of two evils.

I am going to see this argument for not voting my entire life. I am going to die and be a spooky ghost in a haunted house, and the new owners will moan about how they won't vote for either candidate because the Democrat just didn't go hard enough left, or the Republican didn't go hard enough right.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:58 AM on October 13, 2018 [30 favorites]


Yeah, it's always going to feel like voting for the lesser of two evils in a two party system because everyone disagrees on a lot of things vehemently, and no two people are going to have quite the same values, so any politician, even one that does a good job representing their constituency and is generally an upstanding person... well almost everyone is still going to find one view or another of theirs odious.

Good and evil are directions, not absolutes. Aim for the least evil and things will get better.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:06 AM on October 13, 2018 [15 favorites]


Another article about boomers and millennials. Yet it feels like there's something missing in between those two populations, an unspoken term.
Let's call this unknown thing, this mysterious absence... X. Just for the sake of argument.

(thank you Ivan Fyodorovich)
posted by doctornemo at 9:13 AM on October 13, 2018 [41 favorites]


But at 22, you weren't going to get me motivated to vote because of a party's school lunch program, Medicaid policies, or whatever.

Eh, as a Gen X I think there was kind of this understanding that you pulled the lever and did your civic duty. But I also wonder if some of it is the lack of ritual around voting these days. When I was a kid parents would all bring their kids to see them vote, you had these full curtains and it had kind of this magic quality. Now they are trying to process people quickly, so you usually have a scan from and a half curtain. It’s far less participatory.
posted by corb at 9:22 AM on October 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


So Egan and Knock the Vote have decided that using "stop us before we kill again" logic where the Boomers taunt the Millennials into action is our best hope? That's inspiring...
posted by gusottertrout at 9:27 AM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Bad economy, obstacles to registration, having to vote for the lesser of two evils... Stop whining. People fought and died for the right to vote. Vote.

An individual vote has little power but a great deal of meaning. If you don't have a concept of collective action, then the rich and powerful will take everything from you.
posted by rdr at 9:35 AM on October 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


Can millennials save, America? Or will they be in student loan debt forever? Anyway, don't worry about it if they're calling you a millennial. As a purported member of the previous generation, I am reasonably confident that you can count on the people who write this kind of stuff forgetting about you completely before too long.
posted by sfenders at 9:36 AM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I really like Tim Egan as a writer. His long form pieces, including "the Worst Hard Time" show him to be a thoughtful historian and chronicler of the american condition.

This piece, however, is the same garbage as any that casts entire generations as responsible for, or capable of, doing anything as if they had one mind, one set of goals, one perspective, one origin, or one future. I expect better from him.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:38 AM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Here is my proposal: Going forward, everyone is responsible for doing the best job that they reasonably can. If it is possible for you to vote without risking your employment or health, and if there is a candidate who is going to preserve or improve the safety net, you should vote. If you have power in the Democratic party, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to make voting easier and to choose candidates who actually reflect the nature of your constituency rather than the wishes of the donor class. If you are running for office, it is your responsibility to pay attention to actual needs rather than the interests of, eg, oil companies and stockholders. If you have money to donate without experiencing hardship, you should donate. If you can volunteer for some local or national cause without risking your health, financial stability or employment, you should do so.

Basically, no one gets to say, "because you aren't good enough, I don't have to do anything". And if you have more money or power, "the best that you reasonably can" is significantly greater than what the average person can do.

I feel like a lot of generational argument, argument about the Democratic party, etc, pretty much follows the same emotional logic as "climate change is locked in, I don't have to do anything because we're already doomed". (Which is a position I find very attractive!) We all end up saying "Boomers ruined everything, also millenials are too oppressed to vote, also the Democratic party is terrible, therefore my obligations are nullified, even when we're only talking about stopping by the polling place and filling out a ballot once every couple of years, and even if skipping out on voting means that food stamps and the bus route get cut". Like, for most mefites the value of voting is relatively low, but the cost of voting is very low. So why not?
posted by Frowner at 9:48 AM on October 13, 2018 [18 favorites]


I'd really like to live long enough to see an end to the excuses for inaction, whether that’s just intense social ostracism for the people who are still pushing the toxic “both parties are the same” or “candidate X doesn’t excite me enough” excuses or a serious effort at election reform for some sort of ranked preference system. Each election seems to have that cycle of rationalizations for not/protest voting followed by “how did that happen?”, and years of complaining about the winner without ever quite acknowledging that the other candidate had in fact been clearly better if not perfect.
posted by adamsc at 10:01 AM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Millennials are all at once the destroyers and saviors of the world now. When will they be allowed to simply exist? Oh wait, they can't even do that because they are constantly mind-fucked by the economy, a collapsing world, and everyone's analysis of them on a daily basis.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:01 AM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Perhaps the good contrarian take is that, since young people never vote and old people vote conservative because the poor elderly die sooner, we need to fix Healthcare so that, forty years from now, there will be equal numbers of rich and poor old voters. Don't fix the young, just help them stick around to get old. Of course, the current gerontocracy may have issues with that.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:03 AM on October 13, 2018


I'm in my early-mid 30s and while I have a lot of politically active friends, I also have a lot of friends that may pay a little attention but still don't vote. And it's almost always because they don't see their vote as mattering. I grew up in a hard red state. It would always vote Republican no matter what. I would still vote and have some distant hope that maybe somehow somewhere down the ballot a Democrat would get in, but even I as a political person saw it as a mostly futile effort. Now I live in a hard blue state and I know that no matter what my tiny Democrat vote doesn't matter because that candidate will win anyway.

You can quote all the close elections and runoffs you want but those have only happened in distant places I've never been to. I want to feel my vote matters and I do vote. But it really just seems like a tiny grain of sand on a vast beach. Maybe getting rid of the electoral college would help presidentially, but the self-selection of Democrats living in strong Democratic territory and Republicans living in strong Republican territory means that over and over the minority vote in those places seems more like a protest than an actual action. And people get disillusioned.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:28 AM on October 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


In my younger days I voted, but I don't know if I would have during the last election. Not a lot of arguments would have swayed me, but "this thing is SO in the bag, let's go play frisbee" might have. The election seemed like a foregone conclusion to most people. In general, I have high hopes for Millennials. They're smart, open minded, and politically engaged. Boomers, on the other hand, wtf happened to you?
posted by xammerboy at 10:28 AM on October 13, 2018


"Boomers were supposed to fix things..."

Oh? Because it seems to me that a great deal of our problems can be traced to boomers fucking things up.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:31 AM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


No matter the generation, the one thing that always gives any disenfranchised person of voting age that warm and fuzzy feeling is our electoral college.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


"I want to feel my vote matters and I do vote. But it really just seems like a tiny grain of sand on a vast beach."

A beach made entirely from individual grains of sand.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:07 AM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I don't know what bugs me more, the stereotype that my parents are entitled negotiating a broken health care system with diminishing resources, or that my students and nieces are entitled negotiating an educational system and job market with increasing debt.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2018 [10 favorites]


No matter the generation, the one thing that always gives any disenfranchised person of voting age that warm and fuzzy feeling is our electoral college.

The electoral college sucks, BUT it's only involved once every four years and in ONE CHOICE for the president (and Veep). It's not involved in any other election. In my last ballot, which was a primary ballot, there were 26 different issues and candidates to decide upon and NONE involved the bogeyman of the electoral college.

So, as mentioned, the EC sucks. But it's not involved in any other important choice like governors, state assemblies, propositions, mayors, judges, or local ordinances.

I hate to say it, but maybe compulsory voting is the way to force higher participation. As a comparison, everybody wears a seat belt. Yet, I've never heard anyone say that they need to be enthusiastic or motivated to wear a seat belt. There's laws and penalties for not doing it. Maybe voting should be treated the same way.

And even then, it won't solve everything, because there will be joke votes or blank ballots sent in. But at least it gets people thinking and integrates it into their daily lives.
posted by FJT at 11:20 AM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's a lot of lazy generalizations on this topic, especially in the OP. This article from Pew Research has some interesting details:

* Boomers lean Democratic (48-45) and anti-Trump (51% disapprove, 44% approve)
* It's the preceding Silent generation that leans Republican.
* Preferences have changed over time. Gen-X-ers leaned Republican during the ’90s. The Silents leaned Democratic through 2006, then abruptly switched. (In fact all generations shifted rightward from ’06 to ’10, including Milennials.)
posted by zompist at 11:24 AM on October 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


Man, whenever my generation comes up in this context, it's always moralizing about "oh those idiots who think both sides are the same." Maybe that's not all there is to it? People typically disengage from politics when they feel like the system does not serve them at all. Maybe the impact of crushing debt, rising healthcare costs, low wages, and so on is not that it's harder to get to the polls, it's that people have completely lost faith in politicians to serve them. It's not always about "both parties are the same," it's about the real perception that their life prospects have only gotten worse over time." Why is this a failure on the part of Millennials, and not a failure of their elected representatives to truly represent them and their needs? The best anyone can seem to do is say "well, look at what the Republicans will do if they get the chance."

I'm not making excuses for anyone. I think low voter turnout is shameful and embarrassing for my generation and the country. I'd rather have Democrats in charge, even if they're apparently unwilling to police the financial institutions that are ruining my life. But I just don't have patience for yet another argument about how it's Millennnials/no-it's-actually-Boomers who are responsible for the state of the nation. You want to get people to vote? Actually look closely at why they're not voting, and figure out what the Democratic Party can do about it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:48 AM on October 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't think the reasons millennials don't vote as much are very deep. Voting is just another aspect to adulting that young people have trouble with because they only just became adults very recently. Hopefully as they get older they also get better at adulting and better at voting. This is my experience where voting felt like a lot more of a hassle when I was younger and not really used to like, having a lot of responsibilities that individually weren't a lot of work but put together could get overwhelming.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 11:57 AM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


people don't vote because most of the day to day things that control and influence their lives - their jobs, their shopping choices, their churches, their media, their social circles and even the government non-elected people they interact with, aren't things their votes seem to control - and convincing them otherwise - or even that it should be otherwise - is very hard - there's no cause and effect - life stays the same

it isn't until the government DOES something to them that they pay attention - and that's less likely to have happened to the young than to the old
posted by pyramid termite at 11:59 AM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Eh, as a Gen X I think there was kind of this understanding that you pulled the lever and did your civic duty. But I also wonder if some of it is the lack of ritual around voting these days.

Millennials vote at almost exactly the same rates that Boomers did at the same age. Ditto for Gen X: compare Millennials in 2016 to Gen X in 2000, an approximate age match. It's near identical.

There is no difference that needs to be explained in terms of a lack of "ritual", young people have simply never voted in the same proportions as older people in recent history. That's the problem that needs to be solved, not a lack of ritual or app culture or a predilection for avocado toast or whatever.

Maybe start by taking a look at the crazy mosaic of residency requirements that (completely by design) prevent college students and other young people from voting in the districts where they actually live.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:21 PM on October 13, 2018 [25 favorites]


Young people are young, many vote, many don’t care, many have other priorities. In my state, they mail you your ballot 3 weeks ahead of time and it sits on your desk waiting for you to get around to it and once in a while on Election Day I’m like “oh shit I forgot to vote!”

Yeah I think compulsory voting, an Election Day national holiday, getting endless money out of politics— all that would help. But it’s not going to happen and, for the moment, it is still technically possible for most citizens to vote.

I also am not holding out hope that some magical candidate is going to connect with young people in huge numbers, at least while remaining popular with the rest of the electorate. But the youth vote still matters and has the power to change politics.

If you think, as I do, that the progressive forward-looking politicians that I support also represent the best interests of young people, then its on us to engage directly the young people in our lives. They don’t need to be nagged by op-Ed pieces or signs on buses. They need their neighbors, teachers, doctors, co-workers to talk politics with them the way we do with each other, with a listening ear, maybe a little historical perspective or clarification of how social security and health care work if they don’t have enough experience with complex issues to have an opinion. But absolutely, the fewer young people voting means the more Mitch McConnells and Twitlers we have fucking up our (my middle class old’s and their young’s) shit.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:01 PM on October 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I vote (gen x)
Non-voters are more rational

A) USA is not currently functioning as a democracy, was not designed to be a democracy, not going to be allowed to be a democracy. (See federalist papers, or Dahl "How Democratic"
B) Voters and public opinion have no statistical independent influence on US government policy, the rich however do.
C) Voting is the least effective way to participate in the system, compared to any methods that involve money or fame.
D) those without money won't be allowed to vote, or will be punished for voting: see all recent voter suppression articles Re North Dakota, GA, Kansas, everywhere.
E) The people championing voting agree that voting in Russia, Saddam's Iraq or other authoritarian regimes is a sham meant to legitimize the regime.... but they believe their votes are different despite repeated wide spread vote suppression, election tampering, judicial and gubernatorial and legislative self-interested election interferrence, a system of legalized political corruption and bribery.


I mean, it takes ignoring how the system has and is working to believe that you would be allowed to vote your way into something better than what the powerful want for themselves and for you.

That faith is a religion, a democratic religion, an opiate of the massess so that they will keep getting tricked and screwed in the political process but devote their efforts and money toward working within that same process, obeying the rules of the system.

That alternatives to following the rules are inconcievable or unspeakable just shows you how the game is already over. You lost.

So, sure, vote. I vote, you should vote. We all should vote. But if you are counting on voting to have an effect, you are putting your eggs in the wrong basket.

[edited to reflect the fact that I can't spell empiricle, empiracal, whatever]
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:08 PM on October 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


We didn't elect independence, we elected a revolutionary war against britain.
Slaves couldn't vote for their freedom, still can't.
Our victims couldn't vote against our wars on terror, drugs, immigration, the environment.

When you agreed with your masters, you and them worked together and felt powerful. When you disagreed with them, they over-ruled you and your money, your job and your obeidiance is what they used to achieve their goals regardless of your votes, your opinions, your bumper stickers.

I think I need to take a break from the news for a bit.>
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:18 PM on October 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


The lack of voting may have something to do with a lack of candidates that one feels able to support wholeheartedly rather than as the lesser of two evils.

I am going to see this argument for not voting my entire life. I am going to die and be a spooky ghost in a haunted house, and the new owners will moan about how they won't vote for either candidate because the Democrat just didn't go hard enough left, or the Republican didn't go hard enough right.


when people talk about this, they're not proposing that both parties are the same. nobody actually thinks that. they're proposing that most young people who could vote don't give a shit about either candidate. that's a very different problem. bernie sanders and barrack obama both managed to rally a larger percentage of the youth vote because they spoke to the problems the youth face. people liked their message. most of the people in my life couldn't tell you what the 2016 dem candidate's message even was because it wasn't communicated clearly or urgently enough. like yeah, everybody can agree trump was a worse person, but at the end of the day i'm going to work long hard hours and still barely scrape by no matter who the president is.

the challenge is not exactly getting people to vote. the challenge is to convince people that politics is a way to make meaningful change in their day to day life. most of the people i work with don't even think about it. part of this is because the media covers politics like a game with winners and losers and strategies, and not in terms of actual policy. policy - and communicating that policy - is the only way to win people over when they don't think of politics in terms of real life implications.

if the dems want to win an election they could run on a handful of very simple things: a higher minimum wage, legal weed, free healthcare, free state college, and cancelling student loan debt. the last one is key. we all talk about how college has gotten cripplingly expensive for young people and their parents, but nobody actually seems to want to go back and fix that. free college for everyone is a great start. going back and removing the insane amounts of debt most millennials are looking at would result in a mass wave of young voters. it's a concrete way to make their lives better.
posted by JimBennett at 1:27 PM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


(this proposal obviously discounts voter disenfranchisement and the crumbling nature of our antiquated systems of government, but if we want any chance of fixing those issues we're going to need a radical electoral strategy to win back control. the democrats don't seem very interested in any of it tbh, as long as they keep getting their yearly $30,000 checks from pharma or silicon valley)
posted by JimBennett at 1:33 PM on October 13, 2018


But FDR was elected. The sainted Paul Simon, possibly America's only honest senator, was elected. AMLO was just elected in Mexico.

Melvin Carter, just elected mayor of St Paul, famously declined to increase funding for the police, saying that he didn't think more police solved any community problems. Jacob Frey, also newly elected though less left than Carter, followed through on his campaign promises to create an office of immigrant relations and has moved forward on getting a city ID which would be available to undocumented Minneapolitans. This fall, we have a chance to turf out our conservative county commissioner and replace him with a left-leaning Black woman candidate, Angela Conley.

I mean, yes, you can't elect your way to a revolution, but you can't wish your way to a revolution either. My feeling is that you are rarely actually faced with the choice of "if I vote today, I will not be able to pick up the gun tomorrow", so it makes sense to vote. I mean, if people are so smart - if everyone is thinking, "well, only a revolution will change things" - why aren't they out there building revolutionary organizations? Is it because all the little Lenins are suffering from false consciousness and running for school board instead of organizing revolutionary cells? Is it because people are smart enough to despair but too dumb to have a revolution? Is it because the masses are waiting for the cadre to get their heads out of their asses? Or do other factors contour political possibility than raw "I see the light now let's have a revolution" moments?

~~
On another note: I've had a bunch of conversations with friends - friends with college degrees - who are heavily dependent on public transportation, intermittently dependent on food stamps, and often dependent on the Medicaid expansion - who do not think that a change in government will mean anything to them. They're not out there saying "I am a revolutionary, if I have to lose my food stamps and heathcare on the way to the revolution, so be it", they're just not aware that changes in government change all those things. This isn't a political position, it's being misinformed. We joke about "get the government out of my medicare", but "I don't care about the government, it's not like they set the bus schedule or something" is pretty common.
posted by Frowner at 1:37 PM on October 13, 2018 [29 favorites]


Require everyone 18 or older to vote. Maybe you get an option to vote for "None of the above" or "I don't know" or "I refuse to participate" but you have to go through the motions at the election booth or through the mail.

Make it a paid day off (or a time-and-a-half day with time to go and vote) and give everyone who walks out of the voting booth a hundred dollars in cash. Make post-vote picnics a tradition. Make that night a party with lots of liquor, dope, food, dancing, and fireworks.
posted by pracowity at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2018


It's not true that Paul Simon was the only honest senator. That is an insult to other people, actually, like Maxine Waters. I retract that.
posted by Frowner at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


There's a giant mural outside achurch in the middle of Newburyport which reads "Children As Peacemakers." I first saw it when I was ten or eleven. Back then, I thought, 'fuck you adults, what do you want us to do? We're little! We're not starting any wars." Not that I'm almost 35, I realize that not only weren't the boomers planning on helping, it was them they knew we'd have to save the world from.

Similarly, I despise John Mayer's Waiting on the World to Change, but mostly because it's too accurate. The previous generation tried to fill us with these rosey ecological and economic and anti-racist ideas, because lord knows they weren't going to do anything but entrench them every chance they got.

So I guess the answer is, "Yeah, if we have to, you useless cunts. We'll save the world from you and for you."
posted by es_de_bah at 2:06 PM on October 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Not that I'm almost 35, I realize that not only weren't the boomers planning on helping, it was them they knew we'd have to save the world from.

This is, of course, is exactly what today's babies and high school students will think about their Millennial parents.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


But let's face it, they were raised by brain-damaged, drug-addled, ill-tempered, hyperactive oversized children with no attention span.


But enough about Gen X.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:37 PM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think people are discounting the possibility that the world actually has changed for my generation. People keep saying "oh yeah, every generation is like this," but that's glossing over the reality that mine is the first generation in a long time that faces diminished life prospects. The baby boom was part of a major social and economic change in American history, and so too was the 2008 recession. I think it is very hard for someone who came of age at a time of major economic growth (even Gen X) to relate to someone coming of age now, when you can take it for granted that you will probably never own a house, probably be in debt through your 60s, and so on. Not to mention the immediate present of trying to stay on top of debt, rising costs of living, and stagnant wages.

People keep saying "oh yeah, every generation is like this," but maybe that's not actually the case. I think that's the driver for a lot of handwringing about "why won't the Millennials do more?" Well, we're pretty busy just staying afloat.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:53 PM on October 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'm in GA and it doesn't get any clearer than a race with one of the state's leading voting rights advocates vs. one of its architects of voter suppression. If you care about voting rights here, you vote against Kemp, support the lawsuits against Kemp, or don't whine in my direction about it.

That's also true regionally. Don't use voter suppression to justify your fatalism while good people are taking it to the courts and going to jail protesting it.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:56 PM on October 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


If I was American, I'd be pretty disillusioned too, with the rigid two-party system. It's viciously partisan, and too many vote for a party out of habit or identity, and seem likely to do so forever.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:59 PM on October 13, 2018


I'll be in debt until I die, won't own a home, and my wages have been flat for the last decade. I know adults at all ages in the same boat. It's a class issue.

What scares me about this generational bullshit is a nacient movement to get younger people to cut their own throats by weakening the already crippled safety net to spite a stereotype. Just as "fuck the South" has the effect of screwing over minorities, so does "fuck boomers."
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:15 PM on October 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


My contempt is primarily for news media weaponizing click bait here.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:19 PM on October 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


Yes, vote. Please vote. Fatalism is indeed fatal. And no, please do not let despair move you toward violence. Violence is worse.

We agree on most of this: Vote is better than don't vote. "Vote and non-violent civil participation" is better than just vote.

VOTE for politicans who say the right thing about homeless AND shelter a friend or family member or coworker in need.

VOTE for a more equitable and generous social welfare system (think japan or sweden). AND give food, medicine and money to those who are less fortunate.

VOTE for the party less likely to engage in ethnic cleansing AND provide safe-houses to groups being target.

I think we agree, "Vote and " is better than just vote, and is much better than not-voting and doing nothing.

My hot-take argument is against a strawman"voting will solve all of this" and "voting is the best way to solve all this". But rereading the article and our comments, no one was making the argument that "voting is so awesome, its all you have to do, and it will totally fix everything." I'm the fool who jumped to attack that.

Where we might disagree is the relative effectiveness. I think non-violent action is more effective than voting. But it is not either-or, thankfully. And certainly in local elections, and within community groups, voting can be more effective.

But don't pin all your hopes on voting.
Vote and participate.

Also rereading my hot take: my remarks about slavery and american revolution are not meant to advocate violence. I was thinking about slaves being better off trying to escape than rebel, (except for Haiti) slave revolts are typically unsuccessful. Slaves and former slaves made important contributions to the war against the confederacy, but slaves alone did not overthrow the regime. Escape and underground railroad action i what i'm thinking of. And I don't view the american revolution as people vs hierarchy, I view it as local elite vs overseas elite.

If you have an army, please compel slave owners to end slavery with that army.
If you have a fortune, buy slaves and free them, and use your fortune to bribe local authorities, change laws etc.
If you have the right to vote, use it.
If you can hide or shelter slaves, do it.
If you can make slave-owners feel unwelcome in a restaurant in D.C. do it.


"Vote and". Vote this november and in every election. Vote and have a non-violent plan b. Vote and don't hold your breath, vote and educate, organize and fight-back. Vote with your votes, with your spending, with your social acceptance and shaming, vote with your donations, vote and tithe to good causes.

Vote and.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 3:20 PM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


My hot take is that Gen Z (or whatever they’re calling the post-Millennials generation) is going to save us. The teenagers I spend time with, as the mom of a 16 year old, are incredibly engaged. They already have experience organizing and participating in protests. Kid Ruki preregistered to vote when she got her drivers license, affiliated herself with the Democratic Party, and has encouraged her friends to do the same. We’ve been trying to get the Youth Caucus reinstated at the state party. They are in it. They give me hope.
posted by Ruki at 3:23 PM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


On preview, this was a reaction to your earlier comment Anchorite. I typed it by the time I read your "Vote and" (which is great), so here it is:

That faith is a religion, a democratic religion, an opiate of the massess so that they will keep getting tricked and screwed in the political process but devote their efforts and money toward working within that same process, obeying the rules of the system.

That alternatives to following the rules are inconcievable or unspeakable just shows you how the game is already over. You lost.

So, sure, vote. I vote, you should vote. We all should vote. But if you are counting on voting to have an effect, you are putting your eggs in the wrong basket.


I get what you are saying, Anchorite. What we actually have is a system that is easily and frequently gamed, that the rich have *always* found a way to take care of their own and government is their most powerful tool to stay entrenched. From one perspective, the purpose of government is to promote the views of the rich and powerful and make the masses comply. It's just that the rich and powerful who started the U.S. government used some flowery language about all men being created equal. But they were mostly reacting to some other richer, more powerful men across the ocean. But today I am feeling just a little less cynical than most days and I choose not to live in despair. The choice is to believe in something or nothing and I would argue that believing in something, even an illusion, is a more useful framework than nothing.

I just typed a long, long comment about the incremental changes brought about by non-rich people who bought into the idea sold to them about equality and got as far as William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, and President James Polk and how the war of 1812 was really caused by wealthy merchants but fought by poor men who believed in the religion of democracy which made Horace Mann possible, how Andrew Jackson made a fortune slaughtering Native Americans and buying slaves while his election depended on mobilizing the "rights of the common man" electorate who believed in the religion of democracy which made Abraham Lincoln possible and how all of this eventually led to the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the civil rights movement, social security, etc.

But it's a long story no one wants to read again. The point of it is yeah, rich people have always sucked and have always manipulated things to oppress the majority who labor under them and support them. But there has always been a concurrent thread of heroes and heroines who believed whole heartedly in the religion of democracy, either naively oblivious to who is actually pulling the strings of power, or choosing to think otherwise, and these people have undoubtedly got shit done.

It certainly has not been as fast as it could have been and I admit as a cis white hetero male that it's easier for me to live with the pace with which change has come. And it absolutely seems like things are as authoritarian as they've been in a long time right now. I am mentally prepared to see revolution or dissolution of the US in my lifetime. But I would argue that it's a bit hyperbolic and cynical to say that voting has never mattered nor could it matter. Yeah, big forward changes have also gone hand in hand with direct action. And there has to be some amount of buy in from at least parts of the wealthy ruling class in order for change to come, but voting has been at least part of the formula for change, and there has indeed been some forward progress in the history of the US. We have had direct action these last 2 years, and certainly some of the moneyed class opposes the Trump regime. You might hate how unfettered capitalism has distorted what democracy actually is, and you might not be able to commit to direct action or have the money to influence Congress right now, but there are lot of us who are and do, and we still need people to vote. It costs so little personally and it just might help.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:34 PM on October 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


My hot take is that Gen Z (or whatever they’re calling the post-Millennials generation) is going to save us. The teenagers I spend time with, as the mom of a 16 year old, are incredibly engaged.

I hope you're right. It is certainly true that political awareness and engagement is a big part of my kids' and their cohort from a young age, but I only know from inside my own bubble which is deep blue in the deepest blue city in the deepest blue state.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:40 PM on October 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Why does seemingly every generation somehow pass the buck onto the next one? "Sorry too many of the boomers turned out to be Trump-voting shitheads, maybe if more millennials voted it would be ok" seems like pretty weak tea. Maybe if everyone, regardless of age, could stop being such shitheads we'd get somewhere, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by axiom at 5:02 PM on October 13, 2018


This might be one of those situations where "If the article's not about you it's not about you," but... I'm a millennial (31) and I don't think I know anyone who doesn't vote; at least if they don't, they have the good sense not to tell me about it. Is this so unusual? Is it because I am thoroughly enbubbled (San Francisco)?

I'm part of a community group for people who could broadly be described as millennials, and I attended a meeting of our much older parent organization to present our plans for a voter registration drive and nonpartisan voter information event. While I was doing this, a guy in his fifties from the parent org's board asked me why I thought my generation didn't vote. I said something similar to this comment (it's a habit, like going to the dentist or contributing to a 401k, that young people haven't had time to build yet and that's a bit intimidating), but I'm still wondering what I should have said and why he felt the need to ask me that in that moment. I know the numbers on this are real, but the low expectations are a bummer.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:02 PM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Why does seemingly every generation somehow pass the buck onto the next one?

Because children judge their parents in ways that the parents can't expect and didn't collectively agree that they were being graded on.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:18 PM on October 13, 2018


I'm still wondering what I should have said and why he felt the need to ask me that in that moment. I know the numbers on this are real, but the low expectations are a bummer.

This is why I keep saying it's a mistake to think of this only as a generational problem, because as a generation, we (and I'm 32) are worse off than others. The question should be "why does this cohort of economically-constricted people vote less," rather than puzzling over us as a generation of avocado-toast-addicted, entitled whiners. This is also why I think the actual answers have at least something to do with the perception that most politicians are unwilling to address this cohort's problems. I'm extremely reluctant to bring up Bernie Sanders on this site, but if there's anything instructive about his relative success, it's not that this is a generation of idealistic brocialists, but that his talking points managed to more directly hit on the problems we continue to face, in clear language that made people feel heard and represented. If you start by assuming good faith on the part of this generation, you probably get more instructive answers about our behavior as a group than if you just assume it's purely some youth problem. I think a lot of people are misunderstanding what political disengagement or disillusionment is actually indicative of in this context.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:31 PM on October 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


Why does seemingly every generation somehow pass the buck onto the next one? "Sorry too many of the boomers turned out to be Trump-voting shitheads, maybe if more millennials voted it would be ok" seems like pretty weak tea.

You skipped a Generation in between there.

Although - oddly, one thing I remember from those pop-sci books about the various generations was the prediction that when we in Generation X are seniors, that's when finally we'll be like "at LAST we have q chance" and are going to come in and fix shit like we've been waiting to do all our lives but could!'t earlier because we couldn't be heard earlier over the generations before and after us.

Or maybe we'll just all say "fuck it" and form a commune.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 PM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Holy shit but Boomers are desperate to pass the blame onto someone else, aren't they?
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 6:50 PM on October 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Generational framing is maybe not as problematic a stereotype as racial or gender or ability framing, but its still an overbroad brush. Generations having personalities because of their history might be a measurable thing, intergenerational conflict doesn't seem like a great way to build a broad and powerful coalition to achieve political ends.

Boomers suck for the same reasons that millenials suck: they are made of people and most people don't agree on a shared way of how not to suck.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 7:04 PM on October 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


oddly, one thing I remember from those pop-sci books about the various generations was the prediction that when we in Generation X are seniors, that's when finally we'll be like "at LAST we have q chance" and are going to come in and fix shit like we've been waiting to do all our lives but could!'t earlier because we couldn't be heard earlier over the generations before and after us.

Perhaps it is useful to think about this in terms of empowerment: telling the young (or the young telling themselves) that they can fix the issues caused or left broken by the old is empowering, and means that at least some of the young will continue to fight for the great human project.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:10 PM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I just recently I found out that while there will be more Gen-Xers than Baby Boomers by 2028, there will never be a time when Gen-X is the most populous generation, because there will be more Millenials than Gen-Xers starting in 2019 (due to young people immigrating to the USA at larger numbers than middle-aged or old people.)

Oh, population wise we lose. The argument I saw was more like, after the Boomers and the Millennials keep arguing we just sit here waiting, and then finally the others stop arguing and throw up their hands and say "fine, does anyone ELSE want to try?" And that's when we will be all "why yes we have some ideas we've been plotting out since the early 90s and waiting to try out" and will take charge.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 PM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Fuggin' Kids These Days.
posted by Reverend John at 7:33 PM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


The best anyone can seem to do is say "well, look at what the Republicans will do if they get the chance."

Non-voters wear sunscreen even though the choice offered is "boring lack of sunburn" and "sunburn", don't they? They are familiar with the concept of doing something just to protect oneself from bad outcomes. Sunscreen doesn't have to be exciting, interesting, or even solve any other problems; you know that if you don't do it, you're going to have a bad time later.

Voting is like that, except you get to prevent family separations, the erosion of reproductive rights, the abolition of SSM, and other awful shit that amoral men want and you have yet to imagine instead of sunburns.
posted by Jpfed at 10:21 PM on October 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


So Democrats don't need to represent anyone's needs or interests, they just need to be better than awful people? I wouldn't take that as a sign that the system is functioning and healthy. "Vote for me or people will suffer." Yes, indeed, how could anyone possibly feel disillusioned.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:52 AM on October 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


So Jpfed, about sunscreen ... It may be an apt metaphor but not in the way you were hoping.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:50 AM on October 14, 2018


So the upshot is that the millennial generation will keep making excuses for not voting, till they get older and more conservative?

I am a (borderline) millennial but not American. And my sole motivation for getting a voter ID is to cancel out one of my parents' votes in the next election. Maybe Rock the Vote can work this into their ads?
posted by tirutiru at 5:34 AM on October 14, 2018


the kids who don't vote don't think about voting. these are the people we need to win over. pretty much everyone in this thread votes, i have to assume, on both sides of this discussion. so when we try to explain to you why nobody young votes and you say "oh voting doesn't have to be exciting or interesting, you just have to do it because it's your duty" you're saying that to people who already DO vote. we're trying to explain why our friends, coworkers, classmates, and peers DON'T, and how to win THEM over. that's what this whole thing is about! you have to offer people something to get them to the polls. "we're not as bad as the other guys" just doesn't fucking work. the fact that we're still having THAT conversation after 2016 is insane to me.
posted by JimBennett at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't vote because "it's my duty". I vote because even when your choice would be for the lesser of two evils, I'd like to be sure it IS the lesser who wins rather than the greater.

That was awfully convincing to me as a teen, anyone try that argument?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:09 AM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


That was awfully convincing to me as a teen, anyone try that argument?

yes her name was hilary clinton.
posted by JimBennett at 8:20 AM on October 14, 2018


So Democrats don't need to represent anyone's needs or interests, they just need to be better than awful people?
The way you’re just tossing out the idea that Democrats don’t represent anyone’s interests is the heart of the problem. They do represent many peoples’ interests, as even a cursory attempt to follow the news would make clear. The problem is that some people like to spread the idea that you shouldn’t vote for someone who isn’t exactly what you want, even if your views are far from a strong majority and a coalition position would still give you more than zero.

As an example, take the ACA. It’s not perfect and many people wanted more but there was no way to make the Senate politics work at that time. If they’d just given up rather than taking something incremental, how many more people would have had serious life impacts due to not having coverage or arbitrary limits on that coverage?

The message to non-voters needs to be that the only way things will get better is if they get involved. Holding out for an unattainable ideal is exactly what the extremists want because their supporters are far more reliable even if they’re a minority.
posted by adamsc at 8:53 AM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


That was awfully convincing to me as a teen, anyone try that argument?

yes her name was hilary clinton.


This is a very good sick burn. But she won the popular vote! In an election whose fundamentals favored the Republican! Which is moot in terms of who actually goes home with the trophy, but not moot in terms of motivating people to go to the polls.

More fundamentally, in terms of what you have said earlier, the democrats have a middle class straight white male problem. (Perhaps recent news has helped solve some of the straight white woman problem) And those lesser evils that are fundamentally important -climate change, marriage equality, affirmative action, the Supreme Court, reproductive independence, etc. - are not perceived as issues for straight white dudes, even if they should be. When you talk about economic issues upthread as a motivator, that burns brightly. There is a reason many democrats are running in the economy and corruption: those issues don't activate white privilege and the patriarchy.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:05 AM on October 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Ironically, the idea that the youth forms a distinct class ("don't trust anyone over 30") whose preferences (here, for civic apathy because the case for voting has not been made compelling to them I guess) are basically self-justifying, is the most Boomer-derived of ideas.
posted by thelonius at 9:09 AM on October 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


you have to offer people something to get them to the polls

so a fascist free government isn't enough these days?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 AM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


they give out stickers!
posted by thelonius at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


you have to offer people something to get them to the polls

so a fascist free government isn't enough these days?


Three points to that:
1. It's a midterm, anger can be less structured for house votes, and a lot of people are angry. So that feels good.
2. Presidential elections are different, and no one like to be told "suck it up". See, e.g. the joke of Never Trump.
3. In your daily life, has the new election affected you directly? Speaking as a bubble person, I have been impacted by the news and by going to protests, but beyond knowing that my taxes are going up I have had no negative c personal externalities that I can touch and believe in. Elsewhere in this thread, we've had people comment on neighbors not putting together the idea that the government's actions have had negative consequences for them. If you can't touch a thing, it isn't real. (Perhaps we should all attend one of the President's rallies, to feel the horrible heat.)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:20 AM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


so a fascist free government isn't enough these days?

i would encourage you to actually talk to young people who don't vote. they have more pressing concerns. how do i pay my rent? how do i pay for my mom's medical bills? how do i have time to vote when i work 40 hours a week, go to school another 20, and still have to babysit my little brother while dad works nights? there is huge inequality in this country and young people are bearing the brunt of it. everyone i work with thinks trump is an asshole. and they don't like what his administration is doing. they're still not going to go to the polls because politics has not been a way to meaningfully improve their lives. these people exist and are out there. you can say they're being selfish, you can say they need to bet on the lesser of two evils, you can point to the horrible atrocities of the trump administration, and they will continue to not vote. you need to offer them something concrete to improve their lives. i seriously do not understand why this is controversial.
posted by JimBennett at 9:30 AM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


My 16-year-old can't wait to vote in 2020. He loathes Trump as much as I do and leans way farther left than I do. From what I can see among the high school kids I know, this next bunch of young folks are fired up.
posted by Daily Alice at 9:47 AM on October 14, 2018


As a white person with unquestioned citizenship and voter registration, it falls to me to vote out the wonks who are disenfranchising my neighbors, deporting my co-workers, and promoting an agenda of worse to come. Do I really need to wait until my privileged position is directly harmed to give a shit?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:12 AM on October 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Do I really need to wait until my privileged position is directly harmed to give a shit?

I think the arc of history bends towards "yes" on this one, sadly. But, more importantly, your privileged position is literally harmed by policies that make you less privileged. Loss of privilege is real, and felt, and motivates people. As much as reverse descrimination and reverse sexism are silly, a lot of people believe in them and are activated by them. (54 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, and many more white men! I cannot sing it loudly enough.)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:23 AM on October 14, 2018


Those of you arguing that practical logistics are keeping people from the polls - wouldn't blaming the voting system itself for the poor turnout be more effective as opposed to blaming the parties for not offering good candidates?

I mean, someone having trouble getting to the polls between jobs would still have that problem even if Jesus Himself was running. Logistics and candidates are two separate things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2018


Those of you arguing that practical logistics are keeping people from the polls - wouldn't blaming the voting system itself for the poor turnout be more effective as opposed to blaming the parties for not offering good candidates?

i mean, sure, but we can't fix those systems unless we figure out a way to elect people? both are huge problems?
posted by JimBennett at 4:36 PM on October 14, 2018


wouldn't blaming the voting system itself for the poor turnout be more effective as opposed to blaming the parties for not offering good candidates?

Why not both? When the cost in time and/or money for someone to get themselves to the polls is high, they're less likely to go vote unless they have some concrete motivation - say, a candidate they're particularly excited about.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 5:34 PM on October 14, 2018


you need to offer them something concrete to improve their lives. i seriously do not understand why this is controversial.

Hm. Sure, life is complicated when you’re young and broke. But it’s not as though that’s really any different for any other age group. It’s every bit as hard to follow politics and find time to vote when you’re taking care of kids, working multiple jobs,
Caring for aging/sick parents, working around a full workday plus lengthy commute, going to school st night, dealing with shit that broke in your house or car, lending support to teen or young adult kids or to struggling siblings, and so on. There are very few of us for whom voting is easy. And life does not get simpler with age unless you’re very financially fortunate. I don’t think there are many excuses in the “life is busy” category that apply exclusively to the young.
posted by Miko at 9:06 PM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


The question should be "why does this cohort of economically-constricted people vote less,"

Other way round. “It’s really easy for the political process to disregard the economic interests of a generation that doesn’t vote.”
posted by Miko at 9:10 PM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Call it a vicious cycle at this point.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:27 PM on October 14, 2018


Why not both?

That's precisely my point. I've only seen people mentioning one of those two problems - and to boot, they mention one problem as being the reason why people aren't overcoming the other one ("people aren't going to try to find a way to squeeze in time to vote if the candidate is only 'meh'").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on October 15, 2018


Call it a vicious cycle at this point.

It is. It is interesting to understand what this construct of vicious or virtuous cycles specifically means: "complex chains of events with no tendency toward equilibrium (social, economic, ecological, etc.)—at least in the short run. Both systems of events have feedback loops in which each iteration of the cycle reinforces the previous one (positive feedback).

The most important quality of these cycles being that they "will continue in the direction of their momentum" until something breaks the cycle. You know what would break the nonvoting cycle? A sudden uptick in individuals voting. Change one condition, change the cycle.

It's completely nonrational to argue that people shouldn't bother voting until things get better. Be clear, things are only this good because some decent people do vote. Nothing gets better until more people vote. Signing off the system is exactly what established power wants - the less pushback they get, the easier it is to run the table on all the issues knowing that the populace is tacitly endorsing what they do.

There are no meaningful solutions to the current political crisis and to difficult American conditions that don't include, at a minimum, voting. To argue otherwise is to have already capitulated.
posted by Miko at 7:06 AM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


I was actually thinking about revolutions the other day, and I was trying to think about how radical social change would be achieved in the contemporary US without any part of it being voting. (So not like the election of various leftists in South and Central America, where there was some element of guerrilla fighting, left paramilitaries or militant mass mobilizations, but in the service of elections rather than seizing the state by force of arms.)

My first thought was that you would need either the police or a dominant faction in the military on your side, probably both, because it would be very difficult to train and arm enough civilians to overthrow either a state or federal government absent a collapse of central power. The civil war, for instance, was a war, each side had an army and an industrial base. The Chinese and Russian revolutions followed hard on the heels of war - not to discount organizing, but once everything is already on a war footing, some of your problems are solved.

In a smaller country, a country with a lot more inaccessible terrain or a country still in the 19th century, it might be possible for a paramiliary/guerrilla group to seize the state because the state would be a lot more lightly armed and it would be possible to organize larger groups with greater secrecy.

In a post-disaster situation where central power had collapsed completely, it would probably be possible to seize, eg, a state government if you went into it heavily armed and had a fairly large movement behind you.

Mass movements that don't have a voting component seem like they're limited by the same thing as voting - if you demand too much and threaten the state too much, the state shoots you.

I still end up thinking that anything other than "build parallel institutions" (which has a LOT of drawbacks, I've been hearing "build parallel institutions" for my entire activist life and I still don't see very many) has to involve voting to be successful unless conditions change dramatically (massive war, unparalleled disaster, pandemic, etc).

So that makes me think: How can you get the most power out of voting? It seems like voting as part of a mass organizing drive (either organizing around X and then voting or organizing people to vote and then moving toward other activism) is the way to go. If you elect left candidates on a strong and mobilized base, your candidates pretty much have to do what they say they will, or at least have a bash at it. If you elect candidates and you have a strong mass base, you can then do things like have a general strike or otherwise cause trouble, and because you're enmeshed in the political system it is more difficult for the state just to shoot everyone. Basically, the more voting truly functions as a way to collect opinions from the great mass of people, and the more it grows out of organized groups, the more actual power we'll have - partly because there is a threat due to the organizing.

~~~
On another note, I highly recommend The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. It is full of observations about how radical movements get marginalized/allow themselves to be marginalized in times of great social upheaval. I cannot imagine that Marx would be all "go out there, organize and vote" but then Marx died in 1883 and I feel like it's become apparent that having a lasting, effective proletarian revolution is - while a worthwhile goal - more "we have met the enemy and he is us" than had been hoped.
posted by Frowner at 7:58 AM on October 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've been hearing "build parallel institutions" for my entire activist life and I still don't see very many)

Same here. And I've worked hard on building some. But they are always going to fall prey to a set of issues - the most important, in my mind, being fairness. Nothing is going to stop the Salvation Army from deciding to be anti-gay if it wants. Nothing stops a church-based set of welfare services from insisting on conversion, or refusing to give information about reproductive care. Literally nothing stops privately-operating, locally-based, independent nonprofits and systems from discriminating all they want in any way they want - except for governmental regulations, which are, of course, ultimately determined by the vote. So even in some sort of Tocquevillian paradise where everyone rolls up their sleeves and provides vital services on a voluntary basis to everyone else, and it's a thousand points of light, we're still going to have enormous issues of unfair discrimination. And in a society full of inequality, we will also continue to see tremendous discrepancies in support services between well-resourced communities and poorer ones.

This is why I continue to believe there is no single action we can take that's as important as being involved in our democracy, with voting - even in local elections - as the minimum expectation for citizens. Nothing to stop you from doing everything else, too, but the only collective backstop we have against a Byzantine and discriminatory landscape of services and public goods is the government we build by voting.
posted by Miko at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Poll access is an issue that crosses generational lines and would appear to need action by intergenerational coalitions, something that I feel that Boomer vs millennials propaganda is likely designed to disrupt.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I was young and (more?) prone to being a supercilious bastard, naturally I found the notion of some kind of a poll test attractive. Woefully ignorant at that time of the post-reconstruction history of literacy tests, it seemed obvious to me that some minimal amount of civic and current events knowledge, for example, would and should be a prerequisite to voting. This is the sort of thing you hear from smug assholes all the time.

And why not? Public surveys of what one would expect to be knowledge of essential facts regularly reveal astonishing rates of ignorance. How can a democracy function under such conditions?

One evening, however, as I was musing on this I stumbled over an insight that should have been self-evident. Given that most people primarily vote in self-interest, then any disenfranchisement of a class of people is both naturally almost irreversible and self-amplifying. Not only will it be difficult to convice voters to enfranchise those previously excluded, but having moved in the direction of increasing exclusion, power will be more concentrated and emboldened, thus encouraging further disenfranchisement of the marginalized. Disenfranchisement is, in its essence, profoundly anti-democratic even while it justifies itself in the name of protecting democratic integrity.

With this realization, I completely and radically reversed my position. Voting rights should, in principle and practice, always move in the direction of more inclusion, never less. There is, I believe, no convincing argument that this ever be otherwise, even in those cases where contemporary conventional wisdom holds otherwise.

Thus, having recently at that time encountered the argument favoring the enfranchisement of children and finding it risible, I suddenly found I supported it. I still do.

It's obvious that (relatively) local, recent history shows a trend from voting exclusion toward inclusion, but only in fits and starts and with great social upheaval. It's been very hard-won while, in sorry contrast, regression is nearly effortless. We're seeing this proven now.

Disenfranchisement of felons, other obstacles to registration and voting -- these things, as proposed, usually come with a claim of simple common sense. Most people think: how can this do anything other than help if democratic government is only as wise and honest as its voters?

But in addition to the argument I make above about deliberate, "hard" disenfranchisement being self-reinforcing, I think we should recognize that a corollary to this is that "soft" disenfranchisement necessarily functions similarly. "Soft disenfranchisement" is anything and everything that discourages a class of people from exercising their vote, including their own disillusionment and cynicism. As in the case of hard disenfranchisement, when people simply don't vote the political system begins to functionally exclude their interests, and this resistance, this hardening, is self-reinforcing.

Furthermore, while this is most proximally true with voting itself, it's also true with regard to participation in the political process at all levels in all respects.

All this is to support the argument others have already made: political participation, particularly voting, is the prime mover of democracy. It's not a goal, an outcome, but rather it is necessary, if not sufficient. While, in contrast, the failure to vote is not necessary, but is sufficient, to erode democracy.

In my opinion, every human being governed by a given state and capable of completing a ballot should have the right to do so, encounter little or no barriers when doing so, and be encouraged to do so. Not because any one of those votes may objectively be "correct", but because enfranchisement and voting begats enfranchisement and voting, which, in turn bends government maximally in the direction of representing the intersests of all it governs.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:54 AM on October 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


Bloomberg article from 2016 (with graphic) showing the difference between the actual generational split in the US population vs the then-current generational split in the House.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thinking about the "lesser of two evils" thing that always pops up in these discussions. If this election I vote for the lesser of two evils (and they win) and the following election I vote for the lesser of two evils, and so on, do I not expect a slow and gradual shift to something better? That is, I'm pulling back from "evil" a step at a time, with each of my votes. Eventually I'll get so far from evil (so much lesser) that I'll actually have something pretty good and decent. Perhaps the Overton Window is shifted not by radical motions, but slowly, a millimeter at a time, through a series of small actions.

Count me in as proudly and consistently voting for the lesser of two evils. Always.
posted by SurfThug at 2:51 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


But it's not like "evil" is a consistent standard. "Lesser of two evils" just requires that someone be less evil than their opponent. The evil of the "lesser of two" is pegged to the evil of the worse candidate, not the other way around. The Democratic candidate could be truly despicable in a lot of ways, but as long as they're not as bad as the Republican, they'll still be the lesser of two evils, regardless of how despicable they are otherwise. In an age where national politics have been moving steadily rightward into open fascism, we should expect that things will get worse, not better, if we can only chose the lesser of two evils.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:26 PM on October 16, 2018


In an age where national politics have been moving steadily rightward into open fascism, we should expect that things will get worse, not better, if we can only chose the lesser of two evils.

So do you have a practical, actionable alternative course of action to suggest? Because right now, "abstaining from voting and yielding the polls to the fanatic supporters of the greater of the two evils" is what seems to be the course of action most are choosing and that hasn't seemed to be working all that great so far.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:36 PM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I have ideas, but it's stuff people have been saying for years -- don't play to the center, run more left-wing candidates, honestly assess why people have disconnected from the party. There's potential changes in tactics: Democrats have a tendency to campaign on specific policy proposals, which is a lot harder for most people to get than nonspecific promises ("my healthcare plan will ensure..." vs "healthcare is a human right"). Quit thinking of people as naive, or inflexible, and instead look at where their priorities actually are. Spend more time studying why people don't show up at the polls.

Wagging fingers at people who don't vote for the lesser of two evils does nothing. It comes from an insider baseball point of view, and it invalidates any complaint people might have about the Democratic Party, turning it into a personal failure to "think big picture." In other words, you may have complaints, but either way you SHOULD be voting for the Democrats, and if you're not that's your problem, not the Democratic Party's. We've had plenty of time to talk about the morality of not voting, but at some point we need to look closely at their behavior and see what we can do to change it, instead of just being angry at them. I'm sure the Democratic Party could change its tactics and improve voter turnout, but it seems like we're hung up on outrage at voters.

Anyway, it doesn't matter what my ideas are, because I'm not in any position to implement them. Obviously refusing to vote is a losing tactic, but the fact that we keep asking, year after year, how to motivate Democratic voters, indicates that there's something wrong with the party's current approach.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:57 PM on October 16, 2018


That was rambling. Point is, we're closing off potential avenues of success as long as we continue to write off the voters who don't behave the way we want them to. We don't help ourselves by assuming voters' behavior reflects nothing more than their personal failings, rather than potential areas of improvement for the Democrats.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:08 PM on October 16, 2018


you may have complaints, but either way you SHOULD be voting for the Democrats, and if you're not that's your problem, not the Democratic Party's.

This argument recedes into itself. As long as we raise individual preferences above pragmatic results, we will never regain control. Short of another Obama, there is no candidate that can motivate nonvoters and energize the base and satisfy the moderates. It doesn't exist. That's why it is honestly not about candidates or about Dem policy. It's about the outcomes and the consequences.

What we do about it is we harangue people about voting. Social norms are more powerful than candidates. If your peers vote, you vote. Talk about your voting. Ask now if your friends have made their plans to vote and whether you can help. You're not powerless and you don't need to wait until we get shiny perfect candidates. It's not the fucking spaghetti sauce aisle and we're not going to please everyone with customized consumer chocies. That mentality is the problem, not candidates.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, perfect is the enemy of good and all, but it shows terribly bad faith if we respond to every complaint by saying the Democrats can do no better, and anyone with a complaint about them must have unrealistic expectations of perfection. What if it's not about perfection? What if there are important issues the Democrats aren't handling as well as they could? OK, no perfection is possible, but can the Democrats do better, and is there a lesson to be learned from Democratic losses besides "we should have harangued each other more"? I've had enough of "perfect is the enemy of the good" being the stock response to any complaint about Democrats, as if their platform and tactics are rock-solid and need no questioning.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:58 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


What if there are important issues the Democrats aren't handling as well as they could?

What if there are? Is it actually better not to vote for them and let Republicans handle those issues?

I've had enough of "perfect is the enemy of the good" being the stock response


The difficulty is that it's the true response, as is obvious from the outcomes.

Democrats actually stand to learn more by winning than by losing. By winning you gain power and resources, you get more press, you can set up more committees and agency groups, you can direct more research dollars, you can seed more new candidates. And you have a more energized base of support that can cultivate new candidates. A losing party faces scarcity of resources. It doesn't act innovative in the face of scarce resources. If the Democrats learned more from losing we ought to be the smartest bunch of politics on earth right now . The only thing we don't seem to learn is how to vote Democrat consistently and how to motivate others on the left to support the ticket.

You are trying to solve two issues in one action: who has power in our government, and what candidates you have to choose from. The first one is decided in elections. The second one is decided outside of elections. You don't decide what candidates have the potential to run in an election - you do that long, long before. The election itself is way too late a time to register your displeasure or promote your ideals. If you don't like your candidate choices, you get involved in a party and go to work supporting people you'd like better. But when it comes time to vote, in the vast majority of cases, only two real choices remain. One is always better than the other. Because people will suffer if the worse choice is made, it's morally right always and only to choose the one that's better than the other.

The right wing understands this well. That's why they hold onto power so well and why we're living under their heinous rule. We have to get it through our heads that our voting habits matter a hell of a lot more than our idealism, or we're sunk.
posted by Miko at 4:43 AM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


The problem I see with your argument is that the Democrats already are doing that at the primary level, but the progressive candidates aren't winning the primaries. However, I also note that turnout for the primaries tends to be even lower than for general elections. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is a notable exception, however.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:44 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


"What if it's not about perfection? What if there are important issues the Democrats aren't handling as well as they could? OK, no perfection is possible, but can the Democrats do better, and is there a lesson to be learned from Democratic losses besides 'we should have harangued each other more'?"

I guess the problem I have with your general argument is that most people (voters and non-voters) have very unrealistic beliefs about what is actually politically possible (at least in the near-term). That's not only indisputably true, but it's to a degree necessarily true because most people don't actually know the facts of actual conditions and the facts of the political process. For example, most people, voters and non-voters, believe the President has vast powers they actually don't while also being ignorant of much of those they do.

People vote their pocketbooks, as they say, but people know approximately nothing about a national economy with regard to their pocketbook. Certainly not with regard to what policies will make the difference they want. Both parties promise more jobs and both parties will justify those promises on the basis of superficial ideas that are designed to flatter their bases's biases.

What this means is twofold. First, no politcian can credibly promise what a majority of voters actually want. Or, rather, they can promise the result but with no credible mechanism to achieve that result. So politicians have a choice. They can promise what their likely voters really want, and lie about how to achieve it and whether it is likely to be actually achieved, or they can make promises they can actually deliver using tactics and policies that will likely work to achieve those realistic goals. But doing so won't be popular, because it won't be as much as people really want.

Now, if you take the first path and be dishonest, you'll win elections but eventually face a backlash because you're not delivering. But since you can't deliver all you promised, that's expected. However, since you are in power, you can achieve some of what you want, some of what your voters want and if you're really clever, you can convince your voters that it's not your fault you didn't do more, it was those dastardly opponents who obstructed or, if necessary, that some some supposed allies stabbed you in the back.

This is the strategy the GOP has progressively embraced for forty years and the times it's not worked for them has been on those occasions enough voters see their masks slip combined with enough voters who notice that they haven't fulfilled their promises. But people have short memories and people want to be bullshitted. So this mostly works.

The Democratic Party's candidates mostly haven't done this and there's one main reason for this. It's not because of inherent virtue. It's because the Democratic Party and, generally, the left in the US is a coalition of interests and far from homogeneous. The GOP, since the Great Realignment, is much more homogeneous. What this means is not only that it's easier to make big promises that most of the GOP wants, but that the supposed policies to achieve this can sound more credible because they can be crafted to the more homogeneous worldview. The Dems, in contrast, could (and do) promise more jobs, but different constituencies in the party have very different ideas of what is a credible means of accomplishing this. So the Dems are forced to be more truthful and modest in their promises because they can be only be convincing about delivering them in limited ways.

None of this is to argue that we don't hamstring ourselves when we underestimate what is possible. I think, in fact, that a lot of politcally active people do underestimate what is possible because they have a good grasp of the politics of winning elections, and a good grasp of legislating, but a poor grasp of movement politics. Which is to say, something that has a time horizon of one to two decades and organization that is bigger than a single charismatic personality and is self-sustaining. The real reason the GOP has been winning far more battles than they should, because in many respects the tide of history has been against them, is that at the moment when the southern strategy reached its greatest fruition under Reagan, there were people in the GOP who took that opportunity to start building many institutions, local and national, that outlived Reagan and the particular circumstances of the 80s.

We've had maybe ten or so years, no more, of the left trying to duplicate this. And we've been only partially successful because the two biggest forces in attempting this have been sometimes at cross-purposes. We don't have anything approaching the money. We don't have the thinktanks and the broadcast networks and the right began building this stuff over thirty years ago. We lost much of our local infrastructure, we've only been rebuilding that for a short while. The GOP has had two historic surges of this local, grassroots organizing: the 80s and the late 00s.

We do need to be more ambitious, but it's not the sort of ambition you're asking for. I mean, it sort of could be, if you can stomach making big promises for changes to come in a few years that you know will most likely take a decade or more. I mean, the GOP has many times leveraged their big lies into opportunities to plant seeds that took decades to grow.

So maybe we need leaders to lie to us but utilize the opportunity for more realistic short-term gains and maybe somethimg in the long-term closer to what was promised. But, again, I don't really think that's possible because I think the Democratic Party is too diverse for this to work.

Which is why we get stuck with charismatic incrementalists or policy wonks who lose elections.

We need much better informed citizens, or we need charismatic, manipulative leaders who possess a keen understanding of policy, a long-view, and a strong understanding of political dealmaking.

For us, that would be FDR and LBJ. I'd include Obama except that he lacked the political horse-trading skill the other two had in surplus. Clinton had charisma and some dealmaking cunning, and some policy expertise, but not the other stuff. I don't think he had real ambition to build something that would last. Obama wanted to build to last, but he's not enough a narcissist to be a manipulative, duplicitous son-of-a-bitch. He and Carter were both in different ways too good of people to be as effective Presidents as they otherwise could have been.

But note that what the GOP did in the late 80s and the late 00s was very much about these kinds of politicians in Congress, statehouses, and elsewhere.

If we want a movement and enduring, long-term change, it's going to take a bunch of us to do this, knowing what we're doing, and knowing that it's ugly how sausage gets made. Candidates with inspiring speeches help open the door, but a bunch of people have to walk through that door and make that sausage.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:59 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


To be honest, I kiiinda don't feel like arguing with everyone else in the thread about this.

I get where people are coming from, but I don't know what else I can say that won't just have us all spinning in circles. I don't think anyone is being unreasonable, I just don't agree with some of the premises people are starting with (and I think some ideas that are treated as proven fact really aren't). Sorry to cop out, but it just isn't fun to do the take-all-comers thing.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:06 AM on October 17, 2018


....I think you are demonstrating the problem.
posted by Miko at 5:26 AM on October 17, 2018


You can vote for the candidate least likely to Stonewall your causes and continue to lobby and engage in legal action. Civil rights battles, for example, involve multiple forms of activism. Voting for candidates don't protect them from criticism either.

As an example, marriage equality happened because its advocates pushed the fight on every battlefield in spite of reluctant progressives who got on the bandwagon after the success of legal and cultural change. Still however, Dems jumping on the bandwagon have served us better than active resistance from cultural conservatives.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:51 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


There are very few of us for whom voting is easy. And life does not get simpler with age unless you’re very financially fortunate. I don’t think there are many excuses in the “life is busy” category that apply exclusively to the young.

I think the main thing is that young voters haven't had time to build a habit of voting, and they need to figure out how to do it for the first time (at the same time they're figuring out how to do their taxes, and make appointments, and do all that other adult stuff). Life is busy for everyone but I think there's a lot more friction the first few times you vote. In California, the ballot is like 4 HUGE pages (double-sided) and you get mailed two big booklets to study, full of opaque and misleading information on things you don't understand. Like bonds. So many bonds. And this time for some reason dialysis clinics?? I literally had 49 propositions to vote on in 2016, in addition to federal, state, and local races. (Only 16 this time, praise the Lord.) In other states I understand there may not be as many props, but the whole process of registering and actually voting can be a lot more difficult than it is here in Democratland where we're actively trying to make it easier for people to vote. After a few elections you're probably used to this, know the routine, and have your strategies for deciding how to vote (or you know that you don't have to vote on every proposition on the ballot), but when you're faced with all that for the first time it's easy to just say fuck it.

I would also guess that young people move more often, which would lead to issues with addresses on IDs not being up to date. I had someone with this issue at the ballot event I ran - she still votes at her mom's address because she hasn't updated her ID yet. (I've been looking around online to see if you need to present an updated ID when you change your address and I'm having a really hard time finding the answer.)

At any rate, I think it's really easy to talk about what young voters should believe or do, but I don't think that works and I'm skeptical of the idea that most young voters have the entire political landscape of the United States and the two parties in mind when casting their vote. This is nerd stuff, y'all. The world would be a better place if more people took a nerdy interest in politics, but that doesn't mean they're gonna do it. I don't think the answer lies in lecturing young voters nor solely in appealing to them through policy - I'm a big fan of the idea of registering them and following up with them and peer pressuring them and connecting them with information. But I'm practical like that.
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:26 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


....I think you are demonstrating the problem.

Oh come on, this was turning into a pile-on and I have a right to not engage with that. This is not the Forum of Solving World Problems.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is nerd stuff, y'all.

No, it's not. It's citizen stuff. We do need to restore civics to high school, which is a big part of this sense of unfamiliarity, but I can't for a second buy that voting is too hard when people under 30 do any number of things that are hard and figure out many difficult things when they feel it is important to do so. The issue is that our culture has been all too eager to send and reinforce the message that voting isn't important - to the point that even people here are taking up the work of the powers who seek to disenfranchise.

I am also all for every pragmatic solution to enable voting. But let's not do the work of acting like voting is nigh impossible - it only benefits the right.
posted by Miko at 5:06 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've had enough of "perfect is the enemy of the good" being the stock response

The difficulty is that it's the true response, as is obvious from the outcomes.


I just learned a thing and now I'm going to see it everywhere. So many political arguments on MetaFilter boil down to conflicts between the ethic of conviction vs. the ethic of responsibility. Eventually we'll start getting mod notes not to relitigate Max Weber's 1919 lecture on Politics as a Vocation.
posted by Jpfed at 7:52 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


you get mailed two big booklets to study, full of opaque and misleading information on things you don't understand.

The California voter guide is huge and terrifying but it is infinitely better than the literal nothing the government sends you in other states. Nothing like arriving at the polls to discover all the races you didn't know existed...
posted by Going To Maine at 10:55 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


So many political arguments on MetaFilter boil down to conflicts between the ethic of conviction vs. the ethic of responsibility

I don't even think it's that, at least not with me. It's not an ethic of conviction that makes me frustrated with "perfect is the enemy of the good," it's what comes across like passing the buck -- our candidate has lost, and it's because the voters couldn't be bothered to do the right thing. When people say "perfect is the enemy of the good" in response to criticism of Democratic strategy, it sends the message that the strategy is fine. It's not our fault we lost, it's the damn voters. The party doesn't need to shift its strategy to attract more voters, it's up to the rest of us to pressure them into voting. And so on.

In other words, I'm not saying the Democrats need to run left-wing candidates because it's the right thing to do, I'm saying they need to run those candidates because I have reason to believe they'll be more successful and encourage higher turnout. You can disagree with that, and I'm not saying I have this backed up with the latest polls and whatnot. Either way it's not an argument about pragmatism vs. idealism, it's an argument about what the best pragmatic approach is. I'm convinced that the Democrats have made major errors in strategy in playing to the center, and that's where my criticism is coming from, not from a need for purity.

Everyone wants to say they have the ethic of responsibility, but that needs to go in hand with an honest accounting of what one's is actually responsible for. It seems (and we're seeing this in the thread on Warren's handling of her DNA) that a lot of Democrats are unwilling to hear criticism of their party, broadly characterizing any complaints as knee-jerk idealists running purity tests. I'm sure I haven't phrased things perfectly, but I'm asking for good faith engagement with me, and with other people going forward. Disagree with me all you like, but don't just write me off for an argument I'm not actually making.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:28 PM on October 18, 2018


This is honestly what has made talking about politics (on this site and elsewhere) so frustrating. I say "running a center-left candidate isn't a great strategy," and you hear "this candidate isn't left-wing enough." I say "Millennial voters feel like their problems aren't taken seriously" and you hear "candidates should be perfect for everyone." Then I get responses to arguments I haven't made, and bad-faith statements about how I'm helping the enemy, and so on. Obviously I can't just toss out ideas and expect them to be accepted without question -- why would a left-wing candidate be more popular? What can they add to their platform to reach more this particular demographic? Or whatever. But I'd want the discussion to be relevant to the actual ideas I'm voicing, not the ones they resemble to you.

I could be wrong, but I think a lot of people have the same problem. I think more than a few cases where someone seemed to be arguing for moral purity were actually cases where someone thought center-left was a bad strategy for attracting voters. And so on.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:50 PM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


So many political arguments on MetaFilter boil down to conflicts between the ethic of conviction vs. the ethic of responsibility

People also like to bicker on the internet, and someone mentioning a point B that they consider important without explicitly stating that they also see point A that has already been under discussion as important as well. This is quite easily parsed as contradicting instead of "yes, and"-ing.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:08 PM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Relatedly, on the youth vote (and non-vote):
"Will billionaire Tom Steyer's big bet on young voters pay off in midterm election?" by Christine Mai-Duc in the Los Angeles Times.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:38 AM on October 22, 2018


it's not our fault we lost, it's the damn voters.

Yeah, but it is the damn voters. Not every candidate in every race is going to be an exciting, dynamic, appealing, more-leftier candidate that checks all your boxes. And that does not matter. Should not matter. What matters is that the party of the left - which Democrats are by default, like it or not - wins and retains control. That's really all that matters. Once you've won and have control, you can spend all the time you want moving the party left and cultivating those exciting candidates. But we want representation and control at every level from municipal dogcatcher to President, and that doesn't happen when our voter habits on the left are lazy, idealistic and driven by personal preferences. There's just no two ways about that.

We lose because people with leftward politics hold back their votes unless their itches are scratched in just the right place.

Notice that GOP voters do not do that. Notice who has held power for 40 years with only brief interruption.
posted by Miko at 10:00 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Some people with leftward politics hold back their votes unless their itches are scratched in just the right place. That is their right. A much larger number of people actually vote and have their votes thrown away. Literally. So until we get this whole voter-suppression issue squared away, I am going to spend my time worrying about those folks and not the Democrats who get to choose to vote however they want or not at all and make a different choice than I do.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:00 PM on October 22, 2018


A much larger number of people actually vote and have their votes thrown away. Literally.

My impression was that most voter suppression s about making polling places inaccessible or canceling people's registration for bad reasons or making it hard to register?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:51 PM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you have the right and the opportunity to vote,
and your vote could serve the interest of people who can't vote or whose votes are suppressed,
and you decide not to use your vote to serve those interests,
hasn't your action then contributed to the inability of those who can't vote to have their will registered?
posted by Miko at 4:42 PM on October 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


My impression was that most voter suppression s about making polling places inaccessible or canceling people's registration for bad reasons or making it hard to register?

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but in the aftermath of electiom day 2018 I keep seeing rumors of people needing to call in to make sure their provisional ballots are being counted. That's some disappointing egg on my face.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:11 AM on November 9, 2018


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