Will young people vote in 2016? And, more important, how about the younger generation of American Indians and Alaska Natives?
This is Trahant Reports.
Younger voters are perplexing. They are, or they should be, the largest group voters, some 75 million people. Except there is an “except.” Young voters are less likely to vote.
The data backs up the idea that young people were excited by Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He changed the conversation. But then the hard slog of politics, the fights with Congress, the slow pace of change, and so many compromises by Obama turned off younger voters. That’s a problem that goes beyond any single candidate.
Hillary Clinton has been trying to figure out younger voters. And that’s not so easy. This is especialy true in Indian Country.. It’s reflected on Facebook where younger American Indian and Alaska Native voters equate Clinton with the establishment and do not understand why Bernie Sanders is no longer an option.
There are even some younger Native Americans who see Donald Trump as an agent of change and worth the risk (all the while proclaiming support for Standing Rock or calling for more federal action on climate change.) That’s where the Standing Rock story comes into play.
Clinton has been silent about Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute. The narrative from the camps is that she doesn’t care. I suspect the real issue is that her staff sees this as just another pipeline dispute similar to Keystone XL. She was not eager to weigh in on that issue either. They don’t see this as unique moment in history when all of North America’s indigenous people are speaking with one voice.
The Clinton generation, and that includes the Obama administration, cling to the idea that we can continue to drill and transport oil the same way we have been doing it for decades. They say climate change is real, but back away from the hard decisions required to limit consumption of fossil fuels.
But I think young voters would understand a call to sacrifice. A Harvard study last year found that three-out-of-four see climate change as a real threat and one caused by humans.
To my way of thinking: The single best thing Clinton could do to connect with younger voters would be to visit the camps at Standing Rock, learn from what’s going on there, and take a stand.
The evidence for why such an approach would work with younger voters is found across social media. When there is a report of an event, a prayer, or direct action, it spreads via social media by the hundreds of thousands. Now imagine those social media expressions as votes.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.