What Happens When You Sit One Out?

The morning after, the numbers are in.  One in five people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted.  One in five.  Those who did vote turned out for Democratic candidates over Republicans by a wider margin than any generation before (56 to 40 percent — all of us before them, my generation included, have been an even split).

The rest — we’ll call them unlikely voters — break down along the same lines.  But who cares how you identify if you don’t vote?

Sure; there was no President to elect this time.  No rallies, no viral videos on YouTube.  Sorry about that.  There’s only so much dancing baloney those of us who are already working are obliged to make, know what I mean?

It’s early yet, but I thought I’d tackle the consequences.  Now, a few months from now, and later.

Here is what is already gone:

  1. The judges who approved gay marriage in Iowa. Voted out.
  2. One Senator so good he was actually an institution (Google “Russ Feingold”). You might want to look up “McCain-Feingold Act”, “USA PATRIOT Act (nay vote)”, “bipartisan”, or simply, “integrity”.
  3. Voter protections under Federal law. In Oklahoma, voters approved a measure requiring the use of photo ID at polling places.
  4. Locally:  Legal marijuana in the State of California. I guess you can say we never really “had” this one.  The over-30 population was all over the map about it, but many people under 25 were excited about legalization.  Not stoked enough to vote!
  5. Even more locally:  The right to sit or lie on any public San Francisco street between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with the exception of special events (like today’s Giants Victory parade).  Eat your Ben & Jerry’s walking, hippie.

And here’s what’s next in the crosshairs:

Health care reform. Not that this is a subject that really matters to young people.  “Although [President Obama] has pushed efforts with health care reform, that’s change that hasn’t affected the majority of 18 to 29 year olds,” says Lillian Nottingham, a Harvard student who helped craft a survey of youth voters this year.

I guess Nottingham missed this little event.  She’ll really miss it sometime after she graduates, when her inability to read about the events she’s covering costs her a real job.

Student aid reform. Republicans have promised their Tea-Party backers that they are going to start cutting the budget somewhere.  Where else can they possibly go?  To Social Security?  Medicare?  The people affected by those programs actually vote.

I fought like hell to get President Obama elected.  I fought doubly hard for the passage of health care reform, because it was — and still is — the right thing to do, for generations I will never live to meet.  But after some time working in that particular salt mine, guess what I’ve decided might be the new right thing to do?

Stop fighting.

I have never lived that way.  It’ll be new.  How does it feel, Millennials, to wait for someone else to do stuff for you?

I think I’m finally ready to find out.

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5 responses to “What Happens When You Sit One Out?

  1. I read this a few days ago & though I was saddened by it at first (it’s not like you to give up, Annie), I have an idea for your consideration. I think instead of fighting for youth – who don’t care if we care or not – that we & all who care about the right to vote – should focus our energies instead on a historically quiet constituency that DOES care: ethnic minorities. Both those whose ancestors have been here for generations & those who are “new” Americans. Immigrant citizens who survived with few rights in other countries are here for the freedoms they can’t find anywhere else. People like my friend Helen, who fled Vietnam by boat as a teenager, bringing her 5-year-old sister with her. She worked her tail off and now has her own business. Does she vote? Yes, EVERY chance she gets. Remember how we grew up reading that if Hispanic Americans mobilized & voted as a group, they’d be an overwhelming majority, tipping every key vote?
    What do you think – could this be a cause worth resuming the fight?

    • Mary,

      You’re right. Of course. The voice of the recent immigrant is going to be a cool one to hear (along with that of the retiree, the lower-middle-class woman, the wealthy woman, and the Black voter that, still, no one knows how to reach) in 2012.

      I’m just disappointed that the Millennials don’t want in. They’re great at crafts, at making up jobs that don’t exist (“personal energy specialist”) and doing them for like three hours a week. But they want no part of building the legitimate future.

      What really kills me? They are *terrific* writers. I could make myself obsolete — or at least work fewer than 12 hours a day.

  2. LOM!

    I’ll bet it’s me. I’m having … well … a week.

    What you are feeling is anger. I’m angry and that’s coming out here. I am hoping to get through it, but this is just not a good time. I am probably on my way to losing one more job (I work in health care reform). That sucks.

    I won’t argue that the “corporate citizen” paid for a lot of what we saw on TV this election year: the most negative ads in memory. But in the end, every vote decides. Meg Whitman spent more than anyone in the country trying to beat out the governor of my childhood, and where’d that get her?

    Not even money can make people want what they don’t want. Which will probably explain the end of my job, come to think of it.

    But that’s the next thing I’ll write about. So at least health care reformwill appear, however briefly, here … a nice respite from the generation gap, yes? 🙂

    • Anne!

      It’s not straight Anger really, it’s a fairly predictable cocktail:
      *three parts Resigned Acceptance of Implacable Reality
      *one part Phantom Pang of Unreasonable Hope
      *dash of Bitter
      Swirl together (perhaps infuse with applewood-smoked bacon) and age for thirty years. Slainte! I am drunk on the enormous futility of such a rigged game.

      Congrats to Jerry Brown btw! I suggested the secession thing as a positive, practical move for his constituents. CA has the GDP to break off own its own, maybe teamed with WA, OR. CA is very lucky. That’s the thing about really big corporate personhood $$$, they don’t have to buy everyone, just the right blue and red ones. The US of A is a failed experiment, has been taking on water for quite a while now, the ship is going down.

      Here’s a cool speech by Bill Moyer though, if you haven’t read it all ready. He’s strangely optimistic at the very end, kinda like he didn’t fully comprehend everything he had just spoken though.

      I look forward to reading your insider healthcare stories. Will I need to send out for more booze? Have a weekend!

  3. What’s with all this “generational” in-fighting lately? Generation gaps are over-evaluated.

    The real battle is between the citizen-entities who have annual income over 200K and the serfs who do not.

    I think your Millennials understand earlier (than I did at least) that there is no major fixing, or rectifying of the Matrix from within the Matrix so they don’t play the GOTV game. (Obama’s two years have just reinforced that conclusion, again, I think) And maybe they also realize life without or outside the Matrix is a more primal mortal struggle, full of suffering and protracted death. So as long as there’s food, water and di-vertisement (hee,hee — an oblique Mad Men allusion for ya AB), the Matrix will stand, as such intact, much to the benefit and comfort of the above citizen-entities.

    Also Anne, I sense a trending here. Sitting is a very natural human activity, lots of people choose to do it every day, others have to do it, so why all the sit-ism? Are you an anti-Sitite?

    PS– I’m not trolling for a fight. (Though if you want to discuss the pro/cons of the eventuality of California seceding and becoming an independent state, I may be interested — Go Jerry! Think outside the box.) It’s just my way of saying “hi” I guess.

    Here’s a somewhat backhanded compliment/put-down, take it how you will, it’s a personal observation of mine, no judgement intended — I’m becoming aware of another trend lately. I don’t agree with much of what you write but I enjoy reading it. It’s highly engaging but usually provokes an almost Pavlovian contrary response from me. What’s up with that? Is it you or is it me?

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