A Progressive Bounce with a Bite
It appears that in addition to political party bases, we have a strong group of youth who voted last week. They voted for progressive candidates. I know that was the case with WRI students at Hunter College. These voters, in particular, voice commitment to involvement and action in addition to policy change and political collaboration. Whew! What a relief!
Strident implacability has ruled politics for one long chunk of time by now. I am renewed by the hope that last week's potential for change can be realized. It will take some vigilance however.
As reported in Reuters, "About 24 percent of Americans under the age of 30, or at least 10 million young voters, cast ballots in Tuesday's elections that saw Democrats make big gains in Congress. That was up 4 percentage points from the last mid-term elections in 2002."
In exit polls, youth were concerned about education, the war in Iraq and the economy. Themes repeated by older adults too. Clearly, access to college and education across the board is a prominent issue for most Americans - probably because it impacts almost everyone directly and everyone indirectly.
As Andrea Hopkins from Reuters noted on Tuesday, "While the vote was seen as a repudiation of Republican President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, Democrats also won many voters over with a pledge to cut taxes on the middle class and make health care and college more affordable." The article goes on, "Andrea Batista Schlesinger, executive director of the liberal Drum Major Institute for Public Policy in New York, said the Democratic victory proved to both parties that acknowledging Americans are struggling economically is not a losing strategy."
And Americans are struggling to afford and access education. Whether it is a young person challenged to get out of college without incurring a debt that will hobble their future, or a young student struggling to stay in class and meet the class requirements and credits necessary to qualify for financial aid and still have time to do course reading and work study with out slipping in grades. Whether it is a parent puzzled over not qualifying for Pell because they make $30,000, or a parent in angry disbelief that their child does not have books to take home so they can do the reading and writing they need to pass to the next grad in public school.
Youth and parents can make a formidable progressive bounce to better policies. They can join our legislators to think through fundamental policy changes both domestic and foreign. I am encouraged that through this last election there emerged some real vigilant voters willing to take democracy beyond the voting booth.