Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Youth Vote

Commenting on my previous post McCain's Youtube Problem, Gypsy Scholar made a short, but astute proposal that it be called "McCain's Youth Tube Problem". While McCain does have some youth appeal, it pails in comparison to the cult-like following that Obama enjoys.

So, what is McCain doing that is making him the less desirable youth candidate? Is it actually McCain that has the problem or Obama that has mastered this young demographic? What does media have to do with their support base? Can McCain make up for lost time?

First of all, it is June. The trend can change and time will tell. McCain does have the support of those youth who would support a piece of petrified wood (no comparison) as long as it sported an elephant. I am not talking about the wingers on either side, I am talking about the fence voters and those youth newly introduced to the political scene.

This younger generation has been politicized during the last eight years. They have witnessed what a bad government can do and have had to sit and wait for their chance to speak and be heard. McCain does not really give them that voice. McCain is an icon of the past and that past does not include the youth vote. Sure, Bush bashing is going to have a negative effect on McCain's popularity and give some support to Obama, but these young voters are looking forward and trying to mold the political world around their issues and their world. They have witnessed McCains political world and have rejected it.

McCain's age is also on the voters' minds. People are concerned that he might not be mentally or physically up to the demanding position, but I don't think that is the biggest issue with the youth vote. The problem McCain has with the youth vote (with respect to his age) is the fact that he is actually quite old. He's from a generation and a path that has little or nothing to do with any of these younger voters. There is no connection. This race is about connectivity. The youth view him as an older grandfather type that is respected, but is seen as more of a "cute" older man that missteps and forgets things that he says. McCain only widens that gap with playful comments like his "you little jerk" jab that was funny to his audience, but does not serve him well in connectivity.

McCain has nothing to offer the younger generation. He does not speak with them, he speaks at them. Obama knows how to talk to people. He knows how to talk to all people of all ages and races. He makes very wide and open statements that does not isolate a particular voting bloc and he does it with gusto. Simply watching McCains speech in New Orleans last week comparison to Obamas in St. Paul, you get the picture. The youth voters need to see, hear and feel the speeches. Obama offers that. McCain offers choppy, forced and uncomfortable soundbites that brings to mind the priest from Poltergeist. However, this is not just McCain's problem. If the Dems offered the same old sap, then the youth would not be in play (at least not in the numbers that we are seeing today). Connectivity is huge. JFK and WJC mastered it.

And yes, the youth have a new world of media and technology at their fingertips. They are savvy and do not have to turn on the news or read a paper to find out what is going on. They can form their own opinions and voice them on youtube, blogs and millions of Internet forums. They can watch very clear examples of McCain displaying his inability to adapt to the times while he flips and flops over every word. Not only can they form their own opinions and self-publish them, but they can get that message to millions of like-minded youth who are hungry to participate.

St. McCain will not be able to catch Obama in money or popularity with the youth voters. Youth voters do not want wonks. They want to be inspired to take control of their political future just like they have taken control of media. They have proven that they are a powerful voice in American politics and even if McCain realizes it soon, it will be 8 years too late.

Welcome to the new political age.


John said...

Loved the reference to the priest from Poltergeist. Astute observations. I am closer in age to McCain than Obama, at least chronologically, but definitely not politically, socially, culturally, etc. I think McCain would feel more comforable if America were still like "Happy Days" or "Leave it to Beaver."