Yesterday David Plouffe, Obama’s Campaign Manager, hosted an open “strategy session” for Organizing for America activists on the game-plan for 2010. The bulk of the strategy is about reengaging the fifteen million first-time voters from 2008 that came out because they were excited about electing a progressive President that would stand for rebuilding the middle-class and reversing the inequality gap. If effective, that strategy would give Democrats a significant boost in turnout for a midterm elections – stemming the anti-working family, “Tea Party” tide.
However, Democrats have not done enough to deliver for many young workers. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka is quoted in The Hill today saying Dems chances are looking better now that healthcare reform has passed and it looks like financial regulatory reform will pass as well. I would add to that list student financial aid reform. However, none of those significant and important reforms are directly and swiftly adjusting the unemployment and underemployment of young workers. First-time voters who were inspired to vote for President Obama have seen hedging, anxiety, and a mess legislative process while they move back in with their parents or lack summer employment because the youth jobs program is closed. Make no mistake, the Dems aggressive posture will certainly help, leadership particularly on financial reform is an important signal, but the current economic depression facing 18-30 year old workers is the elephant in the room (if you will).
Take Ohio, the example David Plouffe used: 763,ooo first time voters in 2008. If only 8% of them come back to the polls in 2010, you increase 2006 turnout by 2%. Thats the way you win elections. But Ohio young workers are seeing the lowest wages in 40 years, the high debt burdens, and are raising children in poverty. That’s how you loose elections.