After Obama#039;s election, youth to find new hobbies

by Beacon Staff • December 3, 2008

One month ago today, Election Day was a transformational moment for our nation. Across the country people came together for Obama, even in some of the most entrenched conservative strongholds. It was an incredible demonstration of democratic energy. While Barack Obama's sweeping victory opens the door for great potential, the victory alone is not the change we seek. Young people must continue to play a role in helping to move the country in a different, more positive direction.

In his victory speech that night, Obama reminded us that his election was our collective triumph. The extraordinary organization from the grassroots was absolutely essential to the success of his campaign. Committed and passionate individuals turned this election into a referendum on the conservatism that has driven American politics for so long. And the younger generation in particular-those of us new to politics, like high school and college students-have reason to be especially proud. We demonstrated our refusal to be passive while the old political order neglects or actively dismantles the country and world we will inherit.

Twenty-three million young people came out to the polls, according to The Pew Research Center. This was the largest example of electoral participation among youth since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first eligible to vote in a presidential election. These young people supported Obama by a margin of more than 2-1. But our involvement extended substantially beyond just voting; we volunteered in unprecedented numbers, becoming one of the tremendous forces behind the Obama campaign. We knocked on doors, organized fundraisers and block parties, made music and art and helped with voter registration and phone banking. Our generation organized and helped lead the demand for a new, progressive agenda.

The results of the election are a new sizeable Democratic majority with a significant mandate from the voters and especially from the young generation. But as the country transitions to a new administration, the specific terms of this mandate are already being highly contested. The forces of money and establishment power are warning the new majority not to move too boldly, not to overreach. The subtext of these warnings is a call to desist from the progressive initiatives that the electorate clearly supported. The incoming administration seems to be heeding these calls with early high-level appointments coming from within Washington's old halls of power. This is just the first of many challenges that threaten prospects for lasting change. Now, more than ever, we must continue to exercise our political, intellectual and democratic energies to counter these forces.

According to Michael Pertschuk, co-founder of the Advocacy Institute, there are 15,965 registered lobbyists in Washington. They represent vastly moneyed forces, evidenced by their spending of $2.4 billion on lobbying between January and September alone. The Obama campaign however, also left behind at least 20,000 veteran organizers who mobilized another five million volunteers during the presidential race. And hundreds of thousands of other activists performed parallel services for independent campaign efforts with Obama as their common cause. In post-election politics, the continuation of this effective, broad-based mobilization is a powerful defiance to those fighting to maintain the status quo.

Young people can and must become a formidable force in establishing the framework for the mandate of the new Democratic majority. This entails channeling public will into focused political pressure through continued grassroots organizing. The election can be looked at as a popular repudiation of the radical free-market policies and practices that have proven so obviously disastrous. Likewise, the economic and environmental necessity of a large-scale green jobs initiative is widely understood as a significant part of a comprehensive plan to address the dangers global warming. And a responsible withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is absolutely necessary to re-establish our moral bearing in world politics. These are just some of the terms that should define the new majority's mandate.

On certain issues, the work of organizers and activists is already becoming tangible. Obama has made a clear commitment to shutting down Guantanamo Bay and ending the practices of torture and perpetual imprisonment. In such cases, we must continue to responsibly monitor and guide the progress.

Progressively oriented young people have the opportunity to continue the activist and leadership roles they have adopted so effectively. We can harness the enthusiasm and idealism that was so inspired during the campaign cycle and push Obama, and other leaders, to step up to the many desperate needs of our world. We can help re-imagine a government that addresses neglected social needs and responsibly monitors financial markets and corporations. We can help re-imagine a country that condemns human misery in all forms and stands for human rights, peace and equality. Now that the election is over, our young generation can work with like-minded people-diverse in their personalities, ages, backgrounds and social class but unified in their determination-to forge the new political future of our country.

iDaniel Tick is a freshman visual and media arts major and a contributor to /iThe Beaconi.