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Why are young voters retreating from politics? Is it the limited attention span of the “digital generation?” Are the “millennials” simply busy scrambling to make ends meet in a difficult job market? Or are they actually dissatisfied with the policy decisions of the new administration?

Rethink’08 is an interactive Web project to inform, stimulate and moderate conversation on what happened to the enthusiasm associated with the presidential election 2008.

Initiated by graduate students at the University of Montana’s Journalism School, Rethink’08 brings together citizens and professional journalists, in a common effort to understand what happened to the enthusiasm generated by the 2008 presidential campaign.

o The Rethink Team held a “telescope event” on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the UC, to collect visual and verbal comments from UM students.

o Photo interviews and short messages collected at the event are featured on our Interviews Without Words and Tweets and Trills pages.

o The project’s initiators have done in-depth profiles of young people from the Missoula area, and asked tough questions of institutions and organizations that are trying to keep the enthusiasm going.

o Rethink’08 also features background information on the youth vote and a timeline of current events that occurred since Nov. 4, 2008, which might have influenced political attitudes.

o The Web site features a blog roll and links to select organizations that strive to sustain young voters’ interest in politics.

Feel free to post photos and comments on the site. This project is meant to facilitate debate and your thoughts and comments will make it even better!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2009 10:11 pm

    This is my perspective from the left -Left, perhaps you will find it interesting.

    “ During a visit to the University of Montana Oct 8 White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina spoke briefly about the political fire ignited among America’s youth by President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.” So begins an article about a group who is trying to analyse, in the words of one of it’s members, “What happened? Where did all the enthusiasm go and why did it go away?”

    “Messina offered no explanations why the passion subsided so rapidly.” Not surprising when we consider his role in maintaining ruling class control over a population trained to believe it participates in a democracy. This training has two parts; on the one hand drilling in the notion that “democracy” only applies to the political sphere and not the economic, and on the other, reproducing the belief that “politics” consists of voting every-so-often for a “representative”. These well meaning grad seminar students are perplexed about peoples apathy. “They do have an opinion, they do care. The weird thing is it doesn’t translate to people doing stuff.” It’s time these innocent students understood the role of ideology in reproducing class power and the role of the state in mediating that power. Armed with this understanding they would recognize that Jim Messina is steeped in “Americanism”, that powerful but strange ideology which is “detached and partially hidden” and which in a bi-partisan manner denies it’s own existence. He is a high ranking member of “political society” and knows perfectly well how it is infiltrated by the ruling class and exactly where the revolving door to the business elite is.

    I think it is important to understand that while the state cannot be neutral, neither is it simply an “executive” of the ruling class. This is because the ruling class is not a bloc, it too has internal divisions and state planners may at times take advantage of these to press for social policy. A good example of this is the current “debate” over health care reform, but it is the same with any small concession such as workplace safety standards or environmental regulation. They tamp down social unrest and create the illusion of citizen power just as the election of a clever young black man creates the illusion that race matters more than class. He is Brand Obama, the essence of successful advertising, and the more young liberals face their disappointment, the more they understand that once again they have been “punked”.

    The point is, Obama’s and Messina’s “Change We Can Believe In” has nothing to do with power. The “mass movements” this form of change advocates is all about Twitter feeds or Facebook pages, joining non-profits and paying monthly dues so you can get a newsletter which tells you to call your Congressperson. It is online donations to MoveOn.Org and filling out surveys. The young journalism students are “disappointed in the Democratic Party” because they fail to understand that it’s role is to keep people from demanding change and that working within it’s structure is the opposite of taking risk and using direct action, be it in the workplace or on the streets. Power rests in the mass refusal to join and the mass refusal to absorb “Americanism” or any other form of Market ideology. So the question for the graduate seminar is, how much “enthusiasm” might there be for a General Strike which demanded single-payer health insurance, or CO2 reductions or an exit from Iraq and Afghanistan or an end to Israeli settlement building or coal mining or don’t ask-don’t tell? How much “political fire” might be generated if they abandoned the Democratic party and demanded workers take control of workplaces and banks be nationalized and higher education be free for everyone? More than they have ever considered possible, I’m sure!

    • Anschen permalink*
      December 10, 2009 10:08 pm

      D Jones, thanks for your comment. I did find it very interesting. Our purpose, however, has never been to ask where the political fire of the Democratic Party went, just like none of us ever stated that we were “disappointed in the Democratic Party”. If you look at the Independent article again, you will notice that Cody is talking about a woman he profiled for the project.

      We are asking where the political fire itself went. That includes the question of why there is not a general strike to change the American electoral system, healthcare system or demand worker control of workplaces.

      But I am curious: Do you think that young people will eventually abandon the Democratic Party and demand a change in ruling class power?
      (Anne Clausen of Rethink08)

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