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Youth must vote

Richard D. Erlich, Professor Emeritus, Miami University

A Slate piece on Election Day by John Dickerson was titled "Youth Gone Mild (Nationally, and especially in Ohio, young voters did not turn out)."Alternatively, note the formulation for an article by Jonathan Chait in The New Republic called "Oldsters Vote, Youngsters Don't, Republicans Win."

Even if the statistics prove only approximate, the upshot is crucial. 

Some 18 percent of Americans under 30 voted in 2008. This year, according to Dickerson, that was down to 11 percent, with about 8 percent showing up in Ohio. By Chait's reckoning, this decline in the youth vote was central for the age demographics in the last election: "In 2008, the young were 18 percent of the electorate, and the old were 16 percent of the electorate. In 2010, the young were 10 percent of the electorate, and the old were 24 percent of the electorate."

The youth demographic in the U.S. is impressive, the youth vote isn't. My people — old farts — are increasing in numbers and increasingly providing a reliable block vote. This is crucial for both young and old because sooner rather than much later the U.S. Congress will be forced to make tough decisions about the central political issue of dividing up resources and, as the saying goes, they will "dance with the ones that brung them."

Republicans have no particular reason to be nice to under-30 "youngins" and in choosing between the young and the old. Democrats now know they can't rely on the young. 

If someone has to be screwed, it will be the people least dangerous to screw. So far, that looks like young Americans. Check out the California precedents and look for much rhetoric about the importance of education and higher tuition and fees along with larger class sizes. And that's to start with — and especially in Ohio.


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