C-Span Confessions

I confess. I listen to C-Span radio in the car. Sometimes, this only entails waiting to see how long the host waits until cutting off a caller who is linking undocumented workers to (take your pick) the assassination of JFK, the Nazis, or an uncomplicated racism. If you ever wonder why the Founders were keen to place checks on popular sovereignty, a half-hour of call-in time on C-Span will convince you they were right. Other times, perhaps because of the lack of journalistic commentary, you discover more clearly a political reality that had not really come into focus before. This weekend, after a month of commentary about the racial and gender divides within the Democratic electorate, C-Span radio convinced me the key divide is generational. Saturday night, C-Span had a rally for Hillary Clinton in California. Rep. Maxine Waters was speaking when I turned on the radio, talking about the need for change. She is serving her ninth term in Congress. At one point she referred to "all your elected officials" on the stage and what that said about Hillary. (Most Americans cannot name their congressperson.) She introduced another pol, who introduced another pol, who...The speeches were repetitive. You could hear the energy flowing out of the room. When former Congressman Ron Dellums began telling a story with the words, "I remember in 1948..." you had to wonder what had happened to the "change" message. You half expected Madeleine Albright to reprise her appearance in Iowa. The classic political rally requires this endless parade of local elected officials. Before the event, someone is tasked with collecting the names of such officials so the candidate can acknowledge them. It is every advance person’s nightmare that they will miss someone. When the candidate finally makes it to the stage, he or she begins by reading that list, so what little energy is left in the room is sure to be gone by the time the candidate gets to the speech. That is to say – the message is drowned by the egos. The next morning, driving to Mass, Latino pollster Sergio Bendixen was discussing the results of an extensive poll among African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. He discussed many of the lingering negative stereotypes. He notes that only 10% of Latinos had ever dated someone from one of the other groups, and that all three groups said they were more comfortable working with a white person than with someone from one of the other minority groups. Many, though not a majority, of the Latinos and Asians agreed with essentially racist statement that blacks "account for most of the crime in our neighborhood." It was getting depressing until Bendixen discussed a poll among minorities aged 16-22. Of them, 65% had been on a date with someone from a different racial minority. Two-thirds of these young people also preferred to be indentified by their musical and fashion tastes, rather than by their membership in an ethnic minority. I got to the church before the Q & A, but I hope someone asked: so, do you think Latinos and Asians would mind if Oprah moved in next door? And, do you think that people are more likely to see Barack the way they see Oprah or the way they see the criminal in their neighborhood? What does this mean for tomorrow’s voting? If young people show up, Barack Obama will win. If they don’t Hillary will win. For all the ups-and-downs of the campaign, the election has come down to their most essential and distinguishing characteristics. She is tried and true. He is new and fresh. In normal elections, this would be an easy guess: young people are notorious for not showing up to vote. In 2008, however, in every election so far, twice as many people have voted as did so in 2004. In South Carolina, more people voted for Barack than voted for all candidates combined in 2004. As mentioned last week, the most likely verdict will be a cloudy one. He may win more states, she may win more delegates. But, if there is a wave, it will be a wave of young people, and that could carry Barack to a surprise win. In case you miss the Obama-inspired video making the rounds of the internet, here it is. This is how young people communicate in 2008. Michael Sean Winters
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10 years 8 months ago
I just love it when someone tells me what my age group believes or what we're going to do or how we're going to vote. I always hope it's somebody very young so they can experience that acute embarrassment that comes later in life when they wake up to realize how often they snapped off some judgment that turned out to be way off target. I'll be 70 in April. Most of my similarly-aged friends are inclined towards Obama. I don't know why the pollsters never got around to asking us what we thought or how we might vote. Wrong demographics, I guess.


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