Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On the Youth Vote...

The lead story on the hard copy version of last Thursday’s Globe and Mail, for those of us technological Luddites who still insist on home delivery of their media and or are weighted down by the cost of professional school rendered too impoverished to buy an iPad, trumpeted the fact that on eve of the 41st federal election all three federal parties were targeting the exact same group of voters.

The G+M headline screamed: Three Parties, One Strategy: Courting the Senior Vote, while the article declared: “this election won’t be about the masses. It will be a battle for segments of the population that can be effectively targeted.” One such targeted population: those 65 and older. The stats apparently speak for themselves: 90% of those over 65 voted in the last federal election. Comparatively only 45% of those aged 25-44 voted. The Stats are even worse for new voters 18-25; but just as your average 19 year-old is too lazy to stop taking bong hits to vote [or so how we’re portrayed], I’m too lazy to do actual research. Just know that the numbers are really really bad.

I mean look... I think it is great that our politicians are so concerned about the senior vote. The Baby Boomers ARE important – my parents are Baby Boomers and their portfolio (of issues… obviously) is important to me. But I gotta be honest when I read that no federal party was interested in my support - I felt a bit slighted. Its sorta like anyone under 44 is stuck in the political version of “He’s Just Not That Into You”; and by replacing Jennifer Aniston with Bev Oda we’ve confirmed the adage that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. The He in our scorned lover scenario, because of course all of our dear leaders coincidentally happen to be white, old, men, are Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff and not only do they just not care - they’re like the three musketeers: “All for none and none for you”.

Which of course leads us to the chicken and egg dilemma that we rarely seem to talk about when dealing with what has quaintly been described as youth apathy. While organizations like Apathy is Boring and Student Vote exist to urge our youth to vote, our national newspapers tell us that our votes don’t matter. Our politicians seem to disregard us because youth tend to live in ridings where our votes are worth less then rural ridings which are (drumroll please..) heavily populated by seniors. Mix message, much? No big surprise then that instead of rocking the vote, we’re hitting the snooze button. Is youth (and that word is a bit pejorative isn’t it?) apathy because we’re too young to care or because we’re ostensibly too young to be paid attention to?

There are of course youthful political zealots; I remember them from my stint as a political staffer for a liberal politician. Youth are big business to parties who rely on them for their idolatry of the cause and their willingness to do jobs that no one else wants to do, “Our candidate really really needs you to call this list of people…”

Typical engagement for the under 25 set is limited to membership in party youth wings like CPC Energy, whose headline claims that the last time it was cool to be liberal the New Kids on the Block were cool (uhm… last time making a new kids on the block are no longer cool joke was cool was… never?) or the Young Liberals, which is for those who want to “shape the future of Canada”, the NDP youth wing seems dormant, click around on www.youthunited.ndp.ca and you’ll get automatically forwarded to NDP.ca, so I guess uhm… the Dippers care even less about the youth vote then anyone else?

Being a young political animal has its perks beyond open access to the corridors of Canadian politico power such as annual caucus retreats where like-minded individuals argue shades of gray about policy coupled with self-important elected positions. Youth political wings are a self-feeding mechanism that breeds in-group thinking, where every summer John Baird or Justin Trudeau are trotted out at the annual AGM where each will proclaim that those in attendance “are the parties the future”. The whole thing feels like a sycophantic self-congratulating cesspool, which, unsurprisingly, turns off the other half of twenty something’s who are busy trying to solve their own quarter life crisis; not the democratic crisis of a country and a political process that patently declares that it has no interest in them anyway.

So here’s the answer to that chicken versus the egg scenario – why don’t some of the political parties ask us what we want? Maybe then we’ll bother showing up to vote.

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