Talking to Young Voters

Do it for them

We are on the verge of losing our Democracy and we need to be planning, talking, and acting like it, right now.

Sitting around worrying is not enough. Casting your one vote is not enough. We need to look at every possible way to ensure a significant Democratic win this year – a win that will beat the Electoral College, gerrymandering, voter roll purges, and restrictive voting laws. One way to do that is to recruit more voters. This includes the young adults in our lives – whether disengaged or already lean to the right.

We need to understand the importance of this election. Our shrugging off the traditional lack of political interest shown by young people must stop. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for them to “politically mature”. We tell them not to drink, smoke, or use drugs. We do all we can to keep them safe and ensure them a better future, but the absolute best way to keep our kids safe is to make sure they continue to live in a Democracy. We can and must be proactive and get them to participate this year.

There are countless variables [and pitfalls] in talking to our young adults about politics and getting them to vote. There’s no magic formula to this – every kid and household is different. What follows is simply a set of ideas to consider when planning and having these conversations. How it’s done is up to you. Just try.

Some concepts

Young adults have varying levels of awareness about current events and interest in politics. It’s not their fault, they’re evolving into adulthood (and as we see all around us, even adulthood doesn’t guarantee awareness).

When you aren’t paying attention, and sometimes even when you are, politics often boils down to “boring and blandness” vs. “brazen and bravado”, especially for young men. Trump’s disregard for the rules, flippant cockiness, and flaunting his (feigned) success will often resonate with them more than policy discussions coming from behind a lectern. Be prepared for this discussion.

Even if young adults pay attention to current events, they often miss the impact of policies and events unless they directly impact them (college loan forgiveness). The further removed something is from their lives, the less likely it is that they will notice or even care – even when their lives will ultimately be impacted. Connect the dots for them.

Regardless of the closeness within a family, young adults are often more influenced by their friends. This needs to be kept in mind and might even be part of the conversation – make them aware of potential negative influence from their friends (without attacking their friends).

Some logistics

First, if they already lean right politically then take things slowly – there are things to do and not do.

Determine who will talk with them: both parents, one parent, a sibling or two, grandparents, or another close family member. It’s okay to tag-team them – maybe not at the same time, but over time, to keep the conversation going.

Consider the dynamics of those deeper conversations in your family. Whether they are commonplace, rare but friendly, or taboo flashpoints could influence your approach. 

Consider your relationship with the young adults in your life, which is often evolving at this point in their lives. If they exist, avoid those triggers and don’t push those buttons. If you’re a close-knit then you could make the conversation about how the election will impact the entire family, not just them.

As with most political conversations, this can take some time. You can’t get away with a one-time mention of this stuff. Take your time and don’t force things – that can backfire. It’s usually more beneficial for folks to slowly come around on their own.

Because young adults can have an “it’s mostly about me” mindset, explain to them that they’ll feel the impact of a Trump/Republican government:

  • Do they have friends or family who would be vulnerable (religion, race, health, mental health, LGBT, elderly) in a Trump presidency?
  • Global instability and Trump’s support of Putin will most likely lead us to restart the military draft and become an aggressor nation – in fact, Trump’s psychology almost guarantees it.
  • You will no longer be allowed to cover their medical insurance up to the age of 26
  • Even more trivial things like unfair pricing (including ticket gouging)
  • How the loss of your SS and Medicare will directly impact them by limiting how much you can help them later in life.

Remind them that not only are the Republicans planning on how to hand America over to corporate America, but they’re also fighting against everything President Biden and the Democrats are doing to keep it ours. 

  • Climate change
  • Gun violence
  • College loans
  • Expanded healthcare
  • Increasing minimum wage

It could be that a tough-love reality check is needed, including a sincere but frightening look at some of the long-term or subtle issues that will greatly impact them in the near and distant future. These are things they (and maybe even you) need to be aware of:

  • The Republicans and conservative media lie to Americans regularly
  • The Republicans are giving billionaires more and more control of our lives
  • The rise of Christian nationalism and the New Apostolic Reformation
  • The influence of Putin on the Republican party
  • The influence of Putin on our society and our faith in Democracy
  • All the evil packed into “Project 2025”, the Conservatives’ plan for a pro-corporate, pro-authoritarian, and pro-Christian Nationalist America as well as “Agenda 47”, Trump’s blatantly fascist vision that will impact all of us. You, your family, and everyone you know must learn and talk about these.
  • This could be the last election – we no longer have anything to say about our future.

One-issue voters, third-party voters, and protest voters can do a lot of damage. This could very well be our last opportunity to vote and the only way we will be allowed to vote again is to vote for President Biden and Democrats.

  • The attack on Palestine is a horrible situation. Biden is clearly in a rough spot here, but he has been pushing back against Israel’s far-right government while Trump has already stated he will align with them. Things will be much worse for Palestine and other vulnerable populations around the world (including here in America).
  • Yes, Biden is old, but our nation and world, with its many authoritarian leaders, need thoughtful experienced leadership, not more authoritarianism and grifting. Unfortunately, Biden’s age is a cheap moneymaker for mainstream media and a manipulative story for the right-wing media. Those who have been around for a while know that Joe has his act together and is probably the exact president we need right now. Those with an agenda, lie. Remember that whether it’s Biden or Trump, the next President will be the oldest ever sworn in – but Trump will never go away.
  • Third-party candidates always benefit Republicans and they were a big reason why AL Gore and Hillary Clinton lost. They typically run on a specific issue or two and do not offer a well-rounded platform. They can even be plants to throw an election. Current third-party frontrunner Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spins Putin’s talking points on his war against Ukraine, conspiracy theories, and junk science. The world is already a very dangerous place, we don’t need to make it worse. A vote for anyone but Biden is a vote for Trump.

Other Thoughts

Our young voters are the ones who will save American Democracy, but we have to help them.

They might need to be bribed. Take them out to lunch or dinner after registering and then voting. Paying them will be the best investment you ever make.

Physically take them to register and vote. In many states, you can register online and even register before you are 18 years old.  

You may be friendly enough with the peers of your young voter to reach him or her through them.

If your young adult is engaged with our politics then perhaps he can work on his peers.

These conversations don’t need to be with your offspring – consider relatives, neighbors, co-workers, etc. that seem approachable.

Lastly, do you have friends or other family members with a young adult? If so, share this article with them and suggest they start working on this also. The absolute best way to get more young people voting is to make it a grassroots effort where older adults across the country reach out to younger voters. It’s the least we can do for them…