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How this Gen Z group is working to break the cycle of disengagement
Santiago Mayer, a 21-year-old activist and executive director of Voters of Tomorrow, on how he and his team secured pledges from 36 House Dems to prioritize young voters in their reelection campaigns.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Despite historic trends favoring Republicans in last year’s midterm elections, Democrats staved off a so-called red wave in part because young voters canceled out midterm voters over 65 even though they represented the lowest share of the electorate compared to other age groups.
And ahead of the 2024 elections, Gen Z voters — those born between 1997 and 2012 — will once again be a deciding bloc as President Joe Biden campaigns for reelection and congressional Democrats work to reclaim the House and protect their Senate majority.
But in electoral politics, voter participation isn’t inevitable. The work that campaigns do in the months and years ahead of Election Day is often what drives turnout to the ballot box.
To harness the power of Gen Z, advocacy groups have been working to break what Santiago Mayer, a 21-year-old activist and executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy group Voters of Tomorrow, described to Supercreator as the “cycle of disengagement” — the self-perpetuating pattern of nonparticipation where young people don’t vote because they don’t feel represented and elected officials don’t represent young people because they don’t vote.
Voters of Tomorrow created the Youth Vote Champions pledge to address this challenge and on Wednesday announced 36 House Democrats signed on to engage, educate, and empower Gen Z during their 2024 campaign, including one out of two young voters who said in they never heard from a campaign in 2020 and 2022.
“We’re really aiming to break both sides of that [cycle]. In the past few elections, we’ve really shown that young people do vote,” Mayer said during a phone interview between classes. “And we're very excited about the prospect of finally getting out of this cycle and finally being able to have young people vote and feel represented.”
How the pledge came together
When asked if the three dozen members who signed the pledge were an easy sell or required some serious convincing, Mayer said they already came in with a fundamental understanding that engaging young people is essential to their political futures and this was an opportunity to demonstrate it.
“A few of them were like, ‘No, I don’t sign pledges, but I’ll consider this,’” he added. “And we just had to follow up and make sure they were committed.”
And while Voters of Tomorrow is excited about the number of members that signed up as their first Youth Vote Champions, the group is still having conversations with other members who might sign on in the future.
The pledge is also a testament to the hard work of the high school and college students that make up Voters of Tomorrow’s core team.
Mayer said the sheer scope of the project and outreach to individual members’ offices made it a complex undertaking and gave Voters of Tomorrow’s press secretary Jack Lobel a special shoutout for taking the lead on it and getting it across the finish line.
“The most difficult part was being able to keep track of where we were with different members. We had multiple team members communicating with different offices. When you're working with college students and high school students being communicative inside the team is always very difficult,” he said. “But honestly, our team is phenomenal. They are insanely committed, they are so dedicated to making sure that young people are engaged and educated and representative and members of Congress. And we just put out our focus on this.”
How members can connect with Gen Z
As any young person will tell you, outreach isn’t enough. Candidates have to be who they are and meet voters where they are.
“The best advice is be genuine because young people can feel disingenuousness from like a mile away,” Mayer said. “Be yourself but also make an effort to understand what people are going through.”
He described the Gen Z experience as one of perpetual chaos without the true coming-together moment that other generations had like the moon landing in the late 1960s or the fall of the Berlin Wall two decades later.
“But we have had like two economic crises and so many school shootings,” Mayer said. “We’ve grown up in a time of crisis that just many members can't relate because they haven’t.”
Another key for candidates: Start early.
“Last year before the midterms, we had campaigns like two weeks out calling us and they’re like, ‘How do we do this? How do we start organizing college campuses?’” Mayer said. “It’s like, you’re too late. We can’t do it. So making sure people are aware of the youth vote and engaging as far in advance from the election itself is incredibly important.”
Voters of Tomorrow encourages members to have young people on their staff and give weight to what they say and to create advisory councils with high school and college students from their districts, although those suggestions were conditions of the pledge.
“But it is something we always bring up when we meet with members,” Mayer said.
Crickets from the GOP
Voters of Tomorrow sent the pledge to the reelection campaigns of over 100 House Republicans but not one replied.
Mayer said that the group has had productive conversations with some members who are interested in representing young people despite any policy disagreements that may exist.
“For a good number of them though, I don’t think it’s a missed opportunity because I actually believe that they’re entirely opposed to this. We’ve seen so many kind of far-right people in power that are directly or indirectly in opposition to the values of Gen Z,” he said. “ And we’ve seen that through things like “Don’t Say Gay,” things like banning books, through so many other things that for many of them, I genuinely think they just don't care.”
Mayer acknowledged that for some members, the nonresponsiveness could have been because the invitation to participate got lost in the hustle and bustle of serving their districts.
“Unfortunately, the majority of them have seen this,” he said. “And they really said, ‘No, I don’t care.’”
See also: “Black and youth voter turnout went way down in 2022” (Ed Kilgore / Intelligencer)
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ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SHOOTING: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia on Wednesday gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor as law enforcement officials searched for a suspect who allegedly shot five women, killing four of them. (The suspect is now in custody.)
“They’re there, I’m here, hoping and praying they’re safe,” Warnock said of his two young kids who were on lockdown after the shooting. “But the truth is none of us are safe.”
The senator added that thoughts and prayers aren’t enough while calling for gun regulation: “The unspoken assumption is that this won’t happen to me, this won’t happen to someone I love. But with a mass shooting a day, the chances are great.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were aware of the shooting.
“Of course, he’s frustrated,” Jean-Pierre said when asked about the frequency of mass shootings. “There’s parents out there who are frustrated, there are Americans out there who are frustrated and who want to see an assault weapons ban, which reduce mass shootings.”
See also: Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia’s statement on the Midtown Atlanta shooting
RELATED: Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat of New York, Veronica Escobar of Texas, and Barbara Lee of California reintroduced a resolution that would declare gun violence a public health crisis.
Among the provisions, the resolution would urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use its four-step public health approach to violence prevention and collaborate with other Federal Government agencies to resolve the gun violence public health crisis. It would also call on the Surgeon General to issue a report on firearm injuries and violence prevention.
SPEAKING OF LEE: The California congresswoman notched a significant endorsement in her bid for US Senate: Assistant House Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, someone she’s known since the early 1970s.
Clyburn’s endorsement of then-candidate Joe Biden turned the president’s campaign around in the 2020 Democratic primary and is a co-chair for Biden’s reelection campaign. His recent thumbs-up to Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson of Chicago added another feather to the fourth-ranking House Democrat’s cap.
“Barbara Lee is the voice Americans need now in the US Senate,” Clyburn said, pointing to her work to end poverty, eradicate HIV and AIDS, and work for global peace and security. “She stands by what she believes in and she doesn’t back down.”
Lee, who along with Clyburn is a former Congressional Black Caucus chair, has also received endorsements from CBC members Jamaal Bowman and Gregory Meeks of New York, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Terri Sewell of Alabama, and Troy Carter of Louisiana, Chairman Steven Horsford of Nevada and former chair Cedric Richmond.
LET IT SLIP: Members of the CBC met with Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin last week to discuss the alleged abuse by Senate Republicans of what’s known as the blue-slip process.
Blue slips are recommendations from senators from the state where a federal judicial nominee resides and are taken into consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee when deciding whether to advance the nominee to a full Senate confirmation vote.
Senate Republicans have refused to return blue slips for several Biden nominees to the frustration of Democratic lawmakers and progressive activists who feel as though their refusal is preventing Senate Democrats from confirming federal judges to protect Americans’ fundamental rights.
The CBC said it presented Durbin with options to reform
the process and that they would continue conversations in the weeks and months ahead.
See also: “Black Caucus presses Senate Dems to blow up tradition on judges” (Nicholas Wu and Burgess Everett / Politico)
ALLRED GOES ALL IN: Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Texas announced his campaign for US Senate, setting up a challenge to incumbent Ted Cruz.
Allred’s launch video opens with footage of the January 6th insurrection where slams Cruz for cheering on the mob and then hiding in a supply closet. He also called out Cruz for infamously traveling to Cancun during a historic freeze in 2021.
“That’s Ted for you: All hat, no cattle,” Allred said.
The 40-year-old former NFL is giving up his safe seat in his hometown district that spans North Dallas and its northeast suburbs. But he has a history of upsetting Republicans, as he did in 2018 to get elected to Congress.
Still, Allred faces an uphill battle — a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994.
FWIW: Cook Political Report moved from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican” following Allred’s entrance into the race.
See also: “Democrats should target Ted Cruz in 2024” (Ed Kilgore / Intelligencer)
AT A MINIMUM: Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont this morning will introduce legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour, the progressive’s latest effort to call attention to widening American income inequality.
Sanders previously attempted to include a $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed in 2021 but the provision was opposed and ultimately voted down by eight Democrats and other independents who caucus with Democrats. The bill, though unlikely to go far in the current divided Congress, is an opportunity for Sanders to use his perch as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to influence public opinion on progressive priorities.
The current minimum wage is $7.25. Washington, California, and Massachusetts have a minimum wage of $15 or above while Connecticut’s will go up to $15 on June 1. Florida, Oregon, and Nevada will also increase their minimum wages this year.
See also: “Louisiana rejects raising minimum wage a day after advancing bill to raise lawmaker pay” (Greg Hillburn / Lafayette Daily Advertiser)
FED UP: The Federal Reserve increased interest rates by an expected 25 basis points as it continues to try to tamp down inflation amid calls from lawmakers and economists to pump the brakes.
“Raising interest rates too high and too fast puts this record job growth at risk,” Brendan Boyle, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee said in a statement referring to the jobs President Biden created in the first two years of his administration. “The [Federal Open Market Committee]’s action today is imprudent and only adds to the growing risks facing the economy.
The latest interest rate hike follows a letter on Tuesday from several top congressional Democrats calling on Fed Chair Jerome Powell to pause increases amid mounting economic uncertainty, including the looming debt limit crisis and recent banking failures.
PROTESTER PROTECTIONS: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota reintroduced a resolution to condemn police violence worldwide.
“Congress needs to send a powerful signal that we understand the problem, that we are listening to the protesters, and that we are addressing the issue,” Omar said. “The resolution calls on Congress to stand with peaceful protesters around the world in their calls for justice and accountability for police brutality.”
George Floyd was killed by police officers in Omar’s district in 2020 followed by Daunte Wright the following year. After the death of Amir Locke, who was shot in 2022 while officers were executing a no-knock warrant, Omar introduced a bill that would ban the practice.
PARK IT: Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California announced on Wednesday that he will submit a bill next that would eliminate parking minimums across the country in transit-rich zones.
“We are in a housing crisis and eliminating parking requirements lowers costs to build,” the first-term congressman said in a tweet. “It’s good housing, climate, and transit policy.”
Related: “The insane standard that America applies to parking” Henry Grabar/Slate)
BIDEN’S REELECT RELEASES NEW AD: President Biden’s reelection campaign released its second TV ad as part of an ongoing two-week, seven-figure ad buy.
The ad focuses on the economy is will run across eight battleground states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
See also: “Republicans romped in Florida last year. Biden may try to compete in the state anyway” (Alex Roarty / The Miami Herald)
HARRIS MAKES SURPRISE SMALL BIZ STOP: After an event at George Washington University, Vice President Harris on Wednesday made an unannounced visit in the Brightwood Park neighborhood of Washington, DC to visit Home Rule Records in recognition of National Small Business Week.
She asked to see the reggae section and ultimately selected a Charles Mingus, Jr. record, a recording of “Porgy and Bess,” and “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” by Roy Ayers, the last she described as one of her favorite albums of all time.
HR Records, which was opened in March 2018 by fellow Howard alum Charvis Campbell, specializes in jazz, funk, soul, and R&B and is one of only 37 Black-owned record stores in the country.
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris.
Vice President Harris and senior administration officials this morning will also meet with CEOs of four American companies on artificial intelligence. She will also travel this afternoon to Richmond, Virginia to tour Babylon Micro-Farms and speak about small businesses.
The Senate is in this morning and will vote to confirm LaShonda A. Hunt to be US District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois and advance the nomination of Colleen Joy Shogan to be Archivist of the United States. An additional vote this afternoon is scheduled to advance the nomination of Geeta Rao Gupta to be Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues.
The House is out.
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