Talk Policy To Me
Goldman School of Public Policy and Berkeley Institute for Young Americans
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Episode 320: Talking Young Voters
The brutal murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis Police Department officers, and the failure of the justice system to quickly prosecute the police officers involved, has triggered an explosion of activism across the country, and the world, in loud protest of police brutality against Black people. These actions vary dramatically along spectrums of intended impact and severity. And the response from media, police, and the public have exhibited the same variation. Overwhelmingly, we’ve seen peaceful demonstrations and efforts to funnel money to bail funds, Black-led organizations, and Black-owned businesses -- both powered strongly by the social media organizing of young people. We’ve also seen the amplification of looting and wealth redistribution actions, used as justification for violent police and military response which have been stoked and authorized by the president. Finally, we’ve seen the chaos and anguish of the moment used to leverage the importance of voting in the coming Presidential election and unseating Donald Trump. These renewed calls to vote coincide with two clear barriers to democratic in-person elections: shelter-in-place orders in response to the ongoing spread of Coronavirus, and local curfew orders beginning as early as 1PM in some cities, aimed at reducing protest activity. In mid-April, Talk Policy To Me reporter Reem Rayef spoke with Dr. Sunshine Hillygus, Professor of Political Science at Duke University and co-author of the newly published Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes Into Civic Action, about the behavior of young people when it comes to voting and elections. At the time of the conversation, the Democratic primary had swung definitively in favor of Joe Biden, California had been under stay-at-home orders for over a month, and George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade were still alive. Dr. Hillygus and her co-author Dr. John Holbein examine the personal and systematic barriers that stand between young people and the voting booth -- and the consequences of the vast disparities in voting rates between generations. In this episode, which is the last in Talk Policy To Me’s series on democracy, Reem and Dr. Hillygus discuss the damaging misconceptions about young people’s civic attitudes, and how these misconceptions are weaponized by conservatives in the service of voter suppression. Why is it so hard to get young people out to the voting booth? Who benefits when young people stay in on election day, and who pays the price? What is the role of the public school system in preparing young people to be engaged citizens? And how can state electoral policies support civic attitudes? Dr. Hillygus asserts the importance of voting, particularly for those who want to see radical change in entrenched systems which seem broken beyond repair -- most notably, the healthcare and police systems. In the current moment, voting can seem like too small and too remote an action in response to the atrocities that have come to the fore in recent months, but which have been plaguing the Black community for much, much longer. And on its own, voting in November is too small an action. The urgent challenges faced by the United States require direct action and local community, in addition to the long-term changes that could become reality if young people were proportionally represented in the voting booth. Writing referenced in this episode is linked here: Stop Blaming Young People For Not Turning Out for Sanders by Ibram X Kendi An Excitingly Simple Solution to Youth Turnout For the Primaries and Beyond by Charlotte Hill and Jacob Grumbach For more on the importance of voting for systemic change, check out the rest of Talk Policy To Me’s series on democracy: Talking Democracy in the Era of COVID-19 Talking 16 Year Olds and Voting Talking Voting and Elections For ways to support Black communities and frontline protestors in the Bay Area, please consider supporting the following organizations with your voice and/or money: The East Oakland Collective Anti Police-Terror Project People’s Breakfast Oakland National Lawyers Guild - SF Bay Area Chapter
About Talk Policy To Me
TPTM is a student-built podcast that explores the personal side of public policy, especially around issues that affect young adults. From UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and the Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans. Access more episodes, subscribe, and learn more.