John Young: The youth vote: from apathetic to angry

  • John Young
  • Special to the American-Statesman
10:24 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 Opinion
Protestors demonstrate against President-elect Donald Trump outside Independence Hall November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Republican candidate lost the popular vote by more than a million votes, but won the electoral college. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Whether he acknowledges it or not, in large part Donald Trump owes his presidency to the youth vote — or the lack of it.

More precisely, he owes a lot to youth apathy or a general malaise regarding ballot choices. (Any progressives now seeking a Mulligan for that Jill Stein vote?)

Things have changed. Observe the surge of young voters turning out for Democrats in Virginia, New Jersey and Washington State on Nov. 7.

Trump and the Republicans are digging a hole among those voters that could leave them on the outs for a generation.

Consider the tax bill that will award the wealthiest richly and raise taxes for up to 30 percent of middle-class taxpayers. Young voters are straining hard just to project themselves into that middle class. They don’t see these tax cuts helping them whatsoever.

Consider how these tax cuts will harm college students. For instance, the House-passed bill would treat tuition waivers for graduate students as income.

Meanwhile, the Republicans would repeal the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Hope Scholarship Credit, both of which allow students to deduct some educational expenses from taxes, while ending deductions for interest on student loans.

While the Republicans pose and preen for big donors — the 1 percent and big business — they are making young voters furious.

Maybe the biggest issue that has stirred young voters across the board is net neutrality. It’s something that’s mostly off the radar for most of the over-50 set. Most assuredly that’s not the case with those in the 30-and-under set, who see an attempt to control this public resource, the internet, as an attack on their neighborhood.

It’s about enabling internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to discriminate regarding the speed of data and the preferential treatment of content.

The Trump administration’s move to lift net-neutrality rules alarms young voters. They see internet service providers exploiting their monopolies to charge more for the higher speeds that enable entertainment staples like Netflix and Hulu.

FCC chairman and Trump appointee Ajit Pai says that freeing internet service providers from federal rules will result in more innovation (and of course, profits for internet titans). Opponents fear more expensive internet service, which only makes sense. That’s what “profit” implies, yes?

Pai takes the standard Republican line that deregulation will save consumers. Of course, that’s rarely the way deregulation works. What it typically means is a harvest for monopolies.

Not only are the Republicans digging a hole with young voters, but with Trump as their bell cow, they are deepening and calcifying hatred among minorities for what they represent.

It’s more than disgrace when a chief executive would lower himself to engage in a petty dispute like what Trump has had with Lavar Ball, who likes the sound of his voice every bit as much as President Orange Helmet.

For the Republicans, it’s a more serious matter than that, writes Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent.

Sargent called Trump’s “rage-tweets” part of a pattern of regular attacks on “high-profile African-Americans to feed his supporters’ belief that the system is rigged for minorities.”

All of the above demonstrates one thing: Trump is not as smart as he thinks he is.

This is a man who lost the popular vote by 3 million but comports himself as if he’s Reagan or Roosevelt, with the most massive mandate and broad-based support in political history.

Trump and fellow Republicans need the youth vote. They need the non-white vote, or at least a sliver of each. To so blindly alienate potential allies is simply stupid.

In 2018, and then in 2020, the Republicans will reap the whirlwind of what they sow today with policies that no smart politician would advise.

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