The 2020 election has been hyped by some experts as the presidential race where young voters would show the full impact of their political power. Following their record-breaking participation in the 2018 midterms, they showed potential to be a pivotal voting bloc in the following presidential election.
But their low turnout during the Democratic primary race — particularly for the candidate who was most popular with young voters — brought that optimism back to reality.
Former president Barack Obama, who made record strides in appealing to young voters, hopes to mobilize them to get more involved in the political process. His addresses this past weekend to 2020 graduates gave us our best sense yet of how he’ll reach out.
As Democratic pollster Geoff Garin previously told The Post’s Jacqueline Alemany: “The gold standard for candidates for mobilizing and exciting young voters is Barack Obama in 2008 and there aren’t a lot of Barack Obamas and not a lot of moments like that one.”
In the online event #GraduationTogether, Obama sought to inspire graduates, who aren’t getting the typical dose of fanfare over their achievement due to the coronavirus pandemic, by challenging them to channel their anger and disappointment into the voting process.
This wasn’t the first time this month that the former president made headlines for attempting to rally Americans to replace Trump.
The week before his graduation address, a leaked recording revealed Obama describing the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster.” On Thursday, as President Trump was increasing his attacks on the Obama presidency, the former president tweeted one word: “Vote.” It was his most retweeted post in the past month.
Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, have expressed their disappointment that turnout in 2016 among some Democratic blocs was below that of the 2008 election that made Obama the country’s first black president. And although young voters were one of the only groups to see an increase in participation in 2016 compared to 2012, their low participation in 2020 so far has caused some anxiety.
After Obama endorsed his former vice president last month, he promised that he’d connect with Americans on the trail while campaigning for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The former president’s support came after the primary was essentially over and after most Democratic primary voters had chosen Biden over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the candidate who was most popular with voters ages 18 to 29. But Sanders’s popularity with young voters didn’t translate to actual votes. They made up a relatively small percentage of primary voters. And even though Sanders was popular with the youngest voting bloc, voters age 18 to 29, polls repeatedly showed that Biden had a solid showing with the block and even more so with millennials over age 30.
Obama appeared to want to push back on any suggestion that the Democratic establishment was uninterested in the views of young voters — a frequent claim by some in Sanders’s camp after his defeat. Quite the opposite, Obama argued, when he said: “If the world’s going to get better, it going to be up to you.”
In his speech to graduates of historically black colleges and universities, he said:
Biden has largely run on a return to the Obama era — a time that many liberal voters are looking back on a bit romantically now. And while Obama is encouraging young voters to chart their own paths, he is urging them to support Biden.
It’s not because he claims that he or his former vice president had all of the answers, but because he believes that Trump has so few of them and that one of the groups best equipped to redirect the country away from this current moment is young voters.
The Trump campaign is attacking former vice president Joe Biden, who is choosing to not engage with the president on his terms. Biden’s campaign says he is competing against President Trump in traditionally Republican states including Arizona, Texas and Georgia.
Rep. Justin Amash said he will not seek the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, just weeks after announcing he would run.
Get a guide to (almost) all the House primaries coming up this summer, and a guide on what’s in play in the Senate. See what elections are coming up and which have moved.
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