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We are living history. The youth generation of today has witnessed some of the nation’s most momentous events, all of which will undoubtedly be discussed in history classes for years to come. However, not only have we witnessed many, we have participated in and caused for one in particular. In 2008, young voters turned out in record-breaking numbers to the polls to elect President Barack Obama, giving him the win with the largest youth vote for a single candidate ever in history. This election was also the third highest in voter turnout among young people since the voting age was lowered to 18.

In 2008, 51% of voters between 18-29 years old came out to vote—a jump of 11 points since 2000 when 40% voted—constituting the largest spike of any age group. Total turnout of the voting-age population has consistently been on the rise in presidential elections since 1996, when national turnout was 49.1% while in 2008 it was 56.8%. However, while presidential election turnout has been climbing upwards, midterm election turnout has consistently been around 37% since 1978.

Lowered news coverage and overall less “hype” surrounding midterm elections in comparison to presidential races can partially be faulted for minimal turnout during off-years; however, ultimately voters’ mindsets are the heart of the problem. Congressional elections arguably have as much influence over the government’s actions and the overall political scene for the nation as presidential ones. The president’s desires and platform largely, if not entirely, depend on the rulings of Congress to be progressed or denied–making every person’s vote and opinion valuable whether they support the president of the time or not.

This November, the 2010 off-year election ballots will be cast to determine who will sit in 37 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate for many years to come. With such momentous feats amid our freshly blazed trail, we as youth cannot let up now. As the 2010 elections quickly approach, we must keep in mind that our votes are needed as much as ever and that youth hold immense power in politics. Remember, regardless which candidate your vote is cast for, every vote counts in contributing to the workings of democracy upon which our nation was founded. While we as youth are hailed for breaking records in 2008, we can continue to break records with the Senatorial elections of 2010.

Sources:
http://www.civicyouth.org/?page_id=241#3
http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2008G.html
http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/FactSheets/FS_youth_Voting_2008_updated_6.22.pdf

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One of Barack Obama’s pledges was that he would open up the federal government for the public. As a bona fide policy geek, I can’t tell you how excited I am at the thought of getting to read federal register notices, draft regulations, and submissions on the policy and regulatory impact of proposed laws or statutes.

Now, I realize that many of you may have stopped reading after that last sentence, or are at least frightened at this point. However, what I find truly frightening is how the Bush Administration restricted public access to documents over the past eight years. A bipartisan group wants the Obama administration to reverse the Bush administration’s policy on public access to government records.

The combination of increased security following September 11th and Bush Administration directives was a sharp drop in the access that the public, nonprofits, and others had to regulatory issues, administrative meetings, and more. While it wasn’t exactly a Star Chamber, the Bush administration sought to retain rather than release information whenever possible.

While I will wager that not everyone will be sitting up nights waiting to learn when they can submit public commentary about a regulation; the principle of open government is fundamental to an active, participatory democracy.  Information is important and good policy-making involves gathering disparate and sometimes conflicting information and sifting through it to arrive at a policy position.

It involves broad consultations with experts and non-experts alike. Many community organizers are experts in how new rules might impact the citizens in their area. Many NGOs have issue and policy expertise to offer that can guide the development and application of regulations as well as raise issues that may not have been considered by those developing the policies. And many citizens without expertise may be affected and may care deeply about the outcome and should have the ability to express their ideas to those whom they have elected.

President-elect Obama and Vice-President Biden have a site, www.change.gov, where people can share their stories from the election, comment on ideas, view information about the transition and more. It is a good first step in realizing President-elect Obama’s goal of a government that is open and accountable. Just as this election signals a change and commitment to re-engaging the world; President-elect Obama’s change.gov website and other overtures signal a commitment to transparency and an invitation to continue to participate and engage in and with our government so that it truly is in the words of Abraham Lincoln “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”

Faithful America is an interfaith organization that works for many of the same things AID does–an end to poverty, diplomacy, economic security, the prevention of climate change, an end to hate speech, etc.  It’s founder, Tom Perriello, ran for congress in Virginia. This hateful ad was launched against him by his opponent.

The ad accuses Parriello of supporting gay marriage and “apologizing to Arabs” for the U.S. troops, stating that Parriello is “perfect for New York, too liberal for us.” A mosque flashes in the background as this accusation is made. What actually happened is that Faithful America ran ads in Iraq apologizing for the mistreatment in Abu Gharib.

Parriello won by a very narrow margin, but a few things bother me about this campaign that ran against him. First of all, the fact that we have become such a partisan, divided nation. The fact that calling someone “perfect for New York” can be an insult is an illustration of this. Parriello in fact grew up in southern VA but went to law school at Yale and then worked for a NY firm for a few years. This should not make him less competent to represent Virginians. The second thing that bothers me is that a mosque as shown as an insult to Parriello. His efforts for interfaith cooperation and diplomacy are a reason why conservatives should not vote for him? I hate that our country has divided into “us” “them” categories: Muslim, Christian, Northernern, Southerner, Gay, and Straight.

-Liza Butler-

When I listened to President-Elect Barack Obama deliver his victory speech from Chicago on Tuesday night, I was reminded of my high school teachers.

Not all of them, but a handful: the really good ones. The ones who had the ability to look at you and know exactly what you were capable of, and who then went on to expect you to achieve it. They not only asked you to meet their standards, but to raise your own personal standards and to meet those as well. Mine were named Tim O’Brien, Chris Chapman, Pam Gress and Paul Johnson. I did my best work in their classrooms.

I heard overtones of that challenge, that invitation during Tuesday night’s speech: What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. Obama’s campaign, as has been said over and over, was remarkable in its capacity to energize those who had never truly taken a stake in presidential politics before – the youth vote, the minority community, the middle and working classes – all of whom the President-Elect praised during his speech for their effort and dedication and the victory they had achieved.

But he, like my teachers, wasn’t letting us off the hook there. Now that we’d seen what we are capable of, what we as an American people can achieve, he went on to ask us to continue to meet that heightened expectation.

[Change] can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

Highlighted on the Obama Administration’s transition website is a remarkable plan to expand America’s national service programs, not only by increasing support of AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, but by the creation of a Classroom Corps, a Health Corps, and more. The Administration is putting out a call to all Americans, and especially students, to serve; to give each of us the chance to use our own hands and minds and commitment to actively improve our country and our world. Because, to paraphrase the tens of thousands of people in Grant Park: we can. We know we can. Our President-Elect knows we can. And so, like my U.S. History and Pre-Calculus teachers, he expects us to live up to it.

Congratulations! After a long, tumultous, and historic campaign, the votes are in and a new Administration is about to take office. Everyone who participated–who learned what the candidates positions were on issues that they care about, who registered to vote, who registered others to vote, who did get out the vote, and who voted deserves praise.

This election involved and engaged those who have been absent or disengaged from the political process. This election elevated foreign policy issues in ways that have not happened in decades. In this election, candidates whose relatives may have fought for suffrage or for civil rights were nominated by their parties to lead our country.

And as the excitement of the election subsides and the analysis of the transition begins, I want to remind everyone that our work is not yet done. This marks the beginning of a new phase of engagement and civic participation.

The President-elect will be busy selecting candidates for his Administration, filling roles in the White House and in federal agencies, and determining his priorities in the next few months. However, the work of increasing and promoting democracy has just begun. The new Administration will face tremendous challenges with two wars and a financial crisis so it will be important to help support and ensure that they are also able to promote positive changes in U.S. policies that they articulated on the campaign trail.

President-elect Obama has committed to opening up government processes to the average citizen. He stated in a speech in New Hampshire that “Americans of every background and belief are hungry for a new kind of politics — a people’s politics that reconnects them with their government; one that offers not just a vote at the ballot box, but a voice in Washington and an assurance that the leaders we send there will hear it”.

AID is working to ensure that young people’s voices are part of this promise of engagement and participatory democracy. We are working with others to develop ways for young people’s voices, ideas, and energy to be coordinated and integrated into U.S. policymaking. We hope that you will join us in continuing to learn, engage, and promote policies with the new Administration.

Marceline White

I was recently having a conversation with a Muslim-American friend about the upcoming election and how most of the members of her community are voting for Obama. My friend’s family, like many other Muslim families, voted Republican before 9/11 and before Islam became a dirty word in politics that it seems politicians need to apologize for. Like many Muslims, her father espouses most of the Republican values, but has stopped voting Republican, and has lost some of his motivation to vote all together, because he feels the Republican Party does not want his vote.

There are 4 million Muslims in America, a significant voting block, yet politicians, both Democrat and Republican, have tried to place themselves as far away as possible from this demographic. Obama has had to convince people of his standing as a Christian as a result of his Indonesian upbringing and Muslim middle name. Why does Christian=American? Why can’t Obama have Muslim roots and still be equally as patriotic and American?

The following article interviews various New York City Muslims about the election, and most have the same question: how did their faith become a word that politicians want to distance themselves from? How has the word “Muslim” become a slur? People expect moderate Muslims to apologize for the extremist factions of their faith; Muslim-Americans are expected to constantly be on the defense. It seems the only time Islam is mentioned in the media these days is in relation to terrorism or an extremist regime. Christianity has its own share of violence attributed to its name, yet Christians are not expected to apologize for the things done in the name of their faith. Both Democrats and Republicans in this election are guilty of making Islam a dirty word, something to flee from rather than a block of 4 million voters to talk to.

-Liza Butler-

Ok, pop quiz: who can name the current head of state in Japan? Brazil?  How about our neighbor, Canada?  What are the major political parties in those countries?  Their systems of government?  If you’re like me, and probably most Joe-plumber-six-pack Americans, you didn’t do too well, but ask someone in another country those same questions about the U.S. and you bet s/he will know the answers and more.  With mere weeks left before our biggest national election, it’s easy to forget that Americans are not the only ones anxiously watching the polls and rooting for their favorite candidate.

 

So who is the world rooting for? Barack Obama, in a landslide.

 

At least according to a few different international polls.  The first, conducted by Readers Digest Magazine before the conventions found that 16 out of 17 countries preferred Obama – the 17th being the U.S.  A second poll conducted by Globescan during July and August confirmed these results.  Over 22,000 people in 22 countries were asked to choose between Obama and McCain, and again, Barack was favored in all countries with an average of 49% voting Obama compared to 12% choosing McCain.   A third poll conducted this month by newspapers in Canada, France, Switzerland, Poland, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, and the UK had the same results.  When asked “Would McCain be a good or bad president?” Between 20% (Fr) and 57% (Pol) said very good, though much fewer would vote for him (5-26% range).  Obama’s results were double this, with a 59% (Pol) – 89% (Swi) range on the first question, and a 43%(Pol)-83%(Swi) range on the second. 

 

Naturally, there are innumerable factors that could account for this global preference for Obama.  As Reader’s Digest points out, McCain’s campaign is very focused on American values, while Obama’s ideas are a bit more accessible to a global audience.  Furthermore, Obama is seen as more of a “global citizen” and the most likely candidate to take action on global warming, withdraw troops from Iraq sooner rather than later, and avoid military intervention in Iran – positions favored by many of the countries polled.  While there are clearly baises and countries excluded in all of these polls, it certainly casts the foreign policy question in a different light – sure, McCain may have more experience, but if our allies prefer Obama, isn’t that what matters?  Domestic issues are another story, but it is certainly valuable to know what other nations are thinking and consider why this is the case.  Has Bush so injured the Republican’s global credit, or is Obama’s message truly more universal?  Interesting points to consider.  And even more interesting is the countries McCain would carry – Cuba, Moldova, Macedonia, and Georgia in the Economist’s Global electoral college.  Hmm.  But that’s another post. 

Laura Kavanaugh

This past winter, I took my 18-year-old brother, Sean, to vote for the first time. It was the 2008 presidential primary: he voted for Barack Obama, got his first “I voted!” sticker and I took him out for tacos for lunch. It wasn’t the most eventful day of either of our lives, but it’s one I like to look back on. I’m glad that he wanted to vote. I’m glad that he took an interest right away. Not to sound hokey, but I’m proud of him.

We’re hearing again and again about the power of the youth vote in the upcoming election. And for good reason – 1 in 10 voters this November will be first-time voters, and 14.4 million voters have turned 18 since the last presidential election, which is the largest increase since 1980. There are a lot of us this year!

The news media has been following the promise of the magical youth vote since well before Sean and I hit the polls this January, and particularly its ability to push the race toward Obama. Now that we’re counting down the last few weeks to November 4, I’m getting curious to see if we’re really going to live up to the hype; if my brother, my students, my friends and I will really be the ultimate deciders of the next President of the United States. So I went Googling, which is where I found a TIME story which interviewed 21-year-old Matt Adler of Washington University just before Super Tuesday. Matt says,

“What Obama brings to the forefront is the issue of process. It’s not just what gets done but how it gets done; the morality of the process matters. Being honest, open, and inclusive is an issue in itself.”

Matt is a pretty perceptive guy. He picked out eight months ago what a New York Times/CBS News poll just released last week: that voters care about how the candidates are doing things. Specifically, the poll found that voters are turned off by what they perceive as the negative campaign tactics of the McCain/Palin ticket. 6 in 10 voters believed that McCain spent more time attacking Obama than explaining his own policies. Only 39% would have voted for him if the election had been held that day. On the other hand, 6 in 10 believed that Obama spends more time explaining than attacking, and 53% said they would have voted for him. Of voters whose opinions of the candidates had changed in the last few weeks, 70% had a better opinion of Barack Obama. 75% had a worse opinion of John McCain.

I’m sure the Republican party is getting worried. They have 16 days left to try to win this election, and low odds of winning the youth vote over in that time. However, they have more to be concerned about than simply this November. It’s said that young people form their political opinions in reaction to the first politicians they know: our parents’ generation compared Reagan to Carter and leaned Republican. Today, though, young people are associating the GOP with two wars, rising college costs, sinking employment rates and the utter implosion of the U.S. economy. On top of all that, we don’t like their style! If this goes on, they may find that they’ve lost not just an election but an entire generation.

When Bobby Kennedy (a great motivator of the youth vote himself) announced his candidacy for the presidency in 1968, he ended his speech by saying that

“these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election. At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to the moral leadership of this planet.”

There’s Matt’s morality again.

These, too, are not ordinary times, nor is this an ordinary election. The thousands of students AID works with around the country are deeply concerned with America’s moral leadership in the world: what will we as a nation do to address poverty, hunger, and unfair trade? How will we address HIV and AIDS both at home and abroad? Will we take action to protect the environment? Will we engage other nations with diplomacy and respect? Will we live up to the promise that we, the young, know ourselves to have?

This is what I will be considering when I vote this November. So will my friends, my colleagues, my students, and my little brother (as far as I know – he may just be doing this for the tacos). I certainly hope that both candidates will be considering it too.

As discussed in The Nation, Senator Obama has narrowed his choice down to who he wants as his running mate. John Nichols puts it rather well:

Obama needs a running-mate with foreign-policy "stature." That’s not a
governor, and it’s probably not Bayh — whose record of accomplishment
in the Senate can best be summed up as "Democrat from Indiana."

So that leaves Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, and Clinton, whose international credentials are actually a
good deal more solid than even her advocates recognize.

Senator Biden would trump any potential candidate on foreign policy, including Senator McCain and his eventual choice in the number two spot. The VP debate would be a sight to see as Senator Biden is known for his verbosity, which would be a factor, but also his quick wit and vast experience. He can play every role necessary moving forward and while perhaps not infallible, certainly a strong and steady hand who knows his way around Washington.

It’s quite possible that Senator Obama is also considering someone who could really help navigate legislation and govern in a post-election victory. Governor Kaine or Senator Bayh can manage in their own states, certainly, but a veteran Senator with any number of chairmanships and friends on both sides of the aisle would be a whole new level that could be the most productive first hundred days in history. Senator Biden as the Vice President would create the most balanced (and potent) ticket possible, minus former Vice President Gore whom is also being whispered.

Obama/Biden is a winning combination for the party, and more importantly, for the country.

The United States relationship with its European allies has thawed since the end of the twentieth-century. The negative socio-political perception Europeans hold of the United States has been in a downward spiral since 2002. Thanks to our friends at the Pew Global Attitudes Project, we can quantify that opinion into numbers to give us an idea of just how far these numbers have plummeted.

When looking at two of our staunchest allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Great Britain and Germany, it’s a disturbing downward trend. Two of the strongest pillars against the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War have, for sometime now, faced domestic political pressure to back away from various elements of it’s relationship with the United States. It ended former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s term earlier than expected, and former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s party campaigned heavily on an Anti-American platform, as did numerous other European parties over the past several years.

Suffice to say, the European political opinion was heavily exacerbated by the Bush Administration and the invasion of Iraq, and is a logical and likely correlation that will be proven true in due time. The next Administration will get a natural bounce in these types of figures all over the world (partially as a result of Bush leaving) but the bottom line is that America has an opportunity to reinvent itself once again.

It is a rare opportunity, and a condition that must be taken seriously by both candidates. One candidate is doing everything he can to showcase he is interested in taking action on this subject. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, is currently on a tour with stops in Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, France, Germany, and finally The United Kingdom; the last three holding the most potential to serious change the European opinion and the three most critical European nations where America’s reputation has taken the greatest hits in the past eight years. All three nations have different governments in place from those in 2000-2006, introducing new leadership for the twenty-first century in President Nicholas Sarkozy, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom respectively.

Working to strengthen ties between America and Europe is hard enough on it’s own without having to cover your left flank at all times, but it’s important for the US to recognize there are leaders the country can work with to improve relations and the perception of American foreign policy. Tangibly getting them more involved in strategic policy and planning is one route, while the other is publicly ensuring multilateral diplomatic efforts are the preferred route of foreign engagement unless situations absolutely necessitate, according to an agreed upon framework, military intervention. European’s love to have an audience, and the US can play on that very notion by taking their opinion more seriously and recognizing that in a twenty-first century a successful US foreign policy must include our European counterparts at a much higher level of cooperation.

President Sarkozy has already warmed parts of France to a friendlier Trans-Atlantic relationship, and put his country back on track to fully rejoin NATO’s military command after more then forty years absent. Sarkozy has turned much of French foreign policy on its head, deviating greatly from his predecessor in public commentary on the importance of the Trans-Atlantic relationship. Furthermore, he will soon inherit the Presidency of the European Union, providing another opportunity for him to enlarge the EU’s developing security force and strengthen it’s relationship with NATO as cooperative forces on both the European continent and abroad, jointly taking action where both have interest. Given the overstretched NATO operations in Afghanistan, it’s not unconceivable we will see increased French military deployment at some point in the next few years, especially if the next Administration can create an even friendlier relationship with Paris which is a likely scenario. Sarko is quickly emerging as the United States second strongest supporter in Europe, and will be a critical ally in the next administration.

Chancellor Merkel is also working hard to better American-German relations. Her predecessor was, along with former French President Jacques Chirac, one of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq War. Yet Germany is one of the few countries that deployed combat troops to Afghanistan, and a nation that has long remained one of the Untied States strongest allies. While it may have faced a period of unrest in the past several years as a result of the Iraq engagement, at this point in time it has a leadership that is favorable towards US relations, but how long that window stays open could be in jeopardy depending upon the next six months and if she can hold together a fragile governing coaltion.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom is likely to continue the special relationship with the United States, and Great Britain will remain the United States strongest ally in the world. Despite public commentary by an aide when Brown took office, the relationship is not expected to shift greatly away from the Blair era outside of subtle nuances and dialogue. Brown must hold together a fracturing Labour Party majority and offset the low public opinion of the United States, while simultaneously continuing to try and honor security agreements and deployments to the Middle East. It’s an impossible balancing act that will lead to Brown having to forcefully choose one side or the other in the next year or two, and if his political life is in the balance he will have to side with the public view to ensure his own survival.

Senator Obama’s visit to the UK will help to mollify British citizens that were fearful America had lost it’s way under the Bush Administration, and gain hope in seeing a dynamic American figure that understands the world around him. It will serve the same purpose in Berlin and Paris, likely resulting in small public opinion boost of the United States future. The election of such a figure would provide an even greater boost in the United Kingdom, indirectly benefiting Prime Minster Brown, as well as President Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel in Germany. A US President who is viewed favorably by their citizenry can help such political allies maintain their international views and that coincide with American interests, and such European leadership is necessary for a successful twenty-first century American foreign policy.

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