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Robert Reich Has a Message for America's Youth This November

Economist Robert Reich. (YouTube screen grab)

You are the largest, most diverse and progressive group of potential voters in American history, comprising fully 30 percent of the voting age population.

On Nov. 6, you have the power to alter the course of American politics—flipping Congress, changing the leadership of states and cities, making lawmakers act and look more like the people who are literally the nation’s future.

But you need to vote. In the last midterm election, in 2014, only 16 percent of eligible voters from the ages of 18 to 29 even bothered.

Now, I understand. I was young once. You have a lot on your minds—starting jobs, careers and families. Also, unlike your grandparents—some of whom were involved in civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement—you may not remember a time when political action changed America for the better.

You don’t even recall when American democracy worked well. Instead, during your lifetime you’ve watched big money take over Washington and state capitals. This may explain why only about 30 percent of you born in the 1980s think it “essential” to live in a democracy.

But the issues up for grabs this coming Nov. 6 are not ideological abstractions. They’re causes in which you have direct personal stakes.

Take, for example, gun violence—which some of you have experienced first-hand and have taken active roles trying to stop.

Or immigrant’s rights. Over 20 percent of you are Latino, and a growing percentage of you are from families that emigrated from Asia. Many of you have directly experienced the consequences of Trump’s policies.

A woman’s right to choose whether to have a baby, and gay’s or lesbian’s rights to marry—they’re also issues you’re deeply committed to. They’ll be front and center if the Supreme Court, as expected, puts them back into the hands of Congress and state legislatures.

You’re also concerned about student debt, access to college and opportunities to get ahead unimpeded by racial bigotry or sexual harassment.

And you’re worried about the environment. You know climate change will hit you hardest since you will be on the planet longer than older voters.

You’ve also seen that your votes count. You saw Hillary Clinton lose by a relative handful of votes in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. You’re aware of the slim but increasingly real possibility of Democrats taking back the Senate.

As doubtful as you are about politics or the differences between the two parties, you also know that Donald Trump and his Republican enablers want to take the nation backward to an old, white, privileged, isolated America. You don’t.

In my 35 years of teaching college students, I’ve not encountered a generation as dedicated to making the nation better as yours.

So my betting is on you, this Nov. 6. Please register and vote.

Robert Reich
Contributor
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the…
Robert Reich

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