“18 In ’08” Interview Part II

Aquarian Weekly 7/2/08 REALITY CHECK

18 IN ’08 Part II The Future Of Voting In America


In the second installment of my discussion with filmmaker and activist, David Burstein, as he crisscrosses the country fueling the political fervor of the elusive Youth Vote, we delve into the issues, the Internet, and the cultural impact on the current presidential campaigns. Burstein’s documentary, “18 In ’08” (www.18In08.com) as well as his planned debates and town meetings in 50 colleges this summer into fall has been one of the factors in the recent rejuvenation of young voters in this historical 2008 election season.

What are the main issues for the 18 to 24 block?

Well, in general, college affordability and student loans, but we’re incredibly concerned about the economy as well. We’re about to enter the job market and many of us have parents whose support we count on for college, and we need them to have good financial backing. Health Care and Global Warming I hear about constantly, but mainly it’s the issues that all voters are talking about.

In your discussions with these young voters, do you get the feeling that they are headed for a heap of disillusionment here, by which I mean the executive branch of our federal government might very well have little to do with combating Global Warming, and although the president and congress can do some things to stimulate or wound an economy, it is often minimal on the grand scale. Are they counting on radical change from either of these candidates, and if they don’t get it, could you envision many bailing in the next election?

Absolutely. This is why many young people go the non-political track now, like non-government organizations and engaging in their own forms of activism. One of the big challenges for us with this film and our cause is that we must convince these people that you have to pursue both tracks parallel. If you vote and participate in the political process while working on the grass roots side you can really get something done. But I think it’s about fifty-fifty anyway. I find that many young people are idealistic and just as many are realistic as well.

Here’s my theory of why Barack Obama and to a lesser extent Ron Paul has attracted a preponderance of the Youth Vote: They are not merely standing as an alternative, say like Kerry against Bush in 2004 or even Bush standing against the Clinton legacy in 2000, but presenting themselves as something entirely beyond the normal this vs. that. Is that a fair assessment?

Yeah, I think so. It’s a sense of the new, but also a sense of authenticity. Young people are frustrated by the political process, gridlock or polarization, but we also want to vote for something instead of merely an alternative. There is something in the style of McCain and certainly Obama that speaks to that, but it’s also in their voting records and how they approach the idea of change. More than anything I think there is a level of trust there for Ron Paul and Obama. They speak their mind and speak in our language, less gobblygook of distant unrelatable facts and figures than a hopeful slant on this idea of change.

“The Internet influences every dimension of the political and campaign process. In fact, its driving many campaign professional out of their minds. They no longer have complete control over their message.”

Have you found that most of the Youth Vote is independent? And I mean that not only in political affiliation, but this penchant to move from each issue independently and without adherence to one party or to one philosophy or another?

Absolutely. There has been a big change on how people view politics going forward, and I think for our generation and every following generation. Young people are much less party-loyal or family-loyal in making up their minds politically. We are taking this responsibility far more seriously and personally, and not merely following in what our parents believed or what we are told by the media or celebrities. I think the days of voting along party lines will die with this generation.

On a scale of one to ten, what does the Internet mean to the Youth Vote now?

Well, on a scale of one to ten I’d rate it at least a twenty. It’s making a huge impact in every sense. The first impact is in raising money. Then there’s the evolution of the Blog in the last elections cycle. YOUTUBE affected the midterm elections considerably, most notably the George Allen “Macaca” incident which turned him from the leading Republican presidential candidate to being ousted from the senate. Social networking has become effective in that it allows bloggers to become de facto representatives of a campaign, putting out information, sending messages, raising money. But probably the most revolutionizing development is the citizen ad. Now any voter with the material and editing skills can have a voice online, using the medium to make an imprint on political dialogue. Look at Facebook, where yesterday the Obama Campaign was bragging that they have reached one million supporters. The Official Students for Barack Obama organization began online and has now been adopted as an official arm of the campaign. You have candidates giving personal press-free presentations from their offices to the voters on their web sites.

The Internet influences every dimension of the political and campaign process. In fact, its driving many campaign professional out of their minds. They no longer have complete control over their message. I know that’s a long answer, but I feel very passionate about it.

Well, it may be the last true vestige of democracy, which means the good and the bad, because with every positive movement comes the seedy underbelly. And the Internet has its litany of misinformation, scurrilous rumor and unsubstantiated nonsense as well.

This is always going to be true of the Internet. We just have to be more educated on what is credible or not. The Obama Campaign has done a nice job with his smear site that links to the rumors and debunks them.

Describe the whole political zeitgeist in retrospect to your shooting through 2006 to finishing in 2007 and now during your time promoting it while the primaries were happening.

Having candidates has changed things. While we were shooting there was this sense that young people were mostly against things as opposed to focusing on a figure for their issues or positions. The other change is the effect of the Iraq War, which previously students were hot on the trail to protest or in some cases they were fighting it. Unfortunately, Iraq has slipped off the radar, which fueled the Youth Vote in ’04 and then ’06 certainly. But in a good way it’s led to young people beginning to focus on all issues, like right now it’s the economy. Before their involvement in the larger issue of war there seemed to be an unawareness that is not there now. There’s been a progression in the sense that the war, while being significant, was not as direct a connection to their lives as economic issues relating to their parents and their job futures. Politics is now being viewed as relevant to their daily lives.

NEXT WEEK: PART I – The Future Of Voting In America

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