What Happened to Investing in Young Progressive Voters?

Yesterday Craig wrote about the “Youth Disengagement Meme” and closed with the following paragraph:

Unfortunately, given the lack of funding for many progressive youth organizations, the communications efforts aren’t there. By no means am I an expert in progressive youth infrastructure, but I do want to raise awareness of this. Because I have a feeling that the Corzine campaign’s inability to engage youth on a peer-to-peer level is going to have some rough consequences, I believe we’re going to be facing the “youth are disengaged” meme that will affect our preparations for 2010 and 2012. What are we going to do?

Last week Sarah wrote about the lack of youth outreach from the Democratic establishment. In that piece, she quotes Morley Winograd:

“There’s been a missed opportunity here in showcasing the kind of youthful, optimistic, hopeful energy that greatly Obama benefited from during the campaign,” said Morley Winograd. . .”But of course it does not at all mean that the opportunity has gone away.”

Between 2004 and 2008 progressive youth organizations were building a strategy and infrastructure to turn out young voters and engage them in issue advocacy outside of elections. Major progressive donors seemed to realize the latent power of the youth vote and the need to catch up with the conservative funding machine that supports conservative youth.

Money came in to progressive youth organizations and they continued building on their earlier successes. In 2008 the work paid off resulting in the election of President Barack Obama and large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. Unfortunately, it seems that donors now feel like the mission was accomplished and the funding dried up.

There are some who argue that this is because of the financial crisis, but that is only a small part of it. There is still a lot of money being raised by candidates and PACs. It is that the donors aren’t choosing to invest in the long-term as they had been for the previous four years.

Progressives can’t take the support of young voters for granted, nor should they miss out on activating this powerful demographic when it comes to fighting for legislation or local races. As Winograd said, we are missing opportunities, and we will continue to do so until progressive donors recommit to building a long-term bloc of progressive voters.