Campaigning on campus…

Republican? Democrat? Green? I don’t care as long as candidates keep taking their messages to college campuses. An article in the Boston Globe says that Democrats are working the New Hampshire colleges hard for volunteers and votes.

My hope would be that all candidates make campus visits a regular part of their campaigns throughout the country. The 18-to 24-year-old crowd has failed to participate to its potential since 1976. Are young people simply apathetic? I think suggesting so is simplistic. Let me suggest another possible reason: the press (and politicians) largely ignores them unless they sniff a man-bites-dog story, e.g. this article in the Boston Globe.

I taught a class in campaign rhetoric at UMKC during the 2000 campaign. Each of the students were required to write public essay on an issue of their choosing and submit it to a local news organization. Most in this class of 12 were published, with one notable exception. This student suffered from a debilitating disease. She wrote eloquently and cogently about how the debate on health care ignored her generation in favor of the so-called “greatest generation.” She asked: Isn’t my life valuable, too.

The Kansas City Star tuned down her column because it was “too personal” (I discussed the student’s essay with the editor involved). I contend the reason was her experience countered the press’ master narrative of the health care debate–what actors are involved and what their roles are. The Star was unable to hear her, just as Bush and Gore were unable to speak to her.

Yes, that’s merely an anecdote, and I do not suggest that it represents the only reason young people seem apathetic about voting. I offer it as a glimpse at one reason–an important reason–for apathy caused, in part, by one of the structural biases of journalism. (via PoliticalWire)