Barack Obama has a favorite saying on the campaign trail: “Don’t boo — vote.”
And young protesters, galvanized by police brutality and a rash of political disappointments, seem to be sketching out a present-day response:
Sure, maybe. But first, some well-directed fury.
“I’m tired. I’m literally tired. I’m tired of having to do this,” said Aalayah Eastmond, 19, who survived the 2018 massacre at her high school in Parkland, Fla., became a gun control advocate, saw many of the legislative efforts stall — and is now organizing protests in Washington over police violence against fellow black Americans.
Mrs Eastmond could be forgiven, she suggested, for doubting that the electoral system would meet the moment on its own: “We do our job,” she said, “and then we don’t see the people we vote in doing their job.”
As nationwide demonstrations continue to simmer, interviews with millennial and Generation Z protesters and activists across racial lines reflect a steady suspicion about the value and effectiveness of voting alone. Their disillusionment threatens to perpetuate a consistent generational gap in election turnout, hinting at a key challenge facing Joseph R. Biden Jr. The former vice president, who announced Friday evening that he had earned a majority of delegates in the Democratic primary contest, has struggled to generate youth enthusiasm despite the demographic’s broad disapproval of President Trump.
To some degree, this dynamic has figured in political fights across the decades: Voters are disproportionately old; marchers are disproportionately young. (Even in the 2018 midterms, when youth engagement spiked compared with four years prior, turnout registered at about 36 percent for voting-age citizens under 30 and nearly twice that for those 65 and up, according to Census Bureau data.)
But the frustrations of today’s younger Americans also speak to the particular conditions of the era, with a preferred candidate in the last two Democratic presidential primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, falling short twice and a sense that those in office have done little to stem a flood of crime.
The deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement.
Therelentless creep of climate change. Recurring economic uncertainty — this time amid a pandemic exacerbated by missteps across the federal government.