TERRE HAUTE —
Change is coming, eventually.
A sign of that inevitability emerged in Tuesday’s election results. However, this hint of things to come clashes with the images of Republicans celebrating an overwhelming return to power in the U.S. House of Representatives, just four years after losing control of that chamber of Congress. Hidden within exit-poll statistics, the sign is subtle, yet significant.
The GOP owes a huge part of its victory to the increased turnout by older conservative voters. Nearly a quarter of the electorate (23 percent) came from the 65-and-older crowd, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a jump from 15 percent in 2008 and 19 percent in 2006. And nearly 3 of every 5 seniors (58 percent) voted predominantly Republican.
Baby boomers (folks 45 to 64) and Generation X’ers (30 to 44) backed Republicans, too, although less intensely, with a bit more than half leaning to the right.
Only one age group defied the landslide. Fifty-six percent of the nation’s youngest voters, the under-30 group, backed Democratic candidates. Their contrariness didn’t matter, this time. Neither party targeted young adults in campaign messages. Instead, the corporate-financed attack ads were aimed at the parents and grandparents of those teens and twentysomethings, especially through ominous warnings about the federal health care reform act. The ads contained grim images of Barack Obama and dire indictments of the president’s policies and any congressional candidate who shared his party affiliation.
Those tactics failed to frighten most young Americans.
For example, when it comes to health care reform, young adults comprise the nation’s most uninsured age group. One-third of the population ages 19 to 29 — or 13 million Americans — lacks health insurance. The costly impact of an unexpected ailment or car accident on a young, uninsured parent was never addressed in those attack ads.
The Millennials (people born after 1984) primarily were an afterthought in the 2010 election. But as their voting participation level steadies in the future, the parties will have to adapt their campaign strategies to appeal to this unique sector of the populace. Millennials are the most diverse generation in the nation’s history, according to Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). The presence of the nation’s first black president or first female speaker of the U.S. House doesn’t feel unusual to most Millennials.
“They have a different sense of diversity than we do,” said Darlene Hantzis, a communications professor who coordinates Indiana State University’s involvement in the American Democracy Project. “They notice [diversity] less. They just expect it.”
Millennials also know uncertainty. They came of age in post-9/11 America, when recession, lengthy wars and disappearing retirement accounts became the norm.
Hantzis, 51, grew up during the politically turbulent 1960s and ’70s in Indianapolis, as one of five kids in a Greek-American family. The current generation of college students’ interest in politics is strong, she said, but often gets dampened by their elders.
“They really see themselves as actors in the political process,” Hantzis said. “They think we don’t see them that way, though. … I hold us [over-30 folks] responsible for that. We forget how we made it into this area.”
Honestly, after the historic youth vote turnout in the 2008 presidential election, did most older Americans praise or belittle the Millennials for helping elect Obama?
Only 20.4 percent of those under 30 voted Tuesday. That’s a slight drop from 23.5 percent in 2006, the last midterm election, and a steep drop from the massive 51-percent turnout in 2008. Traditionally, off-year elections lure fewer voters of all ages than those involving presidential candidates, so the disparity among the young from ’08 to this year isn’t shocking.
Still, the parties don’t spend much energy wooing young voters “because they’re the least-predictable voting block in America,” Hantzis said.
The young often face more obstacles in the voting process. Unlike older adults, they’re more likely to be living in a different town or state from one election to the next. College students frequently must choose between voting in their hometown with an absentee ballot, or changing their registration to their campus city.
The adoption of Election Day registration in Indiana would boost youth voting, Hantzis said. But, as the 2005 voter ID law demonstrated, the Hoosier state tends to add, rather than remove, barriers to participation.
ISU junior Josaphine Riley, a 21-year-old pre-med student, voted while living at home in Effingham, Ill., in 2008, but missed Tuesday’s balloting. “[Absentee voting] seemed so complicated, and I didn’t have time with school and everything, and it’s a bit of a distance to drive home.”
Jenna Tyler, a 25-year-old ISU sophomore from Louisville, Ky., registered and voted in Terre Haute in 2008. On Tuesday, though, she started classes at 8 a.m., sat through a 45-minute financial aid meeting, and worked stints at her two jobs. “So if I vote, it’ll have to be after 4:30,” Tyler said, glancing at her watch Tuesday afternoon. “And, I don’t know where I’m supposed to vote.”
In states with concentrated outreach toward youth voters, the turnout was higher than in 2006, CIRCLE’s Levine reported.
In time, though, Millennials who hit the polls with enthusiasm in ’08 will turn out with regularity, election after election, Hantzis predicted. They’ll be more inclined to encourage the next generation to follow their lead. And then, their views, needs and values won’t get dismissed or overlooked by the candidates or the major parties.
“I don’t think they’ll ever go away again,” Hantzis said.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
Change is coming, eventually.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: Former Terre Hautean Jim Lovell stood ready as Neil Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11
The words “Apollo 11” stir optimism in me.
I was an elementary school kid growing up in Vigo County when Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon on July 20, 1969. So much seemed possible
MARK BENNETT: Dad-to-dad advice
Giving unsolicited advice is like offering somebody else your toothbrush, because it’s worked so well for you.
MARK BENNETT: The road ahead
An invisible force shield — just like those found in comic books — formed a barrier between us and the edge of that road.
MARK BENNETT: Generational ‘Catch 22’
Baby Boomers’ long run of cultural dominance gradually gives way to America’s 22-year-olds
Transformative changes: Five ways to strengthen Terre Haute’s ‘festival park’
Without realizing it, the crowds walking through Fairbanks Park during this week’s Banks of the Wabash Festival are paying tribute to two eras of visionaries.
MARK BENNETT: Mother of all missed opportunities
So often, we entrust mothers with so much. They draw duty as mediators when there’s a problem at school, healers when pain hits, and self-sacrificers willing to put the needs of their families ahead of their own. Not perfect, but perfectly equipped, thank God, to be the glue that holds things together. Mother’s Day offers an ideal moment to remember those qualities.
MARK BENNETT: Low, and OK with it
The little sticker in the upper-left corner of a vehicle’s windshield reminds us — three months in advance — when to get an oil change.
MARK BENNETT: Telling a difficult story
Arthur Feinsod struggled to vocalize lines from his own play, “Coming to See Aunt Sophie.”
MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy
Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.
MARK BENNETT: Dues Paid, change under way
In the 1940s, Dorothy Jerse sat in a University of Illinois accounting class, listening to a guest speaker.
MARK BENNETT: All aboard!
Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: Former Terre Hautean Jim Lovell stood ready as Neil Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11