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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Change is coming, eventually.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
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?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
MARK BENNETT: Pedestrian paths across the Wabash few, so far, but appreciated
The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
MARK BENNETT: We are Hauteans (ho-shuns)
I fielded an hilariously disturbing question recently. A friend asked if the word “Hautean” is meant to be a derogatory label.
MARK BENNETT: Lesson in the Test
ISTEP is important, but it should not be predominant.
MARK BENNETT: Commencement Advice
Today’s high school commencement speakers should repeat their speeches in hospital delivery rooms in the months ahead.
MARK BENNETT: American nurses, medics, stranded behind Nazi lines, survived through tenacity, heroism, generosity
A story of survival, perseverance, danger, and extraordinary courage and generosity extended in the midst of war remained untold for decades, but thankfully not forever.
Mark Bennett: High-profile mural connects historical dots from city to river
At 96 feet wide and 2 stories tall, the power, impact and value of the Wabash will be evident.
MARK BENNETT: Life at face value: Mom’s simple advice still presents a valuable daily challenge
Most moms don’t base their advice on scientific research.
(Unless, of course, your mother is a scientific researcher. If so, carry a No. 2 pencil and take good notes.)
MARK BENNETT: Should I stay or should I go?
Some have their Bill Clinton-era Cavalier packed (with the trunk bungee-ed shut), apartment cleaned (except for the fridge), and iPhone GPS locked onto the fastest route out of Terre Haute. Others are staying — until they find a better job, or because they’re starting a career here, or because this town feels like home. In each case, a new stage of life begins today.
College Class of '13 gets a little extra advice
Local college grads will hear commencement speakers offer life and career advice this month. We’re offering them an extra dose here from folks who’ve found success in various vocations and regions of the nation. Many have Terre Haute roots.
MARK BENNETT: Spirited response to a rising river
The power within the Wabash revealed itself last week.
MARK BENNETT: Littered with irony: Why do people callously discard their trash, and who are they?
Though they aren’t acknowledged by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are basically two demographic groups of people … Those who would dump their old toilet on the banks of the Wabash River or a rural roadside. And those who wouldn’t.
MARK BENNETT: Performing under the radar: Toiling for years behind the scenes, Terre Haute native J.T. Corenflos finally earned a splash of musical recognition
People who diligently work to make others shine are a rare breed.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer