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A day of youth vote reactions to President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign launch
Young people have both served as Biden’s biggest allies and his harshest critics. Read some of what they have to say about his reelection campaign launch ⤵️
⏰ 6am - President Joe Biden launched his reelection campaign with a vertical, made for social media video. From a youth vote perspective, the president’s face-to-camera appearance (something any digital native knows is a must in order to connect with young people online) is framed around freedom and leans into issues important to many young Americans. The president argues that Republicans are “dictating what healthcare decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love, all while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.”
Young people have both served as Biden’s biggest allies, as well as his harshest critics. They’ve pushed the president to act on the climate, gun safety, and student debt cancellation – and celebrated when he prioritized each of those issues. But they’ve also lamented the president’s inability to more successfully fight back against GOP-led abortion bans and opposed his decision to approve the Willow project.
Currently, the president’s approval rating is at 36% amongst young Americans ages 18-29, according to a new Harvard IOP youth poll out yesterday. That number dipped from 39% last fall and 41% last spring.
Young Americans have turned out at high rates the past three election cycles, and as the youth share of the electorate grows (~ 17 million young people will have turned 18 between the 2020 and 2024 election cycles and nearly 45% of the 2024 electorate will be members of Gen Z or millennials, according to an analysis of data by CNN’s Ronald Brownstein), their political power will become only more potent.
Now, as the 2024 cycle kicks into gear, beyond hoping the president continues to show up for and prioritize issues that matter to young people, organizers in the youth vote space are asking to be directly included in the reelection campaign – if not, the campaign could risk falling flat with a voting bloc that’s critical to the president’s chances at another electoral victory.
It appears that the president’s team is well aware of this reality and choosing to kick off the reelection campaign with an emphasis on young people.
Along with the president’s campaign relaunch today, Vice President Kamala Harris is holding a rally tonight at Howard University focused on reproductive freedom with Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List and the ACLU. Picking the Vice President’s alma mater, an HBCU nonetheless, as the venue and focusing on an issue so critical for young voters was certainly not an accident.
“Young people are navigating a world with fewer rights than the generations before them. Attacks on freedom are taking many forms — whether it’s reproductive freedom, freedom to cast a vote, or even freedom to learn history as it happened. But with every challenge to our ability to live freely, and each dangerous attempt to control their bodies, lives, and futures, the people have shown their own resolve time and again,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in a statement about tonight’s rally shared with The Up and Up.
All day, my inbox was full of statements from youth groups sharing their thoughts on the president’s reelection campaign launch. I also reached out to a few operatives to get their take.
Here’s what they had to say:
⏰ 9:01 am - Sunrise, United We Dream, March For Our Lives, and Gen Z for Change urge the president to run on a more progressive agenda with a letter titled, “Youth Orgs Letter to Biden: ‘A Bold, Progressive Platform Wins Our Votes’”
“Going into 2024, our youth coalition is deeply committed to defeating fascist, right-wing extremism and the eventual Republican presidential nominee. Young people are clear that the runaway extremism of abortion bans, threats to trans students, criminalization of immigrants, and the all out assault on our climate are existential threats to our generation and generations to come. But when bad decisions are made – like approving the Willow Project, denying asylum and citizenship for millions of immigrants, and settling for the status quo – it’s harder for us to get young people to the polls. That’s why we need you to listen and co-govern with us if we’re going to be able to mobilize the young voters we need to win,” the groups write in a letter, setting up their argument.
“With young people again poised to play a critical role deciding the next president, we urge you to lead with our generation’s values and policies at the forefront of your campaign and your next year in office. Despite popular belief, young people do not just vote for candidates based on age or even charisma. We vote on issues. That means the Democratic nominee must run on a platform that speaks to the needs of our generation, and have policy wins that energize young voters to get to the polls,” the groups said.
At the end of the letter, the groups cite the policies they’re looking for:
“If we’re going to excite one of the leading voting blocs for Democrats, we need you to deliver the bold ideas that our generation cannot live without – stop the climate crisis, fight for the rights and dignity of immigrants, impose real gun control – and run on a bold platform that will get our generation out to vote.”
⏰ 9:08 am - Alliance for Youth Action executive director Dakota Hall recognizes young people’s role in helping to elect Democrats in recent years and says: “As young people go, so goes the nation”
“As President Biden throws his hat in the ring, making him the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2024, we must acknowledge that young people have earned a seat at the table. President Biden’s presidential campaign must include Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Asian young people as a central pillar to its reelection efforts and strategy, putting real money and real resources towards mobilization of youth voters of color. And young people must not understate our impact,” Hall said in a statement.
“The administration understands this. That’s why last summer President Biden proposed up to $20,000 debt cancellation for students across the country. Albeit, we are still fighting for all our loans to be canceled,” he said.
Later in the statement, Hall said:
“Our Alliance for Youth Action network has been organizing young people across the country in battleground states like; Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin. These states will be crucial in 2024 and beyond. Within these communities, our grit and imaginations have led to tangible, real results. These wins do not operate in a vacuum and will surely be top of mind as young people go to the ballot in 2024.”
“We must boldly say – as young people go, so goes the nation. We look forward to pushing President Biden to center his campaign on the nation’s youth and future generations. If that priority comes to fruition, Democrats and young people will have plenty to celebrate in November 2024,” he said.
⏰ 12:30 pm - NextGen America president Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez says the president is “listening to our movement and delivering real policy solutions”
“Throughout his time in office, President Biden and his administration have been fierce advocates for young voters. From climate action, gun safety, student debt relief, LGBTQ+ rights, marijuana reform, and building an economy for everyone that taxes the rich their fair share, he is listening to our movement and delivering real policy solutions across the most important issues of our generation,” Ramirez said in a statement.
“As we turn to 2024, we look forward to continuing our work with President Biden and his administration and growing on our efforts to build a government that respects us, reflects us, and represents us,” she said.
⏰ 12:53pm - Eve Levenson, a youth organizer affiliated with Grassroots Dems HQ and Voters of Tomorrow, advocated for “empowering, partnering with, and hiring youth”
“This White House has proven themselves to be great partners to youth and the issues we care about most, but as the president said today there is more to do to finish the job,” Levenson said in a text.
Beyond her electoral work, Levenson’s a leader in the Youth in Gov coalition, which advocates for more youth representation in the federal government.
“Biden’s launch video today made it clear that his team understands the importance of the youth vote: from his acknowledgement of this being our generation’s moment to stand for democracy, to the issues he focused on (abortion, gun violence, jobs, climate, education), to including photos of youth activists in the images in the video, and even the format of the video being vertically oriented making viewing seamless for those on their phones. While youth favor democrats, campaigns cannot take anyone’s vote for granted. Investment in the youth vote must include on-campus and digital organizing, mobilizing students and young adults, and empowering, partnering with, and hiring youth who know best how to reach our peers,” she said.
⏰ 4:02pm - Annie Wu Henry, former social media producer for John Fetterman’s 2022 campaign (famously known for his TikToks), is “happy” the video “was shared in a vertical format,” and said “it’s clear that the Biden Harris campaign is caring about reaching young people and being online”
“I’m so happy that it was shared in vertical format. It was shared like people are going to be viewing it on their phone screens… It shows that they’re understanding not only where people are getting their information… but they’re making content for that. They’re not just being on those platforms, but they’re making the content for those platforms,” Wu Henry said about the president’s reelection campaign launch video in a voice note.
“The ‘Dark Brandon’ meme [on his campaign website] shows that they’ve been not only paying attention to the internet memes, but they’re down to have fun. There’s been so much of that missing in the political space… What we tried to do a lot with the Fetterman campaign, is show that obviously there are so many serious issues that we need to be serious and talk about, but there can be fun to be had and there can be fun to excite people,” Wu Henry said.
“For young people, I think that it’s clear that the Biden Harris campaign is caring about reaching young people and being online. They have a very robust digital program already and are showing that they want people also to be on their own online advocating and talking about the campaign and the election,” Wu Henry said.
In terms of what she hopes the campaign’s digital team will do moving forward, Wu Henry said:
“In terms of reaching young people with campaign information, there is going to be so much of a need for them to be using advocates, and that’s people doing things on their own, but using people that do have influence in their spaces and not just in the political space – the cooking influencer that might reach a bunch of stay at home dads or moms or working mom and dads… the people on TikTok who are talking about financial literacy and them being able to talk about what Biden’s agenda is for helping young people to be more financially stable… really being able to break down these issues and show young people why their votes and their participation and their power is important.”
⏰ 4:03pm - Jack Lobel, national press secretary for Voters of Tomorrow, said “the president understands the value of listening to and delivering for young people”
"Joe Biden gave Gen Z his word in 2020 that he would fight for us as president, and we showed up in historic numbers to send him to the White House. This time, President Biden has his word to give us and something even more substantial: a long list of accomplishments showing that he is following through on his promises to young Americans. We saw some of these during President Biden’s energetic video announcement today,” Lobel said in an email.
"If the administration’s agenda and outreach efforts are any indications, the president understands the value of listening to and delivering for young people. We are confident that the Biden campaign will prioritize engaging young voters online and on the ground in advance of 2024,” he wrote.
Voters of Tomorrow also posted on Instagram just moments after Biden announced his reelection campaign, applauding “just some of his accomplishments for Gen Z”: