Discover more from The Up and Up
The White House leans into youth vote priorities
It seems to be youth vote week at the White House, where announcements of the American Climate Corps and a gun violence prevention office mark two big wins for young advocates.
For years, young leaders have filled city streets and flooded social media feeds with calls for climate action and gun safety. Those same leaders organized voter registration drives, text banks, phone banks, and knocked on doors (and dorm rooms), calling on young people to make their voices heard at the ballot box, leading to high youth voter turnout in 2018, 2020, and 2022.
And now this week, vocal youth organizers — who supported President Joe Biden in 2020 but have pressed the president (since even before his inauguration) to lean further into issues top of mind for young people, namely climate action and gun safety — erupted in cheers when the president announced his administration would establish an American Climate Corps and create a White House office of gun violence prevention.
Climate action and gun safety have been key issues for young people since the start of the Biden administration, with 23% of 18-29-year-olds listing climate change and 19% listing gun violence prevention as one of their top three concerns in the 2022 midterm elections, according to data from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts (CIRCLE).
While a number of young people and youth groups have rallied around these two priority issues, progressive youth climate organization Sunrise Movement has been a key motivator on the issue of climate action and the idea of building a civilian climate corps.
“After years of demonstrating and fighting for a Climate Corps, we turned a generational rallying cry into a real jobs program that will put a new generation to work stopping the climate crisis,” Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement Wednesday after the president’s climate corps announcement.
Meanwhile, youth-led gun safety prevention organization March For Our Lives, along with groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, Brady, Newtown Action Alliance, Giffords, Community Justice Action Fund, and more, have vivaciously advocated for further action on gun safety in response to pervasive gun violence across the country.
The new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris, who has quietly conducted listening sessions with young Americans to gauge the issues most important to them, and this month, launched a public facing college campus tour to engage and communicate directly with young constituents.
Today, the first Gen Z member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost, who worked as the national organizing director for March For Our Lives before running for office himself, stood with Biden and Harris in the White House Rose Garden for the announcement of the gun violence prevention office. He later took the mic to talk about his work in the gun safety movement.
“As the youngest member of the United States Congress and first member of Gen Z, I’m often asked what got me involved in this work and the answer’s quite simple,” Frost said. “I didn’t want to get shot in school.”
Frost described waking up to the issue of gun violence after the tragic Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, an experience held by many others in our generation, and said that like millions of other young people, he felt “anxiety and fear” in its aftermath.
“We are a winning movement doing very difficult work because the brutal truth is usually when the most people are paying attention to our movement it’s usually coupled with carnage and death. But not today. Today the country sees us here at the White House with a president who is taking action,” Frost said about the new White House office of gun violence prevention.
Frost’s remarks come as young advocates across the country celebrate the administration’s move.
“Feels nice to see something you’ve been working with so many survivors and advocates on for years finally become a reality,” March For Our Lives co-founder David Hogg said this week in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Beyond those affiliated with climate and gun safety organizations, youth vote organizers are pointing to the presidents actions this week as receipts that elections bring about results.
“In 2020, Biden's plan for a Climate Corps was my *favorite* thing to talk about with students. It felt urgent, necessary, and hopeful. It symbolized Biden's commitment to the climate and Gen-Z,” Teddy Landis, a youth vote organizer who in 2020 was a campus organizer for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said on X.
Taylor Swift’s Impact on Voter Registration
As I reported Tuesday, Taylor Swift took to Instagram encouraging her 272 million followers to register to vote, posting, “I’ve been so lucky to see so many of you guys at my US shows recently. I’ve heard you raise your voices, and I know how powerful they are. Make sure you’re ready to use them in our elections this year!” with a link to Vote.org.
According to Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey, Swift’s impact on voter registration was seismic and Vote.org saw record breaking site visits that day, The Washington Post reports.
On X, Hailey posted stats from National Voter Registration day, demonstrating a big uptick in registrations from 18-year-olds from 2022: “The youth are mobilizing! 115% increase of 18yo registrants compared to 2022.”
“Wanna know something even more wild? We see an 849% increase here compared to 2021. 849%! This generation’s eagerness to participate is a game changer. They are the future, and their energy will shape the outcomes of upcoming elections,” Hailey posted.
Youth vote in the news 🗞
Op-ed: Young Voters Are Frustrated. They’re Staying Engaged ‘Out of Sheer Self-Defense.’ Charles M. Blow for The New York Times
NC politics still a tough play for millennials and Gen Z, Grace Vitaglione for Carolina Public Press
Harris makes political, personal connection with students on college tour, Sabrina Rodriguez for The Washington Post