John Powers ‘26 is a prospective Public Policy major who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
Dramatic campaign ad music begins as the camera focuses on Democratic Representative Elaine Luria, the congresswoman currently representing district the College of William and Mary is in. “Republicans in Congress want to force their values on you” she says, “whether it’s abortion or even contraception, extreme Republicans think they know what’s best for you. I disagree”.
This doesn’t win.
We are in the homestretch of a rollercoaster of a midterm election season. Just a month ago, it looked as if Democrats could defy historical trends. But a different reality has emerged: Republicans will almost certainly win the House and have an excellent shot at flipping the Senate.
Campaigning on abortion and Jan. 6th only gets you so far. With economic worries topping the list of voter concerns this November, Democrats could do some smart damage control by forming a coherent economic rebuttal targeted at young people in the final days of this campaign.
Their current strategy is falling flat. The anger after the Dobbs decision is fading and only recently have they made a strong pivot to kitchen table issues.
Yes, Republicans may not be serious about solving inflation. And President Biden may not be fully responsible for it, but these Democratic arguments have come too late and are weak in the face of inescapable political headwinds.
So who should they turn to in the last week of the midterms? Young people.
Tufts University has released rankings that show the youth vote can be significant in the most hotly contested races across the country, which includes, (you guessed it), Elaine Luria’s house race.
While young people are on track to match their turnout in the 2018 midterms, they consistently lag behind other age groups and have less faith in the political system and the Democratic party more broadly, making for a rather unpredictable outcome.
What’s more, voter outreach to young people often neglects college students.
Young people generally favor Democrats, who can make the case that they are best equipped to serve their economic interests. With a crazy housing market scaring them out of buying a house and fears of job prospects, there’s more than enough to run on.
In other words, Republicans are not the only ones who could make a strong pitch on the economy.
Democrats can argue that they are tackling these issues with the Inflation Reduction Act, which is providing pathways to good jobs. They could argue that they need more Democrat votes in the senate to pass a $15 minimum wage.
Instead of running away from the issue of higher education, they could have an honest conversation about the skyrocketing costs of college.
Democrats have presented voters with a mildly uncompelling message thus far, and now in the final week of the campaign, have resorted to the middle to find swing votes. That’s why we see vague ads about freedom from Elaine Luria.
It is not going to work. As polarization heightens, swing voters are becoming more sparse. Democrats boiling their campaigns to nothing instead of offering something is an inadequate strategy.
What could turn a bloodbath into a more respectable loss is making a good faith appeal to the next generation of American leaders who face so many challenges and could be helped by Democrats. Democrats could key into a useful demographic instead of resigning themselves to defeat.
So as Congresswoman Luria closes her campaign, she should think about the concerns of a TWAMP, or any young/college-age person too. She just might win.