By Joe Trippi
msnbc.com
updated 11/2/2004 12:36:05 PM ET 2004-11-02T17:36:05

The question the pundits have been asking these last few days is whether or not those between 18 and 29 years of age show up at the polls today.  Journalists have come to call these potential voters the “wild card” in today’s election.

What will happen today has been obvious from the first days of Howard Dean’s campaign for President.  Generation E—the empowered generation, has been more involved in the 2004 campaign from the start than any  other group of Americans.  And they have been more active as they have attained voting age than any generation in decades.

The signs have been all around us, but still the experts seem to want to deny the obvious.  They created and carried a no-name, no chance candidacy to front-runner status for the Democratic nomination.  Generation E was largely responsible for raising Howard Dean more money than any Democrat in history, and they campaigned their hearts out by the hundreds of thousands across the country.  When Dean’s candidacy failed through no fault of their own, they stayed active and involved, putting their energy and feeling of empowerment to change the country behind the candidacy of John Kerry where they largely were responsible for raising the $80 million that Kerry garnered from Internet contributions.  Arguably, they kept John Kerry financially competitive with George Bush who raised $10 million on the Internet.

I have traveled to college and high school campuses, and yes, to working-class neighborhoods where too many are still not making it to campuses of higher education. I have never, in 30 years of politics, witnessed such energy among those under 30. You have to be politically blind not to see it.   

When online polls showed millions of Americans declaring John Kerry the winner of each debate, the pundits declared that the online polls were not scientific.  Indeed they were right.  But they were looking at the wrong thing.  Instead looking at the online poll result and declaring it unscientific, they should have looked at the energy of mostly young people participating in the political process by the millions and declared it “real.”

What has been amazing this year is the creativity of Generation E’s members to spur and engage more of its generation to become involved and make a difference.

The poets and organizers of “Declare Yourself” speak to their own generation in words and have done more than most and have gotten little credit for the message they have carried since the Dean campaign ended. Rock the Vote has been working to light this match for years and helped to make it happen in 2004.

Sites like Votervirgin.com and JibJab.com are just two examples of the creativity that successfully engaged Generation E, along with a bunch of aging boomers like me.

On the wall outside this building I am writing from at Democracy Plaza, there hangs a quote from Margaret Mead;

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Today another generation of Americans— perhaps the first in decades— goes to the polls believing they can change the world.  

Regardless of the candidate of their choice, and regardless of that candidate’s victory or loss, they are changing our nation’s politics—for the better.   Thank you all for doing that.

Comments? E-mail JTrippi@MSNBC.com

Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, is an MSNBC contributor and a political analyst for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."

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