MHP   |  October 27, 2012

Candidates race to motivate Millennials

Matt Segal of Our Time and Felicia Wong of the Roosevelt Institute join Melissa Harris-Perry to talk about the power and influence of Millennials - Americans ages 18-30 who make up 29% of the electorate.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> on' election day , 17 million 18 to 22-year-olds will be eligible to first for the first time. they're part of what's known as the millennials, americans between 18 and 30 who can make a real difference because they are 29% of the electorate. an estimated 64 million young people are eligible to vote in this election. this is up from 48 million in 2008 . we dug up this nbc news nightly clip from july 5th , 1971 . that's the day that younger voters became a permanent part of the process .

>> the 26th amendment to the constitution which gives the vote in all elections to 18, 19 and 20-year-olds was ratified on wednesday night.

>> i sense that we can have confidence that america 's new voters, america 's young generation would provide what america needs, a spirit of moral courage , a spirit of high idealism in which we believe in the american dream , but at which we realize that the american dream can never be fulfilled until every american has an equal chance to fulfill it in his own life.

>> 36 years later in 2008 , young men and women voted in record numbers and chose senator obama by a margin of 34 points. their efforts helped to make him president obama . now that president obama is running for a second term, will young voters show up? will they choose him again. will they become permanent voters with a sense of stake and purpose or will they stay at home and leave the governing to the grownups. still with me, once again ben & jerry 's ben cohen and political comment state tore valerie kore and matt segal of and felicia wong, president and ceo of the roosevelt institute. obviously young voters are as diverse a group as older voters, in many ways more diverse. but there was something you had to say that young voters are looking for in 2012 , what is it?

>> it's interesting to see the lead-in with president nixon to say the words " moral courage ."

>> that was the ushering of young people in and the collapse of the idea that moral courage was part of our politics.

>> my biggest frustration with this campaign is this is a race about president obama . it's not here is what i'm going to do in my second term, i'm going to put every young person to worker is ving their country by massively expanding americorps. or i'm going to get every kid free community college so they can take a ticket to social upward mobility . by the way, if there's obstructionists, i'll print the names of the senators obstructing everything so every young person would call them.

>> on the one hand, i love that. would love to hear that. i also know why the president doesn't say i'm about to engage in a massive spending program.

>> but at the same time there's a difference between spending in investment -- excuse me -- smart investment and wasteful expenditure. look at the money we spend on people on unemployment insurance . look at the money we spend on social welfare programs, on food stamps , prison costs. if their investment -- we put in money to a company. it grows. people earn wealth. everyone wins. in the public sector we're spending $7 on seniors on the out put and $1 on the input.

>> valley, matt is making an argument about something he just never heard. i can hear the gop commercial that would happen. yet i like this point about high ideals and you wrote, valerie , in your piece for cnn right after the president's lackluster performance in the first campaign. you wrote among my own millennial friends, we never discuss health care without grappling with women's rights, we can't build a moral economy or health care system without considering the major social challenges of our time. domestic extremism, climate change and none of these was mentioned in the debate. is this lack of high idealism?

>> yes. every week i spin on a new college campus . last week at the university of michigan . i went to the university of michigan , there's a snap shop of millennials, kids having fun. they're selling t-shirts. these are -- this is just a couple days after the debate. these are young people trying to figure out their lives. they're paying attention, still paying attention. we want leaders who are connected with issues we care about. what we saw in our political discourse this election season is that too often our candidates missed opportunities to talk about our staggering student debt, the environment, the dignity of immigrants, civil liberties , we see these issues as deeply bound up in one another, and unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on who you are, governor romney with his 47% comment, would go and borrow money from your parents has done a worse job in showing how out of touch he is with this generation.

>> what i feel we're hearing, in 2012 . you're with the roosevelt institute which is taking young people like this, training them for exactly this kind of integrated big thinking. is there any way to make that penetrate our presidential process?

>> i think their absolutely is. i think everybody is right here, that young people are motivated by values. they are motivated by high ideals, and we see that at the roosevelt campus network . we have 10,000 students on 100 campuses across the country. we know what we need to do with them is to reinvent the way they are going to engage in the political process. so what our young people really want to do, of course they want to vote. of course they want to register. what they also want to do is engage in their own communities. this is both a values driven generation but also a practical generation. they want solutions they can invent, that they can bring into their communities, whether it's improving food distribution , improving green energy . these are things they're able to do themselves. that is a mode of millennial set of engagement that really can work. i think we can see that throughout the presidential.

>> matt?

>> felicia 's reference to local communities highlights the die cot ma dichotomy. volunteerism you get an immediate efficacy, you see a smiling kid when you're done tutoring them. when you vote in this country, there's no immediate perceived effect. one of the biggest barriers that politician haves to make the case to my generation about is the fact that sloeting is more than a historic right and necessity. it's something as to how resources and investments are allocated. when we talk later about education, higher education is often the first thing on the menu to cut in many states because young people don't vote in as great a number. that needs to be clearer and more boldly stated by the candidates.

>> it's an interesting point. if i'm tutoring at the neighborhood school, i get the instant gratification. if i vote for a candidate, the candidate is a messy sort of things. it also feels to me, ben, part of what that distinction is between charity and justice. charity feels good but justice takes a long time. i hate to do the, oh, young people need to cultivate patience thing, but it does feel a little like that sense.

>> look at our culture. we have the high speed internet , fast food . meanwhile you have a gridlocked congress where very little, if not anything is getting done. i think this was the least productive congress ever.

>> on purpose.

>> reconciling those two forces at odds is difficult for those people.

>> we'll come right back to you, valerie and felicia . when we come back, young voters out there, if you're listening, president obama really does have a message specifically for you. that's next. [ male announcer