You Hired Barack Obama; Now It’s Time to Manage Him

Addendum! One final entry for the Youth Media Blog-a-Thon on “regime change.

PrimaryHCLogo_web.jpgIf there was any question about young people’s power to change the world, the 2008 presidential election answered it. Beyond the fact that 66% of young voters (18-29) voted for Obama, the real impact was on the primaries. Obama consistently outpaced Hillary Clinton among the younger age groups. When you consider the razor-thin margin by which he won, you can state with certainty that if it wasn’t for young voters, there would have been a Clinton vs. McCain general election. “Yes We Can” is only true because so many young voters can say “Yes We Did.”

For a nonpartisan organization like HeadCount (, the actual outcome of the election is not our concern. But the facts are the facts, and it can’t be ignored that the very demographic we targeted for voter registration are the ones who skewed strongest toward the candidate who won. It means our work really does have political impact, and that young people really have become a key voting bloc.

We registered 105,697 voters last year. There is still great confusion
out there over how and where to register to vote. We counter that
directly by going to concerts with a team of trained volunteers who
literally put voter registration forms in people’s hands and guide them
through the process. We set up voter registration tables at concerts
more than 1,000 times (1,024 to be exact) in 2008, constituting the
largest event-based voter registration campaign in the U.S.  Our
volunteers usually get to see a concert for free, but their motivation
goes well beyond that. Each feels they are truly on the front lines in
the fight for democracy, and actively creating political power within
their peer group.
HeadCount is unique among voter registration
groups in that we don’t just target a “demographic,” meaning a group
defined by age or race or both, but also a “psychographic,” a group
defined by its tastes and tendencies. Our psychographic is music fans.
We work with musicians like Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson and Pearl Jam
to reach young people who attend live music events and are passionate
about what sits on their I-pods. By tapping into one passion, we hope
to create another – a passion for making a difference in the world.
what’s next? Now that the election is over, is our work done? Heck no!
Voting is just the first step. In a democracy, voting is the most
basic, broadest way to participate. But there are so many other ways to
make your voice heard and make a difference. This year we’ll stage a
campaign to help music fans “Vote with their Actions” by writing
letters to their Congressional reps, or by joining volunteer projects
in their own neighborhoods. We’ll also encourage people to “Vote with
their Choices,” by spending their dollars and living their lives in
ways that reflect their personal values.

It all comes down to a
simple idea: be active. Whether it’s voting with your ballot, your
actions or your choices, the power is with you. The 2008 election
proved that young people really can chart a course for the entire
world.  A new president is not an end. It’s a beginning. We have the
power to hold President Obama and all elected officials accountable.
They work for us. Now it’s time for some hands-on management.

-Andy Bernstein, Executive Director HeadCount

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