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27 November 2000


I have started this letter at 6 A.M., Thursday 23 November 2000, awaiting sunrise on the first Thanksgiving of the 21st century. We are in the middle of an historic peeling open of the structure of the United States from the citizen skin back down through its executive, legislative and judicial underpinnings to determine who will be its next President. And today, Monday the 27th, it is still not entirely resolved.

Yes it seems a mess for all of us. Yet I urge all of you not to turn away but rather to celebrate this rare opportunity to observe and participate in raw democracy in action. From the debates, to the Florida and pending US Supreme Court involvement, this is an amazing time. If it doesn't hold your attention, pressure the media to cover the news as YOU want to see it. And come on... Court TV has its followers. Surely debates about the ascension to the "Leader of the Free World" will capture your interest!

And when it gets nasty, learn and ponder the merits of electoral system reform. For those of you who first voted, think about how perfect a moment this is to know that your one vote really... really.... made a difference! For the rest of us, a dramatic example of the vitality of a right so often taken for granted.

For those new to this newsletter, I am the author of a new book, TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, an in-your-face issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. We need to recognize that engagement is integral to our democracy and that soon-to-be and new voters - citizens and residents of the United States already - definitely have the voice, the power, the intelligence, the sense of justice, the passion and energy to give us the benefit of their participation right now! This newsletter and my website, are intended to provide an update on current issues and events affecting our entire population as we work - and it is hard work - to reengage us all in a strong democracy.


A. The Election, of course!

B. Election readings.

C. What's Next - Civic Engagement.

D. Instant Engagement.




1. The vote count: "Half of the country for Gov. Bush and half of the country for Vice-President Gore". But is that really true? Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate estimates that approximately 51% of the voting age population (VAP) voted in this election. 51% is a positive in that it is 2 points higher than the '96 election but the '96 election results were among the lowest in generations.

Where was the OTHER half of the country? How complacent can we be with a mandate throughout all of our elections that was accorded by only 25% of the voting populace?

And what about the youth vote? Without any specifics yet, there remains a question as to whether the 18-29 vote totals rose over the 36% participation in the '96 election.

2. Candidates did not consider the widespread and nationally important concerns of youth. Going to what was felt the strongest constituency, candidates talked about the issues of the aged and of their own boomer generation. That these positions affect youth is without question but where were the pressing issues - college opportunity, crime, good education and job opportunities - that your large generation wanted to hear addressed?

3. The overbearing presence of media in terms of polls and early election day calls. There no longer remains doubt that how the media approaches a subject sways and narrows our views. When debates among candidates do not feature all candidates and all views are not heard, we should be making our voices heard in protest.

4. The obscene amount of money spent on elections and how it is spent has become the controlling factor in the success or failure of most ballot concerns.

5. The damage, if any, to the process as we question the legitimacy of the presidential selection process these past few weeks.


1. Voter involvement was definitely up, if not still to the standards we would want. Take a look at the November 12 NY Times summary of exit polls and hard data, "Who Voted: A Portrait of American Politics, 1976-2000" (Formal information from the Census Bureau will not be available for at least a year).

2. A record number of women were elected to or continued in office this year including at least a. 13 (10 Democrats and 3 Republicans ) in the U.S. Senate beginning in 2001.

b. The House of Representatives added seven additional women to make the total now 59 plus the non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. c. Five women governors plus Sila Calderon, governor of Puerto Rico. Data available from The Center for American Women and Politics.

3. The rising impact of the various citizen constituencies. With almost 1/5 of the vote going to people of color, we are truly becoming a nation for all of our voices.

a. I attended the Southwest Voter Registration Project/">Southwest Voter Registration Projectx luncheon in San Antonio on the 17th of November and was so impressed by their research in the growing impact of the Latino vote. The Latino vote increased over 4% over l996, asserting their solid force with 7% of the total US vote. Check out the Southwest Voter Registration Project - the for reports on their successful campaign for Latino Voter registratio and the The Willie C. Velásquez Institute's excellent research on Latino Voter trends.

b. African American voters cast 10% of the total vote. In many key states, the African American share of the actual vote from l996 to 2000 increased strongly. National Coalition on Black Voter Participation.

c. In Washington State, active efforts from previously disregarded groups, in this case environmental and Native American, were impactful in the senatorial race.

d. Good sites for election results based upon exit polls (although these numbers are considered only indicative with CNN using only 13,000+ voters in the sample conducted by the notorious Voter News Service) are

Youth Vote 2000 , for youth turnout and support in Presidential elections from 2000 back through l980. Initial estimates are that about 38% of all "youth" (18-29 year olds) voted, However these numbers are not yet confirmed.

Youth were l7% of the total vote this year with

48% Gore

46% Bush


1% Buchanan

Full election results can be seen on CNN.

For a historical perspective From Youth Vote 2000 (based upon Voter News Service polling):


1996: 18-29 year olds were 17% of the vote.

Estimates are that about 36% of all 18-29 year olds voted.

53% Clinton 34% Dole 10% Perot [source: Voter News Service, US Census]

1992: 18-29 year olds were 21% of the vote.

45% Clinton 34% Bush 21% Perot [source: Voter News Service]

1988: 18-29 year olds were 20% of the vote.

52% Bush 47% Dukakis [source: exit polling]

1984: 59% Reagan 40% Mondale [source: exit polling] 1980: 44% Carter 43% Reagan 11% Anderson [source: exit polling]

4. Ah .. presidential election reform. Well, it keeps on going and clearly needs change. Yet how often do you hear that other countries would have suffered internal collapse, riots or other tearing processes? Ours has not and the strength of our systems is being proven.

Messy, complicated, uneven, but it does work.


1. The defining issues for youth may not have been heard but with the infinitesimal separation of public opinion in the presidential through local elections, there will be increased interest in adding to the vote counts of all parties. THIS IS YOUTH'S MOMENT.

2. For those of you not eligible yet to vote:

a. If you were 16 by early Fall, your voice will be significant in the 2002 congressional elections, if not before. It is not too early to start considering potential candidates and getting your issues heard and worked on now.

b. If you were 14 by early Fall, then presidential concerns in 2004 are something you will have a formal part of while the congressional campaigns of 2002 and other local and state issues before are those you can definitely work on, as can any of you who may still not be able to vote in any of these elections.

3. The opportunity for serious discussions about electoral system reform is now, whether in individual states or national.

a. If you still don't know enough about the Electoral College, check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and/or some good website discussions including my own article at and the websites given in my fourth newsletter. Even I am amazed at how prescient I was (no ego here!) when I posed the question in TPP about how Americans would feel with electoral college issues when they had mostly forgotten it existed and were used to presidential races resolved the day after the election! Do you know that there have been over 700 challenges to the Electoral College since its establishment? b. Check out (The Center for Voting and Democracy) for its varying workable electoral systems. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- B. A FEW READINGS FOR DISCUSSION ON THE ABOVE: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. "Political (De)Generation: MTV And America's Youth Vote " Lauren Sandler, (October 27, 2000) About the vicious cycle of youth involvement in politics and the apathy created by politicians not addressing youth issues. Someone must break this and I am counting on youth. 2. The Thursday, November 16th, New York Times article about the history of ballot design: DESIGN NOTEBOOK; "The Ballot Weighed, And Wanting" By Phil Patton. Find it at your library (The Living Arts section) or available for purchase online ($2.50) at the New York Times site at Go to Archives and type in the article's title. 3. On the subject of the NY Times, check out their new political discussion list from "across a quality network, including,,, International Herald Tribune,,,,, and" . Go to the main NYTimes page and become a subscriber (it's free) to go to Abuzz. 4. David S. Broder's column in the Washington Post this past week, "A Cloud Over Thanksgiving", --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- C. WHAT'S NEXT? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. POLITICAL INTERCHANGE: a. Except for the presidential and some local and state offices, the election is pretty much wrapped up. What does that mean for us? A beginning. All of you who complained so mightily about the campaign rhetoric now need to see if even those promises are going to be carried out and whether they will work for all of us. Whether creating projects in school, performing service learning, as simply protecting your and your family's own interest, stay involved. If we want our voice heard, then this is even more the time as we can have direct contact with our representatives. Back to squeaky wheel politics... the way to get things done. b. What can we do? (1). In addition to the many suggestions in TEEN POWER POLITICS and on, get connected to others who are working as the watchdogs and creators of reform. Work with the representatives. Volunteer in their community offices. Start letter and other communication contact and send them ideas about how they can solve problems in your neighborhood, school or world. (2). Ensure that your school newspaper/website and local and national media watch the representatives in view of your concerns. Yes, campaign politics limits them to soundbites on only a few issues but they are there for ALL of the issues of their constituency and it is up to you - the constituency - to ensure that they are informed and active for you. But we must be vocal and tell them what we want. From school boards to upper classmen, to the President, your voice can be heard. And whether or not you think that "adults" will hear you, you must make them. If politicians do not work for you, they cannot count on your support when they go for reelection or new office. It's just that simple. (3). Think about future campaigns and what we should require that we know about the proposition or candidate. (4) Educate yourself further about campaign and election reform from voting procedures, recounting, and campaign finance reform to large-scale system reform. Two sites to start you off: - working for campaign finance reform and strong ethics reforms laws, protecting the civil rights of all citizens and making government more open and accountable., "What the 2000 Election Means for Clean Money Campaign Reform, Early Thoughts" (November 12, 2000). 2. THINK ABOUT YOUR ISSUES - POLITICAL, RECREATIONAL, SOCIAL. a. I was a participant in this summer's Shadow Conventions, alternatives to the formal Republican and Democratic Conventions. The key issues were campaign finance reform, poverty and the war on drugs. The site, is still up and contains speeches and videos that I recommend to all of you. b. Something to think about is Andrea Petersen's article, "It's Not Big Brother Invading Kid's Privacy, It's Mom and Dad," in the Monday, November 6 Wall Street Journal Monday (only available online if you subscribe, but certainly in the libraries). We are still discussing this article here, a thoroughly chilling summary of the new electronic devices available, including those that instantly track a teen's spending, mini-cams on cell phones to monitor at-home activity, Dick Tracy-global positioning devices on cell phones and handhelds; and door, motion sensors and minicams in homes that can be monitored by parents from afar. Ostensibly marketed for "security" and "safety", business is invading the privacy of us all, starting purportedly with those "without power", teens and their younger siblings who can't vote. What can you do about this? c. I agree with Arianna Huffington that polls are strangling this country. That said, we must review what is being said to combat the slanted data (only a small percentage polled and who are they among many other issues). A recent Gallup Poll: ( "Americans More Skeptical of Young People Today Than They Were 50 Years Ago": " The general skepticism about young people persists across every demographic group in the recent survey. In fact, even the youngest adults surveyed express negativity about the common sense of today¹s young people. Among 18-29 year olds, 59% say that young people do not have as much common sense as previous generations. Comparatively, 71% of 30-49 year olds and 64% of those over age 50 say they believe the same thing." Prove them wrong. It's easy to do. (1). I spent the week after the election speaking with students at Jackson Hole High School in Jackson, Wyoming. Stories abound of trips to the UN for human rights activities, election work with the League of Women Voters and issues from school administration to hate crime legislation for the State of Wyoming. An active student body with real issues just like most of you, I left assured that our country is going to continue to be in good hands. I particularly loved that several of the high school students are regular contributors to the Jackson Hole newspapers. (2). From Wiretap Magazine (; online issue sites; the video communities of at (although their real player still doesn't work with MAC systems) and more video at AntEye (; to the various youth magazines found throughout the net, there exist a wealth of ways to connect to youth like you around the country, find out how they are approaching similar concerns and share your experiences. (3). This newsletter is also one of them and I look forward to any activism stories or information any of you would like to send me that I can disseminate to others here. 3. WHAT ELSE TO DO: a. From Jackson Hole, I traveled to the National Conference on Social Studies in San Antonio, Texas, where I heard concerned activist educators in the Task Force on Civic Education delving into tough questions and ideas about how to make us all aware of what is happening in our country and how we are involved, "civic engagement". Whether you are a young or not, a student, teacher or a parent, participate in this new revitalization of our democracy and the way that we learn about it by taking the Task Force's important survey questionnaire at b. Check out media watchdog information: (1) the Freedom Forum, FAIR and other media watchdog sites to determine how the sources for information that we use can better serve us. (2) C-Span broadcast a fascinating program, " Media Coverage of the 2000 Presidential Campaign", November 13 (ID: 160482 - 11/13/2000) moderated by Marvin Kalb, executive director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and including many of our most qualified journalists. It is available for purchase ($45.00) at . (3) Brills Content's proposal and forum discussions of "Five Simple Reforms" to self-police election reporting at ( (4) The Shorenstein Center (, including a NYTimes opinion piece "The Faulty Process of Campaigning" at --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- D. INSTANT ENGAGEMENT --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Now I know you all want to spend all of your time for change... but you can't. School, work and all that other stuff get in the way. Here are a few sites for instant engagement. Like most efforts (and votes), the numbers add up. 1. The adbusters campaigns site at We're right in the middle of Buy Nothing Week. Check out the easy banners and activities to show how using your economic power can make a difference in the balance of individual Vs corporate interests. 2. TechRocks works to help nonprofits run online campaigns. Check out the recent work of their emediacy group at and join their postcard activism in the areas of forest preservation; cleaner, greener cars and genetic engineering in food concerns. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, TPP was written as a guide and a tool for activism. If ever that tool was needed, it is now. Again, please let me know of a concern or activity you would like me to tell others about. And send this on to others and suggest that they e-mail me if they would like to be added to this list (or if they wish to be removed). Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list. Sara Jane Boyers TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD A Millbrook Press/Twenty-First Century Book ISBN: 0-7613-1391-5, paper $9.95/ISBN 0-7613-1307-9 hardcover, $25.90 LIFE DOESN'T FRIGHTEN ME Stewart, Tabori & Chang A Publisher's Weekly "Best Book" of the Year, NYPL "Best Books for Teens", ALA "Book for Reluctant Readers", AIGA "50 Best Designed Books" O BEAUTIFUL FOR SPACIOUS SKIES Chronicle Books (c) 2000 Sara Jane Boyers