Youth defend democracy at the ballot box and in the streets
Courtesy of CPUSA

“Political correctness has run amuck on college campuses,” according to Ben Shapiro, a 34-year-old pro-Trump commentator who recently condemned the anti-fascist rallies held at universities across the nation over the last four years. These actions, organized by students themselves, have often prevented the public promotion of racist and transphobic doctrines by alt-right speakers.

But the action stretched far beyond the campus. The numbers are in, and after four years of Donald Trump’s racist, extreme right, anti-science rhetoric, it’s clear that the youth have stood up in protest and in defense of democracy, both in the streets and at the ballot box.

Young voters nationwide supported Biden-Harris by 62% compared to 35% for Trump, according to the New York Times, even though in some states the majority of youth still went for Trump.

In some battleground swing states, the research center CIRCLE indicates, youth votes may have made the difference that enabled Democrats to carry the win by a small margin. For example, in Georgia, 21% of Biden-Harris votes came from young Georgians. They supported Biden-Harris over Trump by 18 percentage points, providing a 187,000 votes lead in the youth demographic.

The Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE movements were as important as the pandemic in motivating many young Black and brown voters. Racism was the most important issue for 35% of young voters, notching out the pandemic, which ranked as the top priority for 34%, according to CIRCLE’s analysis. Young Black voters supported Biden-Harris by a larger margin than Trump both in Georgia (nearly 90%) and nationwide (estimated at 86%).

NextGen, a grassroots voter registration campaign that was particularly active in the southwest, focused on getting all eligible young voters out to vote, including the more than 800,000 young Latinos who had turned 18 since the last presidential election.

Youth vote re-energized

Looking back to the primaries at the beginning of the year, note was made by many that the youth vote was down. This, of course, was before most of the COVID-related lockdowns across the country were implemented. Youth were expected to turn out in the millions for Bernie Sanders, but voter suppression took its toll, and the stakes did not seem as high at the time as they did a few weeks ago for the general election.

Few in February and March understood the severity of the pandemic or how long it would last. Even fewer anticipated how catastrophically Trump and the GOP would fail in their COVID-19 response. Young people weren’t expecting to get sent home from their college campuses to do online classes, nor were they expecting to be fired from their part-time or full-time jobs as a result of the economic crisis which followed.

But in late May, a wave of protests and mass demonstrations began as the Black Lives Matter movement responded to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This national anti-racist uprising continued throughout the summer. It sparked youth involvement in the democratic process by means of huge protests, sit-ins, and occupations of public property, including City Hall in New York City.

Over the summer the “Defund the Police” slogan of the BLM movement paralleled the “Abolish ICE” slogan that Latino youth in the Southwest pushed forward in their resistance to immigrant families being separated at the border and ultimately deported.

Young Communists swing into action

Courtesy of CPUSA

School started back up at the end of the summer—this time online or with a hybrid at-home/at-school schedule, and young people remained mobilized. During the first eight months of the pandemic, the Young Communist League, the Communist Party USA’s youth branch, consolidated chapters across the country in the states of Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, New York, and Connecticut.

In these states, the YCL initiated mass recruitment campaigns that went hand-in-hand with voter registration efforts, mutual aid to feed and provide PPE to those in need, canvassing, and phone-banking. Communist banners were in the lead at four BLM protests over the summer.

The YCL in Ohio led the “Vote for Tamir” campaign with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice. Tamir, a 12-year-old Black child, was shot by police in Cleveland in 2014. He would have been eligible to vote for the first time in this election. In New York, the YCL took part in canvassing field trips to Pennsylvania with other allies.

It all came together on Election Day. In response to mass unemployment, interrupted school schedules, canceled graduations, and an international uprising against racist police violence, the youth of this country turned out stronger than ever to defeat Trump and the extreme right danger he represented.

There is no basis for the explanation that the much higher youth participation in November compared to the primaries is due to Biden having more appeal for young people than Sanders did.

Bernie’s message of canceling student debt, a Green New Deal, universal healthcare, free tuition, defunding the police, and cutting the military budget remains a point of unity for millions of young people across this country. The youth want an alternative to the two parties, neither of which they feel represent them.

The youth must remain mobilized and organized in this next period, starting with preventing Trump’s coup. It’s important to remember that even with a Democratic majority in Congress and a Biden presidency, it’s really up to a movement of young workers and students to push this administration to carry out the program that inspired this youth upsurge.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article represents the opinions of its author.


Maicol David Lynch
Maicol David Lynch

Maicol David Lynch is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA and an activist and organizer in Working America and Indivisible, the national grassroots movement. He writes from New York City and is most passionate about the struggles against imperialism in Latin America and the fight against xenophobia in immigrant communities in the USA.