Brooke Wilson

Youth Recall Candidates

youth candidatesPolitical apathy is the greatest enemy of any democracy. Forget notions of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, the non-voter is the only enemy of a true democracy. Consider the fact that in some developing nations of South America, voter turnout rates can hover around 80-90% of the eligible population. Our country hasn't seen those kinds of numbers since the 1800s.

Now Californians -- a notoriously separate class of Americans -- are attempting to start a political revolution in the form of the 2003 Recall Election of our fair governor Gray Davis. Despite suspicions of a vast right wing conspiracy (spearheaded by Darryl Issa, taken over by Arnold "The Terminator" Schwarzenegger) to lay claim to the governor's office, there is a bright side to this three-ring circus. It is now hard to find anyone without an opinion about it. Take for example, a friend of mine who has never voted in his life because he just doesn't care and would rather fill his mind with visions of SUVs, designer labels, and shopping at the mall -- even he has an opinion. Admittedly he's not planning to vote on October 7th, but at least now he cares!

America's youth are notorious for their disdain of political participation, but that may be changing. The fading memory of the presidential heist of 2000, the reality of old high school friends being sent abroad to kill and be killed, and the current California recall election have added a sense of drama to the political landscape that is hard to ignore. No half-baked MTV version of Wuthering Heights can compare to this scene.

Say what you will about youth and political apathy, but in addition to the frenzy of actors, vote spliters, and porn mongers who are running for California governor, there is the under-30 contingent. Yes, that's right, youth are not just starting to pay attention to politics, we are also trying to muscle our way in.

At a recent debate held on the UC Berkeley campus, three youth gubernatorial candidates came together to debate the issues and schuck and jive for a vote to be thrown their way.

Presenting candidates for the office of Governor of California: Georgy Russell (Democrat), Brooke Adams (Independent), and Jason Gastrich (Write-in Republican). Fresh young blood for the political machine, and just as Tom, Peter, Cruz, and Arnold are fighting tooth and nail for your vote, so are these 20-somethings.

What exactly, you may wonder, are these candidates bringing to the table?

First of all, before you go and start getting all refreshed about youth representation in politics, lets make it clear that though under 30, these folks are still politicians. But if there's one thing you can say about these candidates, it's that unlike their older counterparts, they know how to behave themselves. And, also unlike their older counterparts, they are honest.

In the case of Georgy Russell -- who gained press early on in the race for selling "Georgy for Governor" thongs on her website -- that meant voicing her opinions on every subject without the reservations shown by candidates such as Cruz Bustamante or Arianna Huffington, who no matter what their true feelings are, err on the side of inclusiveness.

To hear Russell's support of the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage was riveting not because they were new opinions, but because I had never heard a politician (besides Peter Camejo) say those things aloud with such finality. There's no hedging allowed in the Russell campaign. Unbridled, passionate honesty. It's quite a concept. Clearly she won't last long in this field.

Jason Gastrich took this idea to new levels. I fear that I could not paraphrase Jason justly. So here in his own words, ladies and gentlemen, is your next governor:

Jason on Indian Gaming: "I don't support Indian gaming. I think we should love the Indians and help them do something smart and intelligent with their land and their time."

Jason on Prop 54: "It's okay if a Chinese restaurant wants to employ all Chinese people. I always wonder if they're cooking the food right when they're not all Chinese.

Jason on gay marriage: "The point of having an open mind is to close it on something solid."

Jason on immigrants: "I love the immigrants."

And I'm sure the immigrants love Jason. Perhaps in this political environment Jason should set his sights elsewhere…like the Presidency.

If there is one candidate who will survive the political swamps it's Brooke Adams. Brooke wants to cut back on programs and services the state can't afford. Brooke supports smaller government and personal responsibility. With the polished style of elected officials three times her age, I know Brooke has potential because I came away from the debate entirely unsure of her stance on anything.

In the larger sense we should be excited to see young people involved and passionate about the future of this flowering democracy where only a third of all eligible voters showed up at the polls in 1998. However, in the realistic sense the one thing easy to recognize in this foggy swamp is that all of this talk of youth candidates and youth platforms cleverly disguises the fact that these young politicians walk in the footsteps of their prehistoric predecessors. After all, "youth platform" is too often code for "I too, vow to keep kids off drugs." It's all the same talk, it's just coming out of lips still ripe without the help of collagen.

As for candidates with a chance of winning in this election, their only strategy for garnering youth votes seems to be: appeal to the parents of youth. Perhaps they took a cue from Britney Spears, pop tart icon, who said that she votes however her parents tell her to. If this approximates the feelings of the majority of this undefined generation, then Cruz and Arnold should keep campaigning around tax cuts for the people who actually vote.

But like I said earlier, the Recall Election is making youth sit up and take notice. So if politicians actually want to do something besides set themselves up for a presidential run in 2008, I suggest they appeal to 20-somethings who are seeing friends shipped off to Iraq, school tuitions rising, and more money being spent on the war on drugs than on education.

Brooke Wilson is a student at San Francisco State University and a former intern at Youth Radio.
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