We often hear about the importance of the youth vote. If all voters under the age of 30 turned out to vote in the 2020 elections, they would be the largest single voting block in the country - representing almost 40% of the voting population.
But what about the young Americans who will be under 18 in November 2020? Unable to use their vote to voice their opinions, their priorities, and their demands of our political leaders regarding the issues that face us all now, and that will continue to face them in the future, what is the platform for their voices to be heard? Activists like David Hogg (#MarchForOurLives) and Greta Thunberg (#FridaysForFuture) have already shown us the power of young voices. They have used the urgency of the moment to create awareness of and to motivate adults to take action on the issues that matter most to them.
We are lucky to have a young activist here in France, Caroline Wagner, who reached out to DA France to get more involved and to create her platform as a young American living abroad.
Here are some of her thoughts, in her own words...
Young voices matter. Kids and teenagers are passionate about the problems that they see, yet that passion quickly fizzles when they realize they’re being ignored. When young people are talked over, they’re – we’re – taught that our voices and our problems do not matter. People say, “think of the children,” but we are being forced to think for ourselves. We are faced with problems that we did not cause but that we must now encounter and solve.
People my age are faced with so much. But we need to think of these problems not as “young people’s problems” but as human problems – because that’s what they are.
I know a shooting survivor.
I know a gay girl who can’t tell her dad who she is, or she’ll be kicked out of the house, whose girlfriend won’t be seen in public with her, who had rocks thrown at her for being gay, and then was told by her school, “You probably deserved it.”
I know a girl whose self-esteem is in tatters. She desperately needs help, but she won’t reach out to someone who can actually help her because of the stigma surrounding mental health.
I know a girl who cuts herself because she has no control over her life or the world that she lives in.
I know a girl who watches protests in fear instead of joining in because she thinks her voice matters so little that the danger outweighs the necessity.
I live in a world with sky-high emissions which could and should have been addressed decades ago.
These are not “young people’s” problems. They are universal problems.
If you tell kids they don’t matter, they will believe it. If you don’t listen to kids, they will not speak. I am lucky that the adults in my life believe in me. I am lucky that my teachers show me what I can do, tell me how I can get involved, believe in my voice. My story could easily have been one like my friends’. This is what I was saying LAST MAY:
“I hate this feeling of ‘something must be done’ but I can’t do anything.”
“My voice is quiet at best, so what I say won’t change anything, and there’s something inside me that says, ‘Hey, that assignment you’ve been putting off for days is really more important,’ and ‘There’s so much to do; is writing a letter to the editor really the best use of my time?’”
“I want to make a difference. I want to be that person who calls politicians. But who’s going to listen to me? I’m 16, I’ve never lived in the US, I’m not informed enough, and I can’t become informed enough.”
This is what I am saying NOW: There’s a presidential election coming up. I will be too young to vote in it as will most of my friends. But we still have needs, problems, ideas, and the desire to help. The problems we have aren’t being put on hold until we’re old enough to deal with them. They’re hitting us now. Legislation could be passed, actions could be taken, our problems could be solved. But we are being ignored.
So, I come to you with a request: Listen to the young people. Make room for us at the table. We care, we want to help, to make a difference. Let us. Don’t quash our voices. Amplify them. Either do your jobs as adults and fix these problems for us, or provide us with a platform to fix them ourselves.
About the author: Caroline Wagner in 17. She was born in France, where she lived for eight years, then lived in Shanghai for eight years, and has recently moved back to France. She has been home-schooled for the past seven years. In the 2022 mid-term elections, she will vote in the state of Pennsylvania.
We welcome the engagement of young Americans in our activities, whether they are current or future voters. The DA France Youth Caucus is the voice of young Dems in France. If you (or someone you know) would like to know more about their activities, you can contact the caucus leaders at [email protected]. To know more about their upcoming events, you can also visit their Facebook page.
"On Our Mind" is a blog series of topics that are not necessarily in the press as BREAKING NEWS. There is enough of that, in our humble opinion.
The articles or explainers address the issues that may fly under the radar, but are important to American elections and to the issues that our members care about. We try to be informative, forward-looking, positive and action-oriented. There are links provided if you would like to dig more deeply into the subject. And, we always try to offer an action or activity...so please read through to the end of each article.
We reach out to experts wherever possible. And, we welcome contributions from our members.
We welcome your comments. If you would like to contribute to the blog series, please contact us at [email protected]!
Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month, whose roots go back to 1968, begins each year on September 15th, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Whatever the current political climate and the desire to build huge walls, immigration has always played an important role in the history of the United States. And Latinos in particular are not becoming Americans like the immigrants who came before them... They have always been neighbours and share a long history with the U.S.
Until recently, Hispanic Americans were the fastest growing minority group in the United States, accounting for over half (54%) of the overall population growth in the US since 2000. By 2035, Latinos will represent 35% of the U.S. population.Read more
Fifty Years of Pride
June 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a flashpoint in Gay Rights activism that took place in Greenwich Village, New York City. What happened in the early hours of June 28th at the Stonewall Inn and the days that followed were by no means a stand-alone event - but rather the culmination of years of efforts by an LGBTQ community seeking equality in the 1950’s and 60’s and inspiration for generations to come.
“The events at Stonewall inspired a new generation of LGBTQ people to become involved in politics personally and passionately, transforming the United States and the world. In many of the popular narratives of Stonewall this is what gets left out. We are given Stonewall as the start of LGBTQ politics and then Marriage Equality as its end, leaving out the decades of grassroots political activism that made these transformations possible, as well as the many struggles that continue today — and the work that may be further inspired by the memories of Stonewall, as preserved in LGBTQ archives and the birth of the Gay Pride movement around the world.” 50 Years After Stonewall... (Time Magazine, April 30, 2019)Read more
"If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
Abraham Lincoln, August 1862
Although Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it did not impact slaves in Texas for more than 2 years. In a way it was just a piece of paper with no real substance, no promises or assistance.Read more
Democratic Primary Debates
In just under three weeks, the Democratic Party will officially start down the long road of selecting our candidate for the 2020 presidential election.
There has been much attention given to the number of candidates (twenty-four) who have announced that they are running to be the Democratic nominee. While campaigning is well-underway, the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debates - organised by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) - have yet to begin.
From the candidates’ point of view, being on or off the debate stage will determine if they can break out of the large pack of candidates. From the voters’ point of view, the debates are our opportunity to hear the candidates explain their policy positions and to see them discuss head to head the issues that we care about.Read more
Photo by Toni Reed
June 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a flashpoint in Gay Rights activism in that took place in Greenwich Village, New York City. What happened in the early hours of June 28th at the Stonewall Inn and the days that followed were by no means a stand-alone event, but the culmination of years of efforts by an LGBTQIA+ community seeking equality in the 1950’s and 60’s and inspiration for generations to come.
At a time when LGBTQIA+ rights are under attack in the United States and around the world, the Pride Parades are a way to celebrate these communities and to take a stand for equality, visibility and inclusion.Read more
Photo by Valentino Funghi
Memorial Day: Remember and Honor
Often conflated with Veterans Day, which pays tribute to military veterans every November 11th, Memorial Day is the day we honor the women and men who died while serving in the US Armed Forces in all wars. This year Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 27th.
There are some things that Gold Star families want you to know this Memorial Day. From the Military Times,
"In today's world, some think Memorial Day is solely dedicated to the fallen from decades-old wars...'Freedom is not free,' and in our post 9/11 world, personal freedoms can't be taken for granted. All currently serving military personnel contribute in some way to protecting our freedoms; some pay dearly. Memorial Day is for honouring those who have recently died, too."
Naturally, the commemoration of the 75thanniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy on June 6th will dominate military tributes this year. But you may want to pay your respects in advance of that by participating in one of the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremonies being held on May 26th by Democrats Abroad France - Paris, Riviera, and Strasbourg chapters. Other Memorial Day events hosted by DA France are noted below.*
If getting to the nearest American cemetery isn’t convenient, you can also pay your respects with a bit of silence - a national moment of remembrance that takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time (CET) every year on Memorial Day.
The origins of Memorial Day, initially called Decoration Day, date back to the Civil War - where the custom of decorating the graves of lost soldiers began. Its date (formally May 30th although always recognized at the end of May) was chosen expressly because it wasn’t associated with a specific battle. It became an official holiday in 1971.
Progress takes time...
* Democrats Abroad France chapters will hold 75th anniversary events on June 2nd in Normandy and June 1st and 2nd in Toulouse. On June 6th, Democrats Abroad France will join in the commemoration at the American Cemetery in Normandy. If you are in Brittany, there is a Memorial Day cocktail on May 29th.
Spotlight on Virginia
You may be wondering why we have Virginia on our mind. Well, 2019 is a pivotal year for Virginia state politics, as the results of their state elections could have a big impact on our national politics:
➡️ “The most critical battlefields for Democrats in 2019 and 2020 lie not in a handful of statewide races but at the ground level in the state legislatures, where control of one or both chambers will determine the shape of future congressional districts.” DemsList
➡️ In Virginia, Republicans hold a slim majority in the State Senate (21-19) and the State House (51-49). This means that Democrats need to flip just two seats in each chamber to take control of the legislature.
Not so fun fact: Democrats lost control of the VA House of Delegates in the 2018 election by a single vote-- the deciding seat was tied and Republicans won it on a COIN TOSS! If the Democrats had one more voter in that final district the delegate would have gone blue and we'd have had a legislative majority today.
What’s more: this year there are regularly scheduled elections in Virginia where the entire legislature is up for election:
Primaries are on June 12th. So, if you are a Virginia voter, don’t wait! Your registration must be received by May 20th to vote in the primaries! (Click here for Vote From Abroad deadlines and registration information.)
So what’s at stake?
2021 US Population Census and Redistricting- The population census will be taken in 2020, and from that the 2021 redistricting, or redrawing, of the electoral district map in each state will take place. The majority of redistricting plans will be drawn by state legislatures, with many subject to final approval by the state's Governor. (Pssst…VA’s governor is a Democrat!)
Equal Rights Amendment (i.e., ERA)- Most Americans assume that women have equal rights under the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, that is not true. ERA ratification would change that. Only one more state needs to pass the ERA Resolution to have the 38 states needed for ratification. Since 2011, the Virginia Senate has passed the ERA resolution 6 times, but the Virginia House has killed it in subcommittee. It will be introduced again in 2020.
Do you vote in Virginia?*
Remember, the entire Virginia House and Senate are up for election this fall. The DLCC (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee) has a spotlight on the state elections in Virginia. You can find out more about those candidates here.
Go to our Vote From Abroad website to register and request your absentee ballot!
*Don’t leave your vote on the table: Overseas voters who indicate they "intend to return" may vote in VA state elections. In addition, VA overseas voters who indicate their "return is uncertain" may vote in VA state elections if they provide the name of an overseas employer for either the voter or the voter's spouse or the voter's parent (if the voter is a dependent).
Note: When you fill in your ballot request form, be aware that selecting “I intend to return” rather than “my return is uncertain” may contribute towards establishing yourself as a tax resident in your voting state. Because the legal requirements to establish "residence" or "domicile" for tax purposes are determined by state law and the specific facts of your life, before you note that you intend to return on your form you may consider seeking advice on these matters from your tax professional.
Innovation in Activism
Innovation: a word that’s bandied about a lot these days, from cars to coffee. But innovation in activism? Bah, oui!
As an American, being away from home in political times like these can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is low risk of unwittingly running into someone wearing a MAGA hat. On the other, it can sometimes feel a bit…disempowering to be so far away from the center of activity.
All the more reason to get involved in activism from abroad through your Democrats Abroad France Chapter, or through other international and local organizations.Read more