Social Activist Erica Williams: There’s Power in the Youth Vote

Progress 2050

Social activist and deputy director for Progress 2050 Erica Williams encourages young voters to turn out and explains why midterm elections are especially important this time around.

How can youths get more involved in politics? I’d definitely say pay more attention. Young people naturally think about issues, we just tend not to associate them with politics. I can’t think of a young person now who doesn’t complain about the economy or feels the pain of having to move back in with their parents after graduating college. It’s really tough out for here us and the one way to get involved is to pay more attention.

What else can young voters do besides pay more attention? Join a political activist group, a non- profit, or even start a blog. Our generation is so unique in how different it is to be a activist in today’s age. Activism doesn’t look the same way as it did during our parent’s generation. In those days you had to rally, boycott or protest to be an activist. Today you can make your voice heard through social networks, blogs and voting. There are a lot of citizens who brush off midterm elections, especially youth.

Why is it so critical to vote? Midterm elections are really critical to making sure that the agenda you voted for in 2008 can actually happen. For all the young voters who were excited by Obama, this is where it all counts. If you want to see Congress and your local officials positioned in a way to support that agenda then you have to vote.

A few years ago when Obama was running he had almost a guaranteed youth vote, is that still the case? I think to an extent he still does. Polling still shows that President Obama has overwhelming support from young voters. I think young people especially loved him so much in 2008 was for two main reasons. Number one, they liked his policies pertaining to education, health care, jobs, etc. The second reason is that he engaged us.

Political campaigns with the exception of President Obama’s rarely target young voters, why is that? It’s an interesting cycle. Officials always look at who they’re going to target. In their mind they think older people are going to vote more so that’s who they target. The irony of that cycle that so many officials don’t get is that anytime you speak to and engage an audience no matter who they are, they’ll show up. We learned that with the president -- if you talk to me and show me you care, I’ll show up.

When it comes to politics, what’s the one thing you wish this generation would realize? I wish the generation now would realize how much actual power we do have. Not only when we show up to vote, but also in our daily life. We’re progressive, more tolerant, and more diverse than past generations. All of that shows how much power we have to change this country and turn it into something we’ve never seen before.

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