As President Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address tonight, we thought it would be appropriate to do something similar for our own chapter. So here it is: our very first State of the Manhattan Young Democrats (SOTMYD)!
Before we get into how things have been going for our chapter (pretty awesome), let’s pause to examine how things have been going for America’s youth (downright ****ty):
- Youth unemployment remains sky-high (some say as high as 37%), with 1 out of 8 college grads “boomeranging” to live at home with the parentals for extended periods of time.
- Healthcare reform notwithstanding, a full third of Americans aged 18-29 don’t have healthcare coverage.
- The political system continues to underrepresent young people. We vote less than older cohorts and our representatives themselves are also older — the average age of a member of Congress is 60.
And this most devastating of all: 47% of young American voters do not believe they’ll be better off than their parents’ generation.
The story these numbers tell is staggering. Young Americans are getting left behind to an unprecedented degree in this country. And even more unbearably, hardly anyone is talking about it. (If you want to read up on just how screwed the younger generation is, try giving Generation Debt a read. It sobered me up pretty quick.)
But against this backdrop of crisis (there is no other word for it), young people are coming together, forging new friendships, organizing themselves, and having an impact. Perhaps its the uncertainty of our futures and the realities we face today that make us look for that community. Or maybe we look at some of the abject failures of the older generation and realize that age does not necessarily confer wisdom — and it’s up to us to contribute our ideas and passion to make a difference, right now.
I like to think that’s this is story of MYD. We’re not waiting for someone to give us permission to organize ourselves and take action — we’re just going out and doing it.
We’ve grown so much and come so far in a very short period of time, thanks to the hard work and commitment of our membership and leadership. Over the last couple years, we’ve facilitated thousands of New Yorkers sending letters to their State Senators in support of marriage equality (newyorkequality.com) and run over 80 young people for county committee through the Open Seat Project. We landed our first TV appearance on CBS for our [prison jumpsuited, sushi-serving] protest against then-State Senator Pedro Espada Jr in Mamaroneck (our t-shirts were a big hit across the NY blogosphere, too). We turned three red State Senate seats blue. We mourned the death of the W train and spun-off a non-profit, the wildly ambitious and technologically awesome White Roof Project, dedicated to painting the roofs of our city with solar-reflective white paint to alleviate the heat island effect and combat climate change.
Along the way, we’ve built relationships with some fantastic elected officials, too. We celebrated the passage of the big f***ing healthcare deal with Rep. Anthony Weiner, we BBQed with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, we Earth Day-ed with Councilman Dan Garodnick, we honored Speaker Christine Quinn, we holiday-ed with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, we dined with Borough President Scott Stringer… the list goes on!
We also won Chapter of the Year from Young Democrats of America (our national parent organization) twice in a row. (Not to mention we’re getting media coverage far beyond the borders of New York).
It’s clear we’ve hit upon something very special here at MYD. We’re Young. We’re Progressive. And we continuously ask: Now What? The defining characteristic of our chapter is the need to _do something_, to move beyond discussion to taking action in support of our ideals. Our playbook ranges from traditional field organizing to social and new media to policy development to community service. We’re quick learners and hard workers, but we also know that it’s impossible to expand the circle of young people involved in civic engagement if we don’t keep things fun. Ours is a club that knows the beer will taste that much better after painting a roof or knocking on doors.
2011 is going to be another exciting year. Here’re some of the things on the docket:
- Run — and this time, win — a campaign to pass marriage equality in New York state through our new LGBT Issues Committee
- Build out a Women’s Issues Committee, with a strong emphasis on getting more young women plugged into politics and running for office
- Run Open Seat Project 2.0 and get more young people plugged in to our party at the local level
- Train the members of our issue committees to organize around and lobby for the MYD policy platform
- Ensure New Yorkers get the quality of governance they deserve by standing behind ethics and campaign finance reform through the work of our Good Government Task Force
In 2011, we’ll build on our recent successes and deepen our chapter’s organizing capacity and political clout to champion the issues that are important to us. From a longer-term view, this will position us in a strong place as we head into the critical 2012 election cycle — and I continue to believe that the day is not too far off when one of our own will decide to run for elected office.
Our chapter is proof that even a relatively small group of young people can have a measurable impact on local and state politics. So to all of the young New Yorkers out there who may be harboring that sense that things just need to get better or our generation is totally screwed: join us for a drink. We’re here to listen and commiserate about the state of our borough, city, state, country, and globe — and then we’ll go out together and do something about it.
[PS: Take our 2011 Kick-off survey to give us input on the direction of MYD this year!]