The Washington Post’s Philip Bump recently interviewed a 14-year-old who’s likely more versed in politics than 99% of the adult population. His name is Gabe Fleisher, and he’s the Editor-in-Chief of Wake Up to Politics.
During his tete-a-tete with Bump, the young Fleisher (no relation to Ari, by the way) made two key points about youth and politics that bear repeating.
First, the teenage politico noted that technology is the field on which political battles will be fought and won going forward, and to underestimate the youth who understand that tech is a mistake:
“…teenagers just understand a different world than adults do, and perhaps understand the world to come more than adults can. Because the members of my generation can use emerging technology so much more effectively than adults can…We have the ability to connect with peers around the world at a speed that most people our senior couldn’t dream of…
The next wars will be fought by hackers. The next global movement will start online. The next leaders will rise to power on social media.”
Technology plays a massive role in how politicians connect to youth audiences. It was not for nothing that President Obama was interviewed by three of YouTube’s most famous personalities earlier this year. A “Saturday Night Live” cameo just doesn’t cut it anymore.
When Newt Gingrich announced his presidential candidacy via Twitter in 2011, it was a novelty. But just four years later, nearly all presidential candidates are active social media users. Donald Trump has practically trademarked his Twitter blasts.
On this point, Fleisher is on the money.
Next, Fleisher scorched the “stinging rhetoric” he believes is partially responsible for youth disengagement:
“…many young Americans are turned off by the current political climate. The members of my generation who are not interested in politics now, but could become engaged later, only see the stinging rhetoric both parties use against each other.
I hope my generation is the one to increase voter turnout, but I think the only way it will happen is an air of respect and cordial debate returns to our political system — and I’m not naive enough to think that’s happening any time soon.”
Fleisher does concede that politics is a “blood sport,” dating back to the nation’s founding. However, he adds:
“When you have two parties so often unwilling to even talk to each other, it leads to a breakdown in the system and distrust of all politicians by the people.”
Again, a very astute perspective.
According to a recent Pew poll, only 19% of Americans trust the government “always or most of the time,” and 74% believe politicians put their own interests before those of the country.
In the end, this wunderkind seems to have a good head on his shoulders, telling Bump:
“More people need to ensure that they are informed on issues and candidates so they are making the best choices for themselves and the country, and so our democracy can function as it was intended to.”
Read the entire interview here.
By: FRANK CAMP