The Daily Collegian - October 1, 2002
It's a seemingly impossible task: motivating the demographic with the smallest voter turnout to unite and form a successful third party.
But Cousin Sam is determined to do it.
He's known only by this pseudonym and has written a manifesto, Youth Quake, about a youth revolution on America's political system. Now Sam's committed to making his concept a reality.
CORRECTION: An article in The Daily Collegian yesterday incorrectly identified Kevin Talley’s title. He is the president of the College Libertarians.
Sam is combining his efforts with organizations like "Youth in Action" and "Reform America, Inc." to encourage young people to get more involved in the government.
The objective is to create a political party, tentatively being called Party Y, to represent people under the age of 30 and the issues important to them.
"It's a good idea because the past few years we've seen young people very disillusioned by the political arena," said Benjamin Quinto, director of Global Youth Action Network.
"Young people don't think their vote counts for anything," said Tom Bryer, executive director of Reform America, Inc.
By bringing media attention to issues important to younger generations, the creators of Party Y hope to motivate youth to get more involved in the political process.
"Ultimately what will stand out about the party will not be their age, but the issues the party is addressing," Quinto said.
According to the marketing proposal for Party Y, once the party is created, the first priority will be to sign up young people as members of the party. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 29 is eligible for membership, but only registered voters will be allowed to take part in the 100 percent democratic in-party voting process. This in-party vote is crucial to the party, since it is how the platform and representatives of the party will be determined.
Although they think it is worthwhile to try to motivate young Americans to get involved in the political process, some students and faculty at Penn State doubt that the party will have staying power.
"Unless it's a very general platform, it'll be very hard for everyone to agree with it," said Frank Baumgartner, head of the political science department.
He said a student-interest group or forum would be a more effective way of getting young people involved in the government.
Even people in the age range of Party Y have reservations about the concept of a youth party.
"It's certainly an interesting concept," said Sean Misko, president of the Penn State political science association. "It's very unusual for a political party to be centered around a certain demographic."
David Meyers, associate professor of political science, said, "If it gets more people involved, great." He said he didn't think any country has ever had a youth-based party that has gone very far or been successful.
"Young people don't all think the same," he added. "What would be a youth position on terrorism?"
Creators of Party Y intend to bring media attention to issues important to youth, such as juvenile justice and drug and alcohol abuse. One way in which they plan to do this is to create a reality TV show to audition potential candidates.
"The TV show is not the focus of the campaign; it's merely a strategy," Quinto said.
It's a way of reaching millions of people, since the youngest voting demographic is a hard target, he said.
"The media attention might create an interesting effect," Misko said.
Kevin Talley, director of government relations for Penn State's College Libertarians, thinks the idea of a TV show is "too commercial." He said voter registration is the first step to increasing youth participation in government.
Another argument against the concept of a youth party is the lack of success third parties have had in the past.
"I think it would take an earth-shattering event for a third party to be really successful," Misko said.
However, even if a youth party will not last long, the movement may still affect the government.
"Just because [third parties] aren't successful doesn't mean they don't make an impact," Talley said.
Bryer said he is aware that a youth party may not last long, but does not want their platforms to be swallowed up by other parties. He said he wished it would be easier for any third party to succeed.
Although the party is "still in relative infancy," Bryer said, the party's masterminds hope to have candidates in the congressional election of 2004