T-minus 26 days until West Virginia holds its Very Special Primary. Candidates are most likely targeting “most likely” voters, meaning West Virginia residents who have voted in the past two midterm elections. They’ve most likely polled and know the issues and messages that work with this group, and that’s what they’re banking on. Good strategy, right? You’re most likely wrong.
“Most likely” voters just may not be the “most likely” people to punch the hole next to your name on the ballot. Why not? What can you, as a candidate, do to improve the quality of life for someone’s grandmother in the nursing home? How much can your efforts improve our statewide and/or national economy that my 87 year-old Grandpa will live to see? Why would my parents vote for you if you’re most likely going to continue increasing our national debt which my generation, and those after me, will be paying off? What proactive approach are you taking to the future of coal and energy in West Virginia so tomorrow’s generations of mountain state residents have good paying jobs?
Reality check: You, most likely, cannot do anything to significantly improve the quality of life for my grandparents, and probably not my parents. Campaigning to them via :60 TV spots is great, sending direct mail to my Uncle Ed is wonderful, my Dad will listen to your radio spot while he’s busy wiring a house, but in the end, you’re missing the number one group you need to be targeting: my generation.
“Have you heard of [Candidate X?] What do you think about him/her?” are the words my Grandpa asks me every election cycle. If I wasn’t so into politics, I wouldn’t know who at least 75% of the candidates running for office are. Why not? Because candidates and campaigns seem to forget that my generation exists. No, we typically don’t vote, but that’s only because you candidates most likely forgot to engage us. How can I know who you are unless you target campaign efforts to where I am most often? And where is that you might ask? Online.
My grandparents and parents are not selfish people, they’re pragmatic, realistic, forward-thinking individuals who are concerned about the well-being of those they will one day leave behind. They want to cast their vote for someone who will strive to build a more solid foundation for my generation and those after mine. So when I don’t know who you are or why you’re running for office, my Grandpa most likely won’t vote for you.
You most likely don’t understand us, and we most likely won’t have the same perspective, the same needs, or even the same values as so-called most likely voters, but believe me, my generation would love to be more involved in local, statewide, and national politics. And we’re getting more involved, with or without you.
According to Ryan White and T.J. Meadows, “Generation Charleston, a group whose mission is to attract and retain young talent in the Charleston area, firmly believes that the involvement of young leaders in politics is integral to the future success of our state and nation. ...Young leaders can and will bring new energy to a political landscape that has become increasingly partisan and can help create an environment of cooperation that seems to be rarer with each issue being discussed,” (read more in @wvgazette: http://bit.ly/946TGh).
I thought a certain soon-to-be Senator understood this when he talked about organizing the “Governor’s Council of Young Professionals” in his 2010 State of the State speech, (http://www.wvgov.org/sec.aspx?id=118). It seems older generations of politicians like to talk about involving the youth and setting the stage for a solid tomorrow, but when you don’t take time to ask us what we want, why we want it, and how we would go about getting it, your words will soon fall on deaf ears. And when our grandparents and parents ask us what we think, we “most likely” won’t know you and all three generations will be “most likely” to vote for someone else.