Measuring the Millennials’ Ups and Downs

It’s still the most popular show on television, but “American Idol” has seen its ratings plummet this season.

While a record number of Idolators texted or phoned in their votes in last night’s epic David-off — the season finale contest between finalists David Archuleta and David Cook — recent viewer surveys showed a decline in ratings.

Compare that to the extraordinary surge in voter participation in the 2008 presidential primaries. The number of first-time voters and newly registered voters, especially among young people, is unprecedented. According to an Associated Press survey conducted this month, more than 3.5 million new voters have registered to take part in the presidential primaries. Registration is up among African Americans, women, and both rural and city dwellers.

OK. I know that those of us who advocate more democratic participation and less couch-potatoism until recently could only dream about voter turnout approaching the 97.5 million people who cared enough to cast a ballot for one of the singing Davids.

But this year’s presidential race has gotten kids — and a lot of adults — turned on to the electoral process for real.

Given the ugly history of voter suppression during the Bush administration — a White House-led strategy that culminated in the Attorneygate scandal — it is incumbent upon progressives to be vigilant in defense of voter rights in this season of political awakening.

After all, in late April the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, despite the fact that it has dire implications for poor, minority, and elderly voters being disenfranchised when they can’t produce the requisite documentation at the polling place.

Such voter ID laws are the bitter fruit of the Bush Justice Department’s orchestrated scare campaign about “voter fraud” — although there are virtually no proven cases anywhere in the country.

If ever there was a compelling case for why voting matters, a hard look at the Supreme Court that produced the 6-3 vote should do the trick.

Who needs to watch “Idol” when you can put down the remote and help to change the course of history?

Alice Chasan served as editor and associate publisher of Shelterforce from 2007 to 2008.


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