Wednesday, September 19

Targeting the student vote


Targeting the student vote

By James Thomas Snyder

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

"I got a guy who’s always late/ whenever we got a date," singer
Laurel Burgo crooned. "But I love him."

Burgo was part of The Royal Trio, a blues band of "Reservoir
Dogs" cast extra look-alikes who strummed out moody chords before
Kathleen Brown’s 11 a.m. appearance at Santa Monica College
yesterday.

Brown arrived around 11:20 a.m.

Talk about a metaphor for politics in the 1990s. But Brown’s
"Voter Registration Rally" taught a lesson in the vital and
exploitable role of younger voters in modern politics.

For on the face of it, Brown visited SMC to meet the next
generation and to "get out the vote," always a worthy cause in a
country whose voting rate topped out just under 55 percent in the
1992 general election. But beneath, the campaign stop struck a
politically shrewd note, a chance to recruit a potentially powerful
demographic in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

It is known as The Spin ­ how a candidate shapes his or her
message to the mold of the target audience so that he or she sounds
just like them. Brown did not lose The Spin, and she played right
into her targeted audience. She pulled out a "Top 10" list.

"With apologies to David Letterman, I have a ‘Top 10 List of Why
Wilson Needs To Go.’ Number 10: He thinks the ‘Motor Voter’ bill is
a heavy metal rock band." Brown said, referring to a law opposed by
Wilson that combines voter and driver’s license registration.

The top-10 list motor voter remark illustrated something more
than open pandering to an audience. The crack produced a sharp
example of just how crucial young voters are to the gubernatorial
candidates.

For example, young voters tend to vote Democratic. The 1992
Clinton campaign was not lost to this, as it heavily recruited
college students and advocated a motor voter bill that former
President George Bush also opposed.

Behind in public opinion polls, the Brown campaign sees the
swing vote of their dreams in the young, collegiate audience. Even
the choice of Santa Monica College resulted from political
calculations.

Brown’s campaign claims community colleges have lost almost
130,000 students as a result of Wilson’s policies, while Cal State
campuses have lost 43,000. Community college fees have jumped
nearly 300 percent, while University of California fees have only
doubled. Far more people, that is, voters, study at community
colleges than on the Cal State and UC campuses.

To add the personal touch, Brown told her SMC audience that she,
like many of them, was a "non-traditional student who took seven
and a half years to complete (her) degree" and went to night school
for her law degree at age 40.

Wilson realizes the power of this young Democratic demographic,
now angry about the squeeze that has tightened during his
leadership. Wilson opposed the Motor Voter bill and recently vetoed
the Student Voting Rights Act, which would have set up polling
stations on campuses. Had the law gone into effect, it would have
become more convenient for more young Democrats to vote him out of
office.

This isn’t to say Brown rises above reproach for advocating
students’ priorities. Both Wilson and Brown exploit immigration.
Brown’s five-part plan for economic recovery unveiled yesterday
devotes a whole chapter to illegal immigration. That is,
anti-illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration is a no-lose, almost non-partisan issue. The
voters find it enormously important. So Brown addresses the issue
very prominently to maintain her political viability.

But The Spin wobbled at SMC yesterday as Brown faced a crowd
that not only chanted "No re-Pete! No re-Pete!" but also hoisted
signs protesting Proposition 187, the controversial anti-illegal
immigration initiative.

Standing in front of her target demographic, the hip band and
top-10 list couldn’t help her from stepping on the feet of her
supporters over the contentious immigration issue.

Brown had to do a political two-step to avoid riling her natural
allies. She said she supports "tough anti-illegal immigration laws"
while opposing Proposition 187.

Burgo and the blues band played on.

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