This is part of a series of podcast interviews dedicated to finding out how Americans feel about their country and the upcoming election. 

On Friday afternoon I spoke to Rebecca Pinn, who is the secretary of ‘Young Democrats of America’. Which is the youth branch of the Democratic National Party and works to elect Democrats in elections across America. As well as focussing on increasing turnout and engagement with politics amongst younger people. 

You can listen to our interview here on the ‘US Election with Erik Green’ Podcast.

The main takeaways

  1. “I am noticing the same excitement as I did in 2008”

Rebecca is seeing significant excitement amongst particularly young Americans, not just towards making Joe Biden President but also concerning the Senate election.

“What’s really fascinating about this election is there’s a phrase in American politics that Republicans fall in line and Democrats fall in love – we need to love the candidate to vote for them. And this is one of the rare elections where I think this has flipped. I’m not saying that Democrats are just blindly voting down the line, but I think people realize how much is at stake, the direction that the Republican party has taken this country is scary and horrifying” 

“Young people are organizing ‘March For Our Lives’ leading the gun control movement and leading a sunrise movement. I’ve never seen anything like it. And it’s incredibly exciting”

What has been the cause of all this increased excitement? 

“I think the issues matter I imagine 16/17-year-olds learning about horrific things in history class and all of a sudden you see horrific things happening in the present. But also you can engage more. Politics for a long time felt like a very weird game to get involved in. Social media has made a huge difference. Offering young people the ability to organize, Facebook groups to get together and find likeminded people from across the country. Politics is about relationships. It’s about knowing people. I think young people, the reason they’re able to get more engaged and able to connect way more quickly, they’re able to organize faster”

2. The Democrats are more united than in 2016 when some Sanders supporters refused to back Hilary Clinton against Trump

“I don’t think that will happen again. Clinton was a very polarizing candidate. Joe Biden is very different. Biden has not had a 30-year smear campaign against him. He’s a very well-liked and beloved politician. Kamala Harris makes it a very different ticket.I remember being very depressed from Trump winning and then I saw one of Harris’ speeches when she won, and it was incredibly exciting. It was amazing. And she’s been very progressive in the Senate”

Has Trump’s Presidency united the left?

“We have seen how democracy is very precious and it needs to be taken care of. And the horrific direction that people want to take this country. 

Has he changed the Democratic Party?

“It’s made us Democrats realize that we need to step up. That there’s a lot we’re fighting against. For a lot of young people it’s seeing that there’s a status quo that was existing, that’s not okay. And they’re turning to the Democratic Party and saying how are we going to fix this? And so the Democratic Party is realizing they have this responsibility of we’re now seeing all these horrific things ranging from, things we already knew existed, but whether it’s police shootings, systemic racism, huge income inequality, the Republican party is not going to fix it. And that’s the hole that [we] need to fill, the role that [Democrats need to] play”

3. Joe Biden means more than the ‘not Trump’ option

“There is some want for normality it’s been exhausting and consuming. My parents are addicted to watching the news”

But is about being able to “pass the changes we want to make for example Supreme Court Justices” especially if we have another blue wave and have control of the Senate and the House. “Let’s pass the green new deal and make some real changes. How are we going to take healthcare, make it more universal, more accessible, all those kind of things.

4. “I don’t think the country is as polarised as people say”

“Most people want to live a good life and know the government has them when they need them. I think it’s sort of like the Twitter effect where it’s the extremes that are the loudest. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing because those loudest voices are putting forward new ideas for people to think about and consider. But it’s very different on a personal level like how you’re interacting with your neighbour and co-workers. I think it’s really easy to play the narrative of we’re super polarized, but I think the majority want similar things to happen. They want good things for their neighbour. They want good things for their friends and family.”

5. Do you agree that you get more Conservative/Republican as you get older?

“I think it’s more that the goalpost of what progress means move. And so it looks like you’re getting more conservative, but actually, it’s just the goalpost is moving, and it might just take you some time to move with it. Young people are already clamouring to that new goalpost of what progress means. 

What we deem as progressive or what we say are the new issues, those are evolving. Even in the Democratic Party people are very blunt and say this is new to me. I’m still trying to understand. I’m still trying to understand this issue. As young people, we need to be patient to make sure that everyone is moving with those goalposts”

Which race are you most excited about?

I want Susan Collin’s [Republican Senator, Maine] out of the Senate. I live in Massachusetts and Maine is right there. I want Collin’s gone. Her Kavanaugh vote was disgraceful. Maine is a very interesting state when it comes to politics, it’s very independent.

Analysis:

  • Rebecca challenged the view that we’ve been talking about on previous episodes – that being the fatigue effect. That people are so tired of Trump they’re now prepared to vote for Biden. Rebecca delivered a far more energetic and enthusiastic case for voting for the Democratic Party. All the way down the ticket from Joe Biden at the top, to the Senate race below.
  • Rebecca is a Democratic voter on the more progressive side of the party. Her excitement reflects where Joe Biden’s election campaign is succeeding so far. Whilst he’s appealing to some, particularly those who voted for Trump in 2016, through that theme of Trump fatigue and the want for normality, he’s also successfully appealing to younger more progressive Democrats, and engaging with them on really important issues.
  • On the top of the surface, Biden is running a quiet and careful campaign ensuring he doesn’t alienate ‘the swing fatigue voters’. He’s not wanting to alienate them through headline speeches on the campaign trail outlining radical policies, but beneath the surface, through organizations like Young Democrats, a real progressive case is being made.
  • The significance of holding these two groups together cannot be understated. The divisions between Clinton and Sanders helped contribute to Clinton’s defeat in 2016. If Joe Biden can hold this coalition of voters together, then he is in with a good chance of becoming president. 
  • Rebecca reflected the impact the nomination of Kamala Harris has had on this race in resonating with the more progressive and younger side of the party. The question now though, is will events allow him to hold this coalition of contrasting voters together. It’s a very precarious balance. And he’s always at risk of stepping too far in one direction and alienating a particular group of his coalition.