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Think of all the ways 20/20 has been an unprecedented year. It's a lot for anyone to process, especially someone voting for the first time.


It's overwhelming because of, you know, everything going on. And it's like, wow, it's it can really make a difference what I choose to do many. Cruz was thinking about this recently at the skate park where he hangs out in L.A. My colleague Ailsa Chang met up with him there. Manny turned 18 just a few months ago, just started college at Cal State Dominguez Hills, high class of twenty twenty that generation. We're all, after all, really forced to grow up so quickly.


And what do you mean? You feel like the class of 2020 was forced to grow up quickly?


Um, with the whole situation, with the pandemic, I was having a conversation with my friends and we were all talking about how we feel.


We're still in high school. There's at least that's how it feels like time froze, time froze for a second. And out of nowhere, you just we were just thrown into this new chapter of our lives.


Consider this in a year that's been completely unpredictable, Generation Z, born after 1996, is getting ready for an unprecedented election. But the major political parties aren't speaking to some of those voters.


From NPR. I'm Audie Cornish. It's Wednesday, September 9th. This message comes from NPR sponsor better help the online counseling service dedicated to connecting you with a licensed counselor to help you overcome whatever stands in the way of your happiness. Fill out a questionnaire and get matched with a professional tailored to your needs. And if you aren't satisfied with your counselor, you can request a new one at any time. Free of charge. Visit better help dotcoms compromise to get 10 percent off your first month.


Get the help you deserve with better help. It's consider this from NPR. The thing you've heard for years is that young voters are less engaged and less likely to turn out, but that's been changing.


It sure has. Young people really broke all expectations about participation in the 2008 midterm where young people turned out at almost twice as high of a rate as the previous midterm for youth.


Calicoes Sharma is the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. It's at Tufts University. She told NPR this month that a primary election just held in Massachusetts says a lot about the youth vote this year.


My father was a union leader. He taught me, don't beg for your right to organize and take a long time.


Incumbent senator, 74 year old Ed Markey, he was running against a much younger opponent, as in, he wasn't even born when Ed Markey started his political career. But this wasn't just any opponent.


It was 39 year old Congressman Joe Kennedy, the third president, John F. Kennedy, once his great uncle Marky knew he was up against a dynasty. Here's how he ended one of his campaign ads.


With all due respect, it's time to start asking what your country can do for you.


No one named Kennedy had ever lost a statewide election in Massachusetts, much less against someone who used the words of John F. Kennedy in an ad like that for generations now, that would have been an absolutely politically suicidal move.


And yet tonight, look at this, Ed Markey, who ran that ad, who took JFK's words, who said, no, it's the opposite. He has defeated a Kennedy in Massachusetts. This is official.


The AP is called Kawashima Ginsburg at Tufts said Ed Markey won by embracing young voters. And we're not talking about Zoome phone banks. OK, there were Twitter Stann accounts and tech talkers. And Markey is a huge proponent of a major issue for young progressive voters environmentalism.


He's co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and the other co-sponsor, Alexandria AKCA Cortez.


So there is a lesson moving forward for any candidate from any party to really think about why perhaps a member of a Kennedy family may have lost this, that young people really aren't into brand and labels as much as they are into the values that candidates hold.


So we know young people are turning out in higher numbers, they're focused more on issues and values, but let's talk more about how the political parties are talking to them. NPR political reporter Juana Summers looked at that question, especially when it comes to young conservative voters. And what have you found?


Yeah, so I have been talking to young voters specifically who are members of Generation Z. So we're talking about the youngest voters born after the year 1996. And like millennials who are a bit older, they largely lean left. But I found quite a number of young conservatives who wanted to talk about their politics in this moment. And to give you a little sense of where they fit on the political spectrum.


We turn to Circle, which is a research center at Tufts University now. Our research found that nearly one in five young voters who backed Republicans in twenty eighteen plan to support Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump and the November election.


So are they just wary of Trump the man, or do they see issues with the party more generally?


Yeah, so I think it's a little bit of both. But perhaps the biggest thing that has come up in these conversations I've had with these young conservatives is they feel that the party is leaving people like them behind because it's not talking about the issues that they actually care about.


One of our main themes is that there are issues that GenZE voters care about, including on the center right that the party has failed to address time and time again, climate change, racial injustice, LGBTQ plus issues.


That's Mike Brodo. He's 20 years old and a student at Georgetown University. And he and some friends recently launched a group called Gen Z GOP. And their goal is to reach out to other disaffected young Republicans. Broda told me that he plans to vote for Joe Biden in November, but he's really hoping that when the 2024 election comes around, Republicans like him have a better option than Donald Trump now.


I think what the ultimate determinative factor is that draws me away from him completely is his poor approach to governance, and that's evident in his handling of the covid-19 pandemic. And that's no longer just that. His policies are inconsistent with my views for what's best for the country. It's how he approaches those policies at the same time.


This isn't exactly a common view for young conservatives, right? I mean, you mentioned that one in five young voters who voted Republican in twenty eighteen plan to vote for Biden. That's still a lot of people voting for Trump. What did they have to say?


Yeah, one of the people I talk to is Grace Klein. She's 18. So this is her first election and she's just starting her first year at Arizona State University. And she described the interesting feeling of coming of age as a conservative today.


I still remember sitting in this restaurant with some friends and be like, oh, wouldn't it be like the weirdest thing if the race ended up being Trump versus Hillary? And we were like, oh, my goodness, that would never happen.


Like, that would be so awful. And lo and behold, it's what happened.


That was four years ago. And it was clear that Klein was very against the idea of Trump as her party's nominee. But it's four years later now and things have changed.


I'm going to be voting for the first time in November, and I am an adamant supporter. I will 100 percent vote for him.


Klein told me that perhaps the biggest issue that drives how she chooses to vote is the issue of abortion.


I believe that the right to life starts at conception, and if a candidate doesn't support that, I will not support them.


Before I let you go, one, I want to ask about one more thing. The undecideds. Is there such thing in generations?


I think there absolutely is. As I've been having these conversations with these young voters, a lot of them describe a feeling of feeling torn.


They dislike and distrust the president, but they're not satisfied with the politics on the left and former Vice President Joe Biden. There's a generation of young Republicans out there who say they've been left essentially without a political home. NPR's Juana Summers. So let's talk about young people and the Democratic Party now. When the pandemic first hit, 18 year old Manny Cruz, who you heard from at the top of the show, started working more shifts at in and out burger.


And he did that because his mother, who cleans houses and his brother, who's a barber, both lost work. So that was really difficult. At first. I started working from one day a week to six days a week, six hours to eight hours every day, living that reality while at the same time watching the Trump administration's hostile actions towards immigrants are big reasons why he's voting for Joe Biden. But he told my colleague Ailsa Chang his problem isn't necessarily with President Trump himself.


It's what his victory in 2016 revealed about Americans.


You can be angry at Donald Trump all you want, but ultimately we as a country chose to put him there. So who are we to put all of this blame on one person when in reality I feel he's just exposed a lot of the. Within ourselves, a lot of people voted for him because they shared a perspective that he had. And what is that perspective? I'm not by any means saying the Republicans are racist, but I will say that just generally a lot of people who I've seen support him tend to have a lot of racist perspectives.


Year after year. The Hispanic vote is more consequential. In fact, Pew Research Center says one in four Jensenius in the U.S. is Hispanic with a new candidate.


New possibilities. So I feel with my first time being able to vote, I can take a step towards that possibility of a difference. So I feel it matters a lot, and I wish everyone knew that, too.


But other organizers we talked to, they feel that sitting out the presidential election is actually a better way to send a message. That's how it is for Ina Morton. I met up with her at Pan-Pacific Park where she had protested against racial injustice just a few months ago, just all around here.


I remember people being, you know, kind of stacked on the sides of the hills as Martin is 20, she's half Filipina, half white, a student at Occidental College, and she has no intention of voting for any presidential candidate this year.


What I would say was the last domino to fall for me was seeing Bernie get shut out this year after being shut out in 2016. I didn't think he was a perfect guy. I didn't love him or see him as like this cult of personality. But I saw him as like a very real change to what the legacy of politics in this country had been.


And Warren says watching Sanders get shut out reminded her how far off track the Democratic Party has gotten.


According to Pew, GenZE is the country's most pro-government anti Trump generation. But Morton says Democrats should not count on GenZE years to be automatic allies when the Democratic Party coalesced around Joe Biden. I remember and registering from the Democratic Party that day. Yeah, that's how against Joe Biden you were. Yeah. I want to represent to you. That is wrong. Yeah. It's not just Joe Biden. I mean, it is really the Democratic Party as well.


Morton says she's grown to resent over time the sorts of positions Democrats continue to take. And since Biden will probably win a blue state like California anyway, she's not going to give him her vote. And so she's devoting herself to grassroots organizing. Morton now leads a coalition of groups that demand racial justice, environmental justice and housing rights for all. I listen to her talk about the Black Lives Matter movement and wanted to stand in solidarity with BLM. The welfare system would be nice to have like more of a mutual aid format and the housing crisis.


So many people who are either on housed or who will likely be coming housed in the neck and the environment.


If I live for another like 50 or 60 years, the climate is going to start getting pretty unlivable.


And I came away wondering, what is it that you grew up with that makes your generation sound the way you sound right now?


Yeah, I think there's so many things like I don't remember a life pre 9/11. So I have grown up under the guise of like what so many people would describe as a surveillance state. Like, I don't know what it's like to live in a country where the U.S. hasn't been bombing children in the Middle East. And I've seen like even under the most progressive president to date, Barack Obama, you know, the protesters are still brutalized in Ferguson and at Standing Rock.


And then the same thing is happening again. And I think now is the time to, like, have a little faith in the idea of being radical and reimagining what the world could look like.


Reimagining the world isn't exactly easy, but Morton says it is worth a try. My colleague Ailsa Chang, and there's more of her reporting on GenZE voters in our episode notes. Thanks for joining us for consider this from NPR.


I'm Audie Cornish.