Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Delegates prove myth is wrong

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOS ANGELES — Alicia Reece and Josephine Sittenfeld are two young women from Cincinnati with very different reasons for being in a world very few of their contemporaries know or understand — the world of politics.

        Ms. Reece, the 28-year-old first-term Cincinnati councilwoman, is here because she grew up in a political family.

        For Ms. Sittenfeld, the 19-year-old Ohio delegate from Clifton, it was when she was 14 years old and heard Bill Bradley after her folks took her to a campaign event for congressional candidate Mark Longabaugh.

        Different people; different circumstances.

Disproving a myth

               But a common belief exists that if you are young and idealistic and want to cure what ails the world, politics is the place to do it.

        “There is this myth that young people don't care,” Ms. Reece said.

        “They care if you tell them that we need to fix the health care system for their grandparents,” Ms. Reece said. “They care if you say it is about providing opportunities for jobs, scholarships, getting a good education and making a good life. You have to make it real.”

        In the decade of the '90s, it was clear that people between the ages of 18 and 35 and, particularly, those between 18 and 24, were not seeing the political process as meaningful.

        While the numbers of young people volunteering to do charitable work in their communities was rising, vote totals were falling. In the last two presidential elections, where overall turnout was around 65 percent to 70 percent, the totals among 18-to-24-year-olds was half that.

        But the majority of those who did vote voted for Bill Clinton, and the Democratic Party knows it needs those voters in this election and beyond.

        Hence, the Democratic National Committee rules gave the Ohio Democratic Party a goal of including six delegates age 18-35 in the Ohio delegation.

        The Ohio party beat that by a long shot — there are 19 delegates and one alternate.

Different backgrounds

               This week in Los Angeles, MTV's “Rock the Vote” program, with its melding of rock and politics, is highly visible, as is the Pew Charitable Trust's Youthvote2000 program.

        For Ms. Reece, her life in politics really began as a four-year-old in Bond Hill, standing on the street corner with her father, Steve Reece, passing out Reese Cups and hollering at motorists to vote for her daddy.

        Then, at Grambling University, she was angered by the idea of a former Klansman like David Duke running for Congress, so she organized a campaign that ultimately registered 7,000 new voters, most of them college students.

        Ms. Sittenfeld, who is studying art history at Princeton University, did not have that kind of experience to spark her interest in politics, but after hearing Mr. Bradley speak at a Longabaugh event, she decided she wanted him to be president. She is a Bradley delegate.


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