By Ben Wessel, NextGen America Executive Director
This November, young voters have a choice: On the one hand, we have a candidate who wants 100 percent clean energy, student debt forgiveness, and an assault weapons ban. On the other, we have a white supremacist who tells Americans to drink bleach. Quite simply, Joe Biden is the best choice for President in 2020 and the best chance we have to improve the country and world in which we live. With so much at stake, we can’t afford to have anyone sit this election out. That’s why NextGen America is endorsing Joe Biden for President.
Since he clinched the nomination, Biden has been listening to young people — and for good reason: Democrats can’t win without us. Millennials and Gen Z make up nearly 40% of all eligible voters, and young Americans voted at a 2-to-1 margin for Democrats in 2018, powering the blue wave that elected Democrats statewide in battleground states like Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. When young people are registered and motivated to vote, the size of the opportunity for Democrats is limitless. That’s why NextGen America has put in the work to organize this crew of voters in the states that will matter most in November.
It’s common knowledge that young voters are skeptical of the system and politicians in general. But when young people recognize that we hold the power in politics — that there are so many eligible young American voters that when we do show up, politicians must listen to us — it helps get young people out to the polls. So about two months ago, NextGen America joined with some of our allied youth organizations to call on Joe Biden to lean into progressive policy stances to help motivate the young people Democrats need to show up. While our list of asks was long, Biden and his campaign have already proven that they are listening to young Americans and are adapting accordingly.
For one, Biden immediately recognized that the coronavirus catastrophe would hit young Americans particularly hard. He reacted swiftly to introduce a plan to immediately cancel $10,000 in student debt for every American. In early April, he released a plan to forgive ALL federal student debt for people earning under $125,000 per year who went to public colleges, community colleges, HBCUs, and other minority-serving institutions. He called for a nationwide rent freeze due to the pandemic, a policy that specifically helps Americans under age 30, who make up about half of all American renters. That’s not a proposal to freeze rent now and pay it back later, but full forgiveness for the upcoming months. The economic cliff our generation is facing is massive, and Biden is starting to announce policies that seem to meet the scale of the challenge. This is the morally right thing to do — and the politically smart one too. One graduating college senior summed up the impact of this moment on young Americans’ political psyche: “It’s this pivotal moment where we’ll never forget what’s done…Or what isn’t done.”
On climate change, Biden strengthened his plans throughout the primary, and he currently calls for 100% clean energy and net-zero carbon emissions by no later than 2050. Young people have consistently and rightfully demanded even bolder action. Since becoming the presumptive nominee, Biden has signaled that he will make fighting climate change a central cause of his administration. His campaign now has a formal task force that includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash advising it to strengthen his climate plan.
Biden’s platform is arguably the most progressive general election platform in generations. Biden spent the last two years (and beyond) calling for free college for middle-and-working-class families, an outright ban on the assault weapons that have contributed to a plague of school shootings, and the ability for all Americans to access quality affordable healthcare through a “Medicare-like plan.” Since locking up the nomination, he has proposed historic investments in reforming America’s racist juvenile justice system, announced he is drafting “detailed plans for funding health care jobs and green infrastructure,” and asserted his intention to “transform the economy” to help the most vulnerable Americans. Let’s be frank — his platform is not quite the Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren plan that many young Americans would be happy to support, but it’s pretty damn good. And it would drastically improve millions of lives.
Furthermore, this election is bigger than Joe Biden, and it’s bigger than Donald Trump. It’s about the generations of our future to come — a future clouded by a public health crisis, by looming economic disaster, by a climate emergency that threatens the very future of our planet. If this election is lost, our future is lost. The Supreme Court is lost for decades to extremists who would gladly ban abortion, suppress voting rights, and let fossil fuel companies run wild. If we win, all of our boldest ambitions, like the Green New Deal, are still on the table.
And just like young people have pushed Biden now (and he’s responded with policy change), we can push him when he’s in office. We can have a president who’s willing to listen, or we can try to get Trump’s attention while he’s staring into a solar eclipse. One has potential; the other is about as successful as injecting disinfectant. Young people are the linchpin for victory this year, and it’s time to continue building our collective power. That starts with a vote for Joe Biden.
Enter NextGen America. We are the largest youth vote turnout operation in the country, and we will spend the next 161 days ensuring that every young progressive in 11 key battleground states is registered, motivated, and tuning out for Democrats up and down the ticket.
Our organizing staff of hundreds will work with our thousands of volunteers to call and text out the vote, giving young people all the information they need about how to cast ballots safely and securely during this pandemic. We will spend at least $10 million on digital content that shows our peers the real differences between a vote for Biden and a vote for Trump and ensure that our national network of Instagram influencers and YouTubers are informing their followers about what’s at stake. We will not stop working until it is clear that Donald Trump and everything he stands for has been resoundingly defeated in November.
NextGen’s endorsement is not a blank check — and it’s not an agreement with everything Joe Biden has ever done or ever will do. Instead, it’s a signal to the young people of America, including the millions of NextGen’s supporters, peers, friends, and families: Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump with our help. He will begin to undo the true damage this administration has caused and, as he says, will act as “a bridge to a new generation of leadership”: us.
Paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee, http://nextgenamerica.org, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.