Why don’t Millennials vote? Cartoonist Matt Bors has the answer
Matt Bors is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of the prestigious Herblock Prize for Editorial Cartooning. But more importantly, the Portland, Oregon cartoonist was born in the year 1983. And that’s why he’s found himself thrust into the role of speaking for his coevals in the mainstream press. Matt’s among the best political artists in the country and he seems to have an opinion about everything. So we wanted to know why other people his own age don’t have more interest in politics and get themselves to the polls during an election like the one coming up on November 4.
Raw Story: We’ve seen you react pretty brilliantly to the way the Millennial generation tends to get run down in the mainstream media. There was a particular piece — a TIME magazine cover story — that painted the Millennials as lazy, entitled, and selfish.
Matt: Yes, the Me Me Me Generation they called it. Three “me’s.”
RS: You shot back with a cartoon that countered that narrative by pointing out that no generation in a long time has started out with a lousier economy, more college debt, and in general more difficult prospects. If the Millennials are discouraged, it’s thanks to the crappy hand the Boomers and Gen X dealt them.
Matt: That is correct, sir. That piece is here. Just doing my job to foster generational warfare between groups that have been arbitrarily divided for marketing purposes. But yes, in a lot of ways I think younger people got a raw deal and there’s a disconnect with the type of people who generally sneer at the young not understanding that.
RS: The Millennials are hard hit, and by a lot of things that government ought to be doing something about. So that leads to the next question: Why don’t they vote? Democrats are looking at a disaster in a couple of weeks, and one reason is that voters from 18 to 32 years old are probably going to turn out at about 23 percent — while older, whiter (and more Republican) voters will turn at about double that rate. Why do you think that is?
Matt: Snapchat. They can’t pull themselves away from it. Have young people ever turned out in huge numbers? For older people it’s part of their muscle memory — they’ve had decades to become resigned to the fact that this is all they can do to effect change. When you’re younger, I don’t think it’s as appealing. While leaving the Senate to old men who hate women and block every meager offer at help anyone is Not Great, I have to say Democrats don’t really inspire a youth movement.
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RS: If Millennials are deeply affected by who controls the Senate, how can the Democrats get them off their asses and into the polling booth?
Matt: The easiest way would be legally requiring them to vote as they do in Australia. They have 93 percent turnout Down Under. You don’t even have to print up Rock The Vote T-shirts. That might be viewed as a tyrannical destruction of our freedoms were it tried here. Perhaps people would be motivated to vote that down and turn out in huge numbers. Being pointlessly angry and fearful about something seems to really get out the vote — they should start there.
RS: Millennials turned out in pretty huge numbers in 2008 and 2012, helping to elect Barack Obama. If you were hired by the Democrats to help them have a chance at getting out more young voters, is there nothing you could suggest?
Matt: That would probably compromise my objectivity and self-righteous purity as a political cartoonist — How much are they paying? To take it seriously, I guess what I’d like to see is an actually progressive party instead of one whose most convincing pitch is “those guys are worse so vote for us or Roe v. Wade will be overturned.” A Democratic Party one could enthusiastically support would look a mite different; they wouldn’t walk back promises on national security, spying, assassination, they wouldn’t try to out-hawk the right or wait until half the country was with them to finally say gay people are OK or offer tepid half measures as solutions for the environment and economy. In short, I would recommend they purge their ranks and fill them left-leaning populists who want to reform our system instead of party careerists who intend to move on to lobbying. So I’m thinking they would fire me as a consultant?
RS: They probably would. As for yourself, do any of the races interest you in particular? Ernst v. Braley in Iowa? McConnell v. Grimes in Kentucky? Udall v. Gardner in Colorado? Orman v. Roberts in Kansas? Or the weird threeway in South Dakota?
Matt: Weird threeways do interest me, but no so much specific races. I’d love to see McConnell fall and stop his ascension to majority leader. That would be Good For America, and something like that happening in Kentucky would be a particularly good sign, but it seems unlikely at this point. I do enjoy drawing his bizarre neck and face.
RS: Well, that brings up the next point, which is, it’s the cartoonists who really win if McConnell and the anti-science, anti-health care crowd runs Congress for the next two years, right? Election Day is like Christmas for you all.
Matt: I don’t want things to get worse, but visually interesting elderly monsters and the slow rot of our nation does make my job easier.