On the Move

Young progressives are dusting themselves off. Anyone for Congress in 2006?

Just as disaffection breeds more alienation, involvement in politics breeds more involvement in politics, even when you don't win. Political scientists know that voting behavior is set early; people who vote when they're young are more likely to vote later in life. This outcome isn't just limited to serious activists; it affects the frat brothers just as much. In fact, the college students who were part of Penn Leads the Vote, at the University of Pennsylvania, are even more upbeat about things than the Indyvoter types. Their nonpartisan coalition of 25 student groups, from fraternities and sororities to student government and the Black Student League, registered more new voters than in any other ward in the state and increased voter turnout on campus 280 percent over the 2000 election.

Election Day turned into a celebration as singing groups performed for people waiting in line, resident advisers gave out pastries, and professors canceled classes. According to exit polls, young people in Pennsylvania went for Kerry by 32 points. Nevertheless, the students who led the campus effort, like the ones at the League of Pissed Off Voters, are as taken with their own numbers as the election's overall outcome. "It's bittersweet," says Alyson Krueger, a 20-year-old sophomore who got involved along with her sorority. "A lot of people voted for Kerry. I did. So a lot of people are upset. But we were able to turn around voter turnout on this campus. You could feel the enthusiasm and the excitement. Voting was the cool thing to do."

Beyond the simple goal of turning out more voters, Krueger and her fellow students built networks among people who hadn't met before, and are poised to work on a range of local issues in Philadelphia.

"Even after the election I think it doesn't even matter who we voted for and who won," Krueger says. "All that matters was that so many people voted and talked about the issues. That'll make more of a difference in the long run." If the country survives long enough to see it, she may be right.

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