Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has had a long and distinguished career in both the military and in politics. A United States Naval Pilot and Captain who received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and Purple Heart, McCain then moved onto the House of Representatives and Senate (“Biographical Data for John S. McCain”). In April of 1999, McCain announced his candidacy for President, stating his mission to “restore integrity into the office, reform government, and renew the American dream”(“The John McCain Story”). Senator McCain’s platform is “classic GOP conservatism…a strong defense, less government regulation, tax reductions, local oversight of education…”(“The Issue: Senator John McCain “). McCain has endeavored to fulfill his dream by creating a web site devoted to his campaign, giving numerous speeches, running many television ads and appearing on various television programs. An integral part of his campaign has been to reach the less reliable, harder to attract youth vote.
America’s youth today is disenchanted with the political system. Two-thirds of young Americans don’t vote, primarily because they don’t feel candidates are addressing issues important to them (Cox, Finklestein). According to a Youth Survey conducted by Project Vote Smart, voters aged 18-24 think school shootings and kids with guns, crime and violence, poverty and unemployment, corrupt government and illicit drug sales are the five most important problems facing America today (“General Population”). Meanwhile, candidates spend the majority of time discussing issues such as Social Security, taxes and abortion, which are not of as much concern to young voters.
John McCain has actively sought out 18-24 year olds, the group collectively known as “Generation Y.” The Arizona Senator reached out to young voters with a message of personal honesty and government reform, drawing large crowds on college campuses in New Hampshire and South Carolina (Sullivan, “McCain Gets”). McCain has addressed some of the issues that concern America’s youth today. The Senator does not support gun bans but does promote “effective measures that keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, children, and the mentally incompetent”(Cox, Finklestein). Corruption in government, particularly the role that money plays in politics, is a main issue of McCain’s campaign and is being addressed through his strategy to ameliorate campaign finance. McCain has led the fight in Congress to reform campaign finance, especially “soft” money contributions which are large donations to national parties from individuals, corporations and labor unions that are not susceptible to regulation. McCain, along with Democratic candidate Bill Bradley, is credited as being the first to discuss reforming the campaign finance system (Cox, Finklestein).
In the Youth Survey conducted by Project Vote Smart, respondents aged 18-24 chose the World Wide Web as their most useful information source (“General Population”). McCain is utilizing the power of the Internet to build mailing lists, solicit contributions and to attract young voters, many of whom are “more acquainted with computer networks than political networks” (Sullivan, “Virtual”). The Internet has proved to be an important organizing tool in McCain’s campaign. Young people interested in becoming involved in his campaign will find a web site that devotes an entire page to each youth organization in each state. Pages consist of upcoming events, biographical information, photographs, links and contact information, putting various aspects of McCain’s campaign at the very technologically advanced fingertips of America’s youth (“Students 4 Dole”). Each page varies; some simply list contact information, while others have inspirational letters from McCain supporters and extravagant graphics like waving state flags. “Virtual” volunteers assist electronically, emailing everything from polling station maps to voting reminders to downloadable pictures of McCain “This is how we’re making the Internet local to everybody,” said Max Fose, McCain’s Internet manager (Sullivan, “Virtual”).
McCain is attracting Generation Y through various appearances at college campuses, using his standard line of “inspiring a generation of young Americans to commit to causes greater than themselves”(Gannon). McCain’s Campus Connection, a group of one hundred and sixty college campuses nationwide, recently joined Students 4 Dole, an organization of over two hundred schools and colleges nationwide, to form one of the largest collections of student leaders in America. McCain’s Campus Connection is now a central part of his Internet site, with its own e-mail communications network. According to Susan Carpenter, formerly of the National Vice-President of Communications and Promotions for Dole, “McCain has made a real effort to reach out to young people…he enjoys meeting youth and discussing real issues that effect us every day” (“Students 4 Dole”).
McCain is enticing young voters with his numerous television appearances, advertisements and magazine covers. Newsweek and Time both gave McCain covers and tried to expose the “real McCain” by describing his war experiences, volatile history, and his plans for the presidency. The “Weekly Standard” broadcast news magazine introduced a cover story entitled “The Media’s Favorite Republican” and McCain appeared on the Fox Sunday news show to demonstrate his increasing popularity. Appearing on MTV and placing advertisements in youth-oriented programming has helped McCain to obtain the Generation Y vote (“Why John McCain”).
According to Senator and Presidential hopeful John McCain, “that’s what this is all about – inspiring young Americans” (Cox, Vekshin). From playing throbbing techno music complete with roaring MC at a rally (Cox, “Young Michigan”) to establishing a web site offering college students campaign internships (Fagan) to appearing on various magazine covers and youth-oriented television shows (“Why John McCain”), McCain has aggressively courted “Generation Y.” America’s youth today is disenchanted with politics, tired of campaigns focused on health care and social security. “Generation Y” wants to hear about school violence and college costs; issues they care strongly about and feel should be an essential part of candidate’s platforms. McCain has attempted to win their vote by utilizing the Internet, magazines, youth-oriented television programs, and speaking on such topics at various college campuses. Judging by his recent victories in New Hampshire, Michigan and Arizona, states where he energetically pursued the youth vote, McCain is effectively reaching today’s young voter.