Can Kamala Harris Save Biden With Young Voters? Democrats hope so

(Meg Kinnard/Associated Press)

Can Kamala Harris Save Biden With Young Voters? Democrats hope so

Kamala Harris, Abortion, Israel-Hamas, 2024 Elections

Courtney Subramanian

November 21, 2023

Vice President Kamala Harris favors Generation Z over Millennials.

“I love Generation Z,” she told a crowd of donors at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston this month as she reflected on her “Fight for Our Freedoms.”

secondary school

tour, which took her to campuses in eight states in September and October.

The threats of gun violence, climate change and the rollback of abortion rights are “a lived experience” for young people, she said, “and they will not be patient if we get anything done. And I love that about them.”

Over the past year, Harris has focused on energizing young voters, who were essential to the vice president and President Biden’s 2020 victory and will be key to their re-election next year.

Biden won about 60 percent

of 18- to 29-year-old voters in 2020. But young voters have since voted for the oldest president ever, who turned 81 on Monday. An NBC News poll released Sunday found Biden with just 42% of voters ages 18 to 34, compared to 46% who supported Trump in a hypothetical general election race.

That poll found that 70% of Democrats aged 18 to 34 disapproved of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas crisis.

Support for Biden has fallen sharply among California voters for the first time as president, polls show

And a New York Times/Siena College poll released this month showed a surprising fault line in the Biden-Harris coalition: 11 percent of its potential supporters, the majority of whom are nonwhite or under the age of 30, does not support Biden.

Had Biden captured Harris’ potential supporters, he would have led Trump in the overall poll, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times/Siena poll showed Biden nearly tied with Trump among voters under 30, with 30% backing the president and 29% backing Trump.

The findings support what Harris’ aides and advisers have


for months: Despite her unfavorable ratings among registered voters, the vice president has been motivating young voters of color. After struggling to make

significant progress along the way

In her first orders of business, including curbing immigration from Central America and expanding voting rights protections, Harris has sought to

find her footing by taking strong stands on abortion rights, gun violence, the climate crisis, student loan debt relief and other issues most important to young people.

“She now has a portfolio that people are paying a lot of attention to,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic strategist who was one of two lead researchers for Biden’s 2020 campaign. “Developing the economies of Guatemala and Central America? I don’t know if that is seen by voters as a bipartisan issue.”

“[Young people] they love her style, they love her record and they love her issues,” she added.

In some ways, Harris’ political brand and biography align with the activism that has come to define Gen Z voters (born between 1996 and 2010), who are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. Harris has often cited her parents’ involvement in the civil rights movement in the 1960s as a definitive event that brought her into California politics and ultimately to the White House as the nation’s first female, Black and Asian American vice president .

“She says, ‘I come from a family that wasn’t afraid to take to the streets and protest.’… I think she understands that Generation Z is not getting it right,” says Annie Gonzalez, a actress who appeared in the film. Hulu film “Flamin’ Hot” and moderated two of Harris’ college stops at Reading Area Community College in Pennsylvania and the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.

And while campaign officials are banking on a contrast with Trump in next year’s elections, Generation Z voters are not bound by party loyalty and prefer issue-oriented candidates, according to Lake. Third-party candidates such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or Cornell West, could also spoil Biden’s coalition, she added (Kennedy got 34% of voters under 30 in the New York Times/Siena poll).

Cornel West runs for president as an independent and leaves the Green Party

The issues on which Harris has built a new profile around abortion, voting rights and discrimination in education “lend themselves to taking a stronger position that young voters would be more responsive to,” Lake said.

“This is the most politically active generation of young people our country has had and therefore we don’t need to be told what to worry about,” said 26-year-old Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first Gen Z member of Congress. “We want to feel validated in our concerns, and we want our leaders to present a plan on how to resolve this.”

Cawthorn was born in 1995, Gen Z starts in 1996.

Harris decided to launch the nine-stop college tour, timed to coincide with students’ return to campus, after spending the summer playing a more visible role in what she has described as the fight against Republican extremism.

In July, she issued a fiery response in Jacksonville, Florida, after Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican Party candidate, imposed a new curriculum that said enslaved people “developed skills that could, in some cases, be for their personal benefit.” are applied’.

Days later, she hastily planned a trip to Iowa, where the state’s conservative governor had just signed a strict abortion law that has since been suspended to discuss reproductive rights. The timing was deliberate: She arrived on the same day that Trump and other Republican presidential candidates attended a fundraising dinner there.

Earlier this month, she flew to South Carolina to formally file Biden’s paperwork to appear on the ballot for the state’s Democratic primary. South Carolina was responsible for helping Biden transform his fledgling 2020 campaign, and in return the president helped put the Palmetto State above Iowa and New Hampshire on the party’s nominating calendar.

nonsense, but let’s use it!

“She is a visible representation of the bite this government brings,” says Quentin Fulks.

Biden’s deputy campaign manager,

told The Times.

Harris is expected to launch a new tour focused on reproductive rights in January.

according to a source familiar with planning.

But the momentum Harris has built on college campuses has been overshadowed by divisions within the party over the war between Israel and Hamas. Biden has resisted growing calls from Arab allies and progressive members of his party to support a ceasefire during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

The president, who wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Saturday that “a ceasefire is not peace,” has instead urged temporary humanitarian pauses to allow the release of hostages and the sending of more aid to Gaza. Critics argue that Biden’s unconditional support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and the country’s military campaign have been lopsided and exposed a double standard in Biden’s foreign policy.

“This is a difficult task,” said Frost, one of 33 representatives in the House of Representatives and a senator who signed a letter calling for a ceasefire in October. “Even I, as a progressive leader, it’s something I struggle with: How can we move forward as a movement?”

Divisions over the conflict could undermine Biden’s support

, Vorst added. “It’s still something we have to work through here and I believe it poses some complications” in the coalition, he said.

On college campuses,

Some Jewish and Arab students and professors fear for their safety as the heated debate over the conflict has turned violent at times.

Harris’ college tour came to an end as protests intensified.

But at her last stop at Northern Arizona University on Oct. 1. 17, 10 days after the Hamas attacks, a student was confronted

her about the increasing number of victims in Gaza.

Harris responded by largely echoing her boss, saying that Israelis and Palestinians “both deserve peace, deserve self-determination and deserve security,” and emphasized the distinction between Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organization, and Palestinian civilians.

“Stop talking, do something,” one student shouted, according to AZPM, a local PBS and NPR affiliate.

Victor Shi, a 21-year-old senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, was the youngest delegate for Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Shi, who recently hosted National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on his podcast “iGen Politics” , which he co-hosts with former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks, said he has heard a lot of frustration about the administration’s resistance to a ceasefire.

“I’ve heard more people say, I’m just going to drop out of the process altogether,” Shi said, noting that social media has been flooded with misinformation about the conflict.

The decades-long conflict doesn’t fit neatly into a two-minute TikTok video, and combating misinformation and refining the government’s position will take time, Shi said.

However, the contrast with Trump seems to be working, he added. “It’s not satisfying to anyone I talk to, but I think it’s only worked in terms of that 2024 election,” he said.

But the messenger matters, Shi said, and while young people may reject Biden, Harris’ energy and age are an asset.

“Maybe not many people will listen to someone like President Biden, given his age,” Shi said, “but someone like Kamala Harris… there is an appetite for that.”


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