Politics Young and progressive voters aren’t just ‘settling for Biden’ anymore. They’re going all in.

10:50  26 october  2020
10:50  26 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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At first glance, it looks like a typical Joe Biden campaign sign.

But written in lettering that mimics Biden’s actual campaign logo is a phrase that has become a movement: Settle for Biden.

The former vice president, who ran in the Democratic primary on a centrist platform, was not the first, or even second, choice for many young and progressive voters. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who garnered a large following after his 2016 presidential run, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren carried that mantle.

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But after Warren and Sanders left the campaign in March, it became clear to 19-year-old Samuel Weinberg he needed to do something to drum up support for a candidate he wasn’t initially thrilled to back.

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“We're saying that you don't have to be head over heels in love with a candidate in order to vote for them,” said Weinberg, the founder and executive director of the Settle for Biden organization. “You really just have to right now choose the better of the two options, and we think that Joe Biden is a very good option given the circumstances.”

logo, company name: Settle For Biden logo is pictured. © Sam Weinberg/Settle for Biden. Settle For Biden logo is pictured.

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A post shared by Settle for Biden (@settleforbiden) on Apr 24, 2020 at 2:17am PDT

Weinberg was struck when he first heard a hint of that message from an unlikely source: Dr. Jill Biden.

In a message to skeptical primary voters in August 2019 in New Hampshire, the former second lady said “maybe you have to swallow a little bit” to vote for her husband, but he is the candidate who can be Trump. The comments resulted in some headlines stating Jill Biden was asking voters to "settle" for her husband.

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“At the time, I thought that was a really strange form of messaging,” Weinberg said. “But really once Biden clinched the nomination, I thought that might be a good way to get some of these disaffected progressives to get behind him.”

The general election is a week away and groups like Settle for Biden are hoping to be the push that gets young voters and progressives to the polls.

Youth turnout jumps from 2014 to 2018 midterms

Over the past several months, young and progressive voters have used social media to campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic and convince skeptical voters to support Biden. And Settle for Biden has gone from just an organization to a movement for many members of those key voting blocs.

There was high turnout among young voters during the 2018 midterm elections, which prompted experts to pontificate that young voters would turn out en masse in the 2020 Democratic primaries. However, that voting bloc still trailed older voters in turnout throughout the primaries due to a combination of complications. Some states implemented new laws that made it harder for students to vote, the coronavirus pandemic sent many students home from college, adding an additional hurdle to voting, and some were just still disheartened from the 2016 election.

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Abby Kiesa, director of impact at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, said the recent push online from young people to become more politically active is likely due to the “extraordinary nature of this election,” and that “different stakeholders, including, youth groups on social media” are reaching out to young people to distribute information on how to register to vote and how to cast a ballot either in person or through vote by mail.

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She noted organizations are using social media to engage young voters who might not typically be reached by traditional campaigns. Political organizations mostly focus on college students while that is only a portion of young voters, Kiesa said.

“Reaching out to young people on social media and other digital platforms is an opportunity to reach a broader, more diverse group of young people than I think some campaigns are doing,” she said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36% of citizens ages 18 to 29 reported voting during the 2018 midterms, which is up from the 20% in 2014. Turnout among young voters during the midterms could mean an unprecedented number of young voters on Nov. 3.

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“This is a profoundly different presidential election because that's never been the case,” she said.

a man sitting on a bench: Sam Weinberg, 19, is pictured. © Sam Weinberg Sam Weinberg, 19, is pictured.

When he first started his organization, Weinberg said he was seeing a lot of disenfranchised voters who painted Biden and President Donald Trump as “two sides of the same coin.”

“I was incensed by those statements, on a personal level and on a policy level, because in my mind, Trump and Biden are not even comparable,” he said.

But engagement among young voters and progressives also slowly turned around after Biden became the presumptive nominee. Unlike in 2016, which saw the Democratic primary drag into June, Sanders was quick to support Biden in March and even established a joint task force to recommend policy platforms to the Democratic National Convention and to

Weinberg said he was encouraged by Biden’s willingness to work with Sanders and adopt some more progressive policy stances, enough to push him from just “settling” for the former vice president to fully campaigning for him.

“To be honest, we're not just, you know, settling for Biden anymore,” he said. “At the outset, we were putting our support reluctantly behind the candidate who we viewed as imperfect, who wasn't our first choice. But now Biden has shown himself to be progressive enough and Trump has continually showed how awful he consistently is.”

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Making the progressive pitch to young voters

The group has leaned on Biden's commitment to work towards key progressive goals as it's worked to convince voters.

Weinberg said the group has partnered with progressive organizations that can help deliver specific messaging or have the infrastructure to encourage people to go out and vote. They’ve partnered with The Next 50, which aims to make politics more accessible to young voters, hosted an Instagram Live with Katie Boué, founder of the Outdoor Advocacy Project, and have interviewed down-ballot candidates like Chokwe Pitchford, who is running for Michigan State House of Representatives.

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A post shared by Settle for Biden (@settleforbiden) on Jun 10, 2020 at 5:23pm PDT

Social media also played a key role in Settle for Biden’s rise.

Weinberg noted that unlike other political organizations and campaigns that had to adapt to digital organizing amid the pandemic, Settle for Biden was born into the digital space.

“We kind of had a leg up on other groups in terms of organizing, because we grew completely as a digital movement,” he said, adding their goal isn’t in-person voter contact. “We've been able to adapt to this new reality pretty effectively, really because we didn't have to adapt. We sort of made a name for ourselves already living in this situation.”

The organization has more than 268,000 followers on Instagram, its biggest following on all of the main social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and TikTok.

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And it isn't alone in its effort.

TikTok for Biden is also working to get Gen Z and millennial voters to register to vote, to become poll workers and just generally be involved in the election.

Aidan Kohn-Murphy, a 16-year-old from the Washington, D.C. area, started the organization after the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, which he described as “insane” due to Trump’s performance. Kohn-Murphy said he and his friends “were kind of feeling powerless” and wondered if they could use their “platforms for something good.”

Kohn-Murphy, who was a fellow with Democratic Sen. Ed Markey’s reelection campaign, used TikTok to help organize for Markey and wanted to use similar digital campaigning for Biden. What started off as a Zoom call with 60 creators has grown into a group with hundreds of members.

While Kohn-Murphy is unable to vote – many of the members of TikTok for Biden are still under the voting age – he said the group’s message is to encourage young people to be engaged, whether it’s phone banking or becoming poll workers, as well as encouraging those who can vote to cast their ballot.

“If you're over 18, this is not only your right, but it’s your responsibility,” he said.

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According to analysis from CIRCLE, 70% of young people have gotten information about the 2020 election on social media. When broken down by different social media platforms, more than half (51%) of people ages 18 to 24 got information about the election from Instagram, 48% from Twitter and 47% from Facebook. In addition, 28% said they got information about the election from TikTok.

Over 330 TikTok creators are members of the TikTok for Biden group, including video blogger Hank Green, Meena Harris, who is Sen. Kamala Harris’ niece, and Claudia Conway, daughter of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway. The group has more than 778,000 followers on TikTok. But many of the creators that are a part of the group have their own viral followings. For example, Green and Claudia Conway each have more than 1 million followers on their own accounts.

In contrast, TikTok for Trump has 14,700 followers and more than 100 creators are a part of that group.

“We are not as much of a persuasion group as we are a mobilization group,” Kohn-Murphy said, adding that many followers of TikTok for Biden aren’t swing voters or Republicans, but “young people who are to the left” who don’t have information on how to be involved in the election.

“There's nothing that's actively motivating a lot of people, and we're trying to give them something to motivate them,” he said.

After the election is over, Weinberg, founder of Settle for Biden, said he isn’t going to stop organizing.

He is planning to transition the group into a new name and streamline the group’s efforts “for the next four years and hopefully beyond that.” But right now, “we're working as hard as we can to ensure a Biden victory,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Young and progressive voters aren’t just ‘settling for Biden’ anymore. They’re going all in.

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