By Jim Stanford on August 19, 2008
Yes, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has inspired millions of young people to get involved and vote, but we will never change much unless we start at the grassroots.
Locally, we can see the effect of Obama’s empowering movement in the candidacy of two 20-somethings: Claire Fuller and Tommy Wood (and, to some extent, Greg Miles and Matt Lee, two other progressive candidates young in outlook if not in years).
Fuller, 24, is running for Teton County commissioner as a Democrat, following in the footsteps of her Huidekoper forbears. Wood, 29, has mounted an aggressive campaign for Jackson Town Council after moving to town just two years ago.
Both have appealed to a demographic traditionally underrepresented in Teton County: their peers.
Whether through apathy, transience or a feeling of powerlessness, the young workers, skiers, climbers and paddlers of Jackson Hole rarely have flexed the political muscle their numbers impart — until recently. (Capt. Bob Morris has dedicated the better part of his adult life appealing to this demographic to vote.)
Wood has been out rounding up votes at vivacious events like the Yonder Mountain String Band concert. Fuller has reached out to classmates from Jackson Hole High School and co-workers in the service industry.
It will be interesting to see tonight, as the election results come in, whether the tide of young voters that gave such a decisive victory to Obama in March will back Fuller and Wood in similar proportion.
“We need to start making our voices heard, both locally and nationally,” Fuller says on her Web site, in appealing to 20-somethings looking to put down roots in Teton County but shut out by an absurdly overinflated housing market.
“Hell yes,” he wrote back. “Not his policies per se but his message of hope and change is exactly why I threw my hat in for this race. I believe he is trying to lead the nation from the top down but to be truly successful, he needs new progressive leaders working from the bottom up. I believe in that man and I believe in our country after hearing his inspiring words!”
The same phenomenon must be happening all around the country, as young progressives step up to seize control of their future. How many hundreds, if not thousands, of these candidates has the Obama movement spawned?
Skeptics ask, How will Obama change America? He already has.
I’d like to see Fuller and Wood advance to the general election, but no matter what happens tonight, they deserve credit for engaging and motivating a large chunk of the population usually more preoccupied with powder than politics. Yes, we can.